Penn State Sweeps Saint Francis in EIVA Tournament Semifinals
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – In three sets, Penn State won its first-round matchup against Saint Francis in the 2021 EIVA tournament.
Rec Hall was filled with sparks of energy Thursday night from both Saint Francis and Penn State fans—the perfect atmosphere for EIVA playoffs. This was the first time Penn State has hosted the tournament since 2017.
The Nittany Lions are now 48-3 all time against the Red Flash, but even though they won in three sets tonight, the match was closer than it seemed.
“Give credit to Saint Francis,” Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik said. “We played them enough times now that we know that they will never get away.”
Even though Penn State’s last match was at the beginning of the month on April 3, the Nittany Lions remained locked in, hitting .500 during the first set and winning it with ease 25-16.
After that, the next two sets featured competitive play with long rallies and several challenges.
“Set three was one of the oddest-rhythmed sets that I have ever been a part of,” Pavlik said. “To our team’s credit, it didn’t matter what was going. We went back out and we remained fairly steady the rest of the way.”
Alongside the challenges, there was a pause late in the third set after Brett Wildman got a bloody elbow after diving for a ball.
Pavlik has created a culture of hard work at Penn State, and he was happy but expected the hustle that the team brought.
“I think that is the standard,” Pavlik said. “That is what we expect every day in the gym. We expect them to go as hard as they can for as long as they can and that will leave some blood, sweat and tears on the floor.”
Freshman Michal Kowal stepped up big for Penn State, leading the team with 12 kills. Although this was statistically one of his best games all season, teammate Brett Wildman said he has always been an impactful player.
“We have known it all year, but the stat sheet is different,” Wildman said. “He’s a great teammate, and it is fun to bring on a freshman. Tonight, he had a great night, and I’m happy for him.”
Penn State now leads the nation with 158 service aces after being tied at 151 with Saint Francis before this match.
“When you talk about nine service errors, we also had several aces, three coming from Sam Marsh,” Pavlik said. “If you can keep service pressure on the opponent, it limits their offense.”
Penn State will play George Mason in the EIVA tournament championship this Saturday at Rec Hall at 7 p.m.
During the regular season, Penn State went 3-1 against George Mason with its last game of the season being that single loss. Even though that was the Nittany Lions’ last loss, Pavlik doesn’t see it as motivation for his team.
“I don’t think we need any extra fuel, this is a championship,” Pavlik said.
Austin Groft is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, please email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.