Tuesday's men's volleyball practice ended the same way three of Penn State's matches have this season -- in a fifth-set loss.
To conclude practice, the starters lost to the second team 18-16 in a simulated fifth set.
The No. 7 Nittany Lions currently stand at 15-3 but their three losses have come in five sets, including losses to No. 5 Long Beach State and No. 8 BYU at the Active Ankle Classic last weekend.
In practice, the Lions have tried to familiarize themselves with situations they have rarely experienced.
"We're not really used to playing five games," senior opposite Ryan Sweitzer said. "Last year we only had one. This year we've had a couple."
The Lions beat Long Beach State in five sets last year but are just 1-3 in five-set matches this year, with the lone win coming against No. 4 USC.
Errors have become the main issue for the Lions once they enter a fifth set. The tie-breaking fifth set is only played to 15, leaving little room for mistakes.
"A mistake is amplified and gets magnified a lot in games to 15," Sweitzer said. "Somebody that's really talented could make a couple errors and could cost you the whole match."
Errors have come at crucial moments in the fifth sets for the Lions. Trailing 11-10 at BYU, a Lion attack error gave the Cougars a two-point lead, a tough margin to overcome in the rally scoring system.
In their loss to Loyola-Chicago, the Lions fell behind 2-0 and eventually 9-4, virtually ending the match.
"If you start, especially when it's more of a sideout game, and you're two or three points down at the beginning of the game, it's going to be really hard to get back into the game because it's only 15 points," setter Edgardo Goas said.
The short length of the fifth set hurts the Lions who tend to trade points with their opponent before pulling away later in the match.
The brevity also allows less talented teams to beat the Lions.
"We just have to learn how to get on a team early because we're more of a closing team," Sweitzer said. "We just have to learn how to focus in a match."
In practice, the Lions have focused on eliminating hitting and service errors to force an opponent to earn 15 points.
"When we get in these fifth games, we just start playing like it's a normal game," sophomore libero Dennis Del Valle said. "We just start doing stupid errors. It's so unnecessary all the time."