Penn State Ends 4-Match Skid with Win Over UC-Irvine
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State Nittany Lions (13-6, 7-1) ended their four match losing skid Monday night as they took down UC-Irvine (7-14, 5-11) in four sets at Rec Hall.
“I thought tonight was an extension, probably, of how we played against Ohio State on Saturday,” said Penn State coach Mark Pavlik about the win.
Both teams started out slow in the first set, with a host of both attacking and serving errors coming about because of it. For some time in that first set, the Nittany Lions maintained a strong three to four point lead despite both sides not playing the cleanest game. But as the set went on, Penn State’s mistakes began to come back to hurt them and allowed UC-Irvine to stay in it thanks in part to six aces from the Anteaters.
“Six aces early was a little bit of a wakeup call for them. I’m not sure if they expected us to serve that tough or if they were just being complacent passing,” said UC-Irvine coach David Kniffin about the way both teams played in the first set.
Those aces helped UC-Irvine to take the first set by a score of 25 to 23. But neither team played particularly well in the set, with a total of 12 attacking errors and nine serving errors for the two sides. Both sides spread the ball around the court to multiple playmakers and made it difficult to predict who would get the bulk of the sets for either team.
As the second set started, it seemed as if there would be much of the same play in the second set as seen in the first set with the first point coming by way of a hitting error by Aidan Albrecht. But then both teams began to put it together a bit. Penn State began to rely more on their powerful hitting and big block, while the Anteaters had a good mix of both finesse and power. The match was still going UC-Irvine’s way however with their opposite Michael Saeta at one point coming away with three straight aces that forced Coach Pavlik into a timeout with the score being 11-9, in favor of UC-Irvine.
“We kind of felt in game two we needed to raise our level a little bit and after that timeout, these guys raised their level quite a bit,” said Pavlik about the team’s play after his timeout.
One player who helped raise the level of those around him was middle blocker Kevin Gear, who was brought on after the timeout. Gear came out swinging, getting a kill almost immediately out of the timeout. From there, the rest of the team followed suit with Albrecht getting the first of his leading 12 kills for the match in the second set.
“I think we passed really well and Taylor [Hammond] was setting me really good balls. So I just had a little confidence and was going after it. It was a team effort,” said Albrecht on his performance.
Gear had four of his five kills in that second set, and was consistently apart of a strong block that shifted the game in the Nittany Lions favor. Penn State would take that set 25 to 20 and would continue their strong play into the final two sets.
The final two sets were much of the same story, with Penn State taking the third set 25 to 16 and the fourth set 25 to 17. UC-Irvine had lost much of their energy after the first set comeback and were unable to keep pace with Penn State by game's end.
“I would agree it was low energy. Reason why? Just didn’t bring it,” said UC-Irvine’s Jason Agopian, who was visibly upset with how the game went for his side.
All of this was done for Penn State without the best performance from Chris Nugent, who had a low hitting percentage of .192 Monday night. But others picked up for where Chris Nugent would normally contribute, with Spencer Sauter grabbing 10 kills on .600 hitting and Matt Seifert getting seven kills on .700 hitting.
Penn State will now look to carry over many of the aspects of what they did late in this game to their next contest Friday against the 13th-ranked Lewis University Flyers.
“Now we remember that winning feeling and how good it feels to win. And now we just have to be hungry and keep doing it,” said Sauter.
David Arroyo is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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