MVB: Nittany Lions Dominate New Jersey Opponents
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – After upsetting No. 2 Ohio State in Rec Hall in a thrilling five set match, the Penn State Men’s Volleyball team rode that momentum to take down the visiting Princeton Tigers in five sets and the NJIT Highlanders in four sets on Friday and Saturday.
With these two crucial conference wins, Penn State separates itself at 8-2 from the rest of the competition in the EIVA. Currently, they own first place, while Harvard is two games behind them at 6-4.
The Princeton Tigers, a young but ferociously competitive team, took Penn State down to the wire Friday night. The visitors opened the match taking the first set, before Penn State won the following two.
Princeton controlled the fourth set decisively 25-19, gaining the confidence to knock Penn State. Down 13-9 in the fifth and final set, the Nittany Lions’ backs were against the wall.
As the Tigers were two points away from stealing a much-needed victory on the road, Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik called a timeout to calm down his players.
“It was more about let’s just settle down,” Pavlik said. “There’s not a whole lot of stuff you can really say in 45 seconds that sinks in. It’s more about take a deep breathe, understand what your next responsibility is, and go out and execute that responsibility, and then we move from there.”
After the timeout, senior outside hitter Chris Nugent registered a momentum swinging kill and block to pull Penn State within two. The Nittany Lions would complete a 4-0 run to tie it all up at 13 apiece.
Moments later, Princeton went up again by a score of 14-13, but failed to put Penn State away due to a service error. The two squads would go on to exchange points back and forth before junior outside hitter Aiden Albrecht earned a kill, and the Nittany Lions banded together for a team block to win the game 19-17 in the fifth set.
In the second game of the weekend, Penn State welcomed the NJIT Highlanders to campus for a rematch. Their previous matchup was decided in five sets, advantage Penn State, making the two teams very familiar with one another.
Coming off of two consecutive five-set matches and three within a weeklong stretch, Pavlik knew that his team needed to focus on its rest if they were to be successful against the Highlanders.
“I’m more worried about recovery,” Pavlik said. “I’m more worried about these guys getting good nutrition and good rest.”
The Nittany Lions showed little to no signs of fatigue, as they took down the Highlanders in four sets. While they dropped the first set 25-21, they bounced back immediately to take the next three in a row.
Freshman setter Nathan Smith was outstanding in the second game, totaling 45 assists. After being thrust into the starting lineup due to injuries, Smith has responded accordingly and adjusted to the competition’s play nicely.
“All of the guys on the team have been really supportive while I’ve been out there,” Smith said.
“I think Nathan really settled in the last couple of games, too,” Albrecht said. “He’s been feeling more confident.”
Next weekend, Penn State will travel to Connecticut and Massachusetts to face off against Sacred Heart and Harvard.
Zach Seyko is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and minoring in communication arts & sciences. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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