Penn State Tops Sacred Heart in Four Sets
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa – No. 9 Penn State (7-2, 2-0 EIVA) outlasted Sacred Heart 3-1 (25-15, 27-29, 25-21, 25-18) in Rec Hall Friday evening.
Sophomore Cal Mende returned to the starting lineup, recording a game-high 14 kills. It was Mende’s first action since the Nittany Lions’ trip to Los Angeles in January.
“Watching everything on the sideline, wanting to be in, Pav [Coach Mark Pavlik] came up to me 20 minutes before game time and asked if I was good to go,” Mende said. “I said yes, game started, and we were on.”
Penn State used strong hitting in the first set to establish momentum early on. They recorded a hitting percentage of .636, their second highest in any set of the season, the best since hitting .667 against Mount Olive in the season opener.
A six-point mid-set serving run by Jalen Penrose propelled the Nittany Lions to a 25-15 set one victory. Although Penrose had a quiet night from his hitting position, his teammates picked up the slack. Aidan Albrecht tallied a team-high six kills in the first set.
The second set proved to be the most competitive of the night, with 21 ties and five lead changes. Sacred Heart used solid blocking to stretch things to set point 3 and eventually come away with a 29-27 set victory. Penn State lost the set despite hitting .355 to the Pioneers’ .333.
Penn State committed 11 service errors in the set, and a total of 26 on the night, tied for their season high (at USC on Jan. 20).
“While the argument can be made that we missed 26 serves and gave them the game, I’ll tell you what, I think our serving really won the match for us,” Pavlik said. “They could not get any type of offensive rhythm going.”
The Nittany Lions rebounded in the third set, coming away with a 25-21 victory despite hitting just .160. It was a sloppy set for both teams, as the Pioneers hit .100. Matt McLaren started to heat up and eventually was named Mike Anderson Player of the Game for his efforts. McLaren finished with 13 kills, three service aces, three digs and a block.
Heading into set four, Penn State looked more comfortable and was able to make adjustments on the serve and attack. The Nittany Lions led by at least four points for the entire set, hitting .364 with three service aces. This and a great set by Mende powered Penn State to a 25-18 set victory, clinching the match 3-1.
Penn State improved to 2-0 in conference play and will look to better that record on Saturday when they take on Harvard in South Gym at 4 p.m.
Matt Freiler is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.