Penn State Takes Conference Opener From St. Francis
The No. 12 Penn State men’s volleyball team remained undefeated at home, after defeating Saint Francis in their conference opener on Saturday night, for their fifth consecutive victory. The Nittany Lions (5-2) downed the Red Flash (2-3) in four sets (25-21, 25-21, 23-25, 25-18) at Rec Hall. With the win, Penn State improved to 33-0 all-time against Saint Francis.
According to head coach Mark Pavlik, the win did not come as easily, as the one against Mount Olive the previous night.
“What you saw was pretty much a grinded out type of win. I didn’t think we were at our best,” Pavlik said. “The little things we did well all through the match yesterday, like covering, talking in transition, we just didn’t seem to be on page with that until about game three.”
Saint Francis started out with a 3-1 lead in the first set, but Penn State was able to come back with five straight points. After tying it up at 7, the Red Flash regained the lead 9-8. Following that, kills from Aaron and Peter Russell gave Penn State the next four points. While in a three-point deficit, St. Francis called a timeout and was able to come back and tie the set at 20. Penn State sealed the first set with a service error from Red Flash Logan Patterson.
St. Francis came out strong in the second set, leading by four going into Penn State’s first timeout. Redshirt sophomore Matt Seifert had a kill, followed by a block, allowing the Nittany Lions to lessen the deficit to 6-5.
Aaron Russell tied up the game at 11 with an ace but a kill from Logan Paterson allowed the Red Flash to regain the lead. After the Red Flash tied the game at 18, the Nittany Lions had two 3-0 runs, with a kill from Jeff Hogan for the Red Flash in between. At set point, Aaron Russell’s serving streak ended, but an attack error from Hogan allowed Penn State to clinch the second set with another score of 25-21.
Despite being up 2-0 in sets, redshirt junior Connor Curry didn’t feel that they had the advantage.
“Whether you win the first two sets or not, I think the ten minute break kind of slows it down for everyone,” he says.
This reasoning may be why the third set ended differently than the first two. Aaron Russell opened up the third set with an ace and from there, the set was similar to the first two with several ties and lead changes. Neither team was able to hold the lead for more than one rally early on. Saint Francis took a 13-9 lead, but quickly called a timeout after Penn State got the next three out of four points.
Kyle Beatty allowed the Red Flash a 24-22 lead after his ace and a kill but Peter Russell’s kill brought the Nittany Lions within one. Saint Francis took the third set, with a kill from Adam Barba.
Pavlik felt that despite losing the third set, a lot of things went better than in the first two for the Nittany Lions.
“Our servers did a good job of hitting some seams in games three and four and creating some problems. I thought our blocking picked up certainly in games three and four,” Pavlik said.
Penn State had the strongest start of the game in the fourth set grabbing a 9-4 lead after an ace from Matt Seifert. The Nittany Lions’ lead was extended to 15-7 after a 3-0 run. Despite taking the next six of nine points, and the Red Flash could not gain the lead for the rest of the set and a kill from Aaron Russell gave the Nittany Lions their first conference victory.
“They’re [St. Francis] capable of putting together long stretches of good play we just felt that our serving would wear them down a bit and in game four I thought that’s exactly what happened,” Pavlik said of his team’s win.
Junior Aaron Russell led the team with 15 kills along with four aces, eight digs and two blocks. Also in double digits was Peter Russell with 13 kills. Nick Goodell earned the Mike Anderson Penn State Player of the Match with 11 kills, eight digs and a block.
Leading the defense with four blocks each, were redshirt Matt Callaway and redshirt sophomore Taylor Hammond. Hammond also contributed 30 assists in the win.
The Nittany Lions will take on Ohio State on Wednesday, February 5, at 7:15 p.m. in Rec Hall.
Nicole Barros is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, email email@example.com.