Early into its first EIVA road test of the year, the Penn State men's volleyball team found itself in a surprising struggle.
The Division III Springfield College Pride (1-3, 0-1 EIVA) came back from a five-point deficit and forced the No. 6 Nittany Lions to put up 33 points to clinch the first set of Saturday night's match.
But Penn State persevered. Will Price tallied 22 kills on the night, and the Lions (4-1, 2-0 EIVA) upended conference-foe Springfield College in straight sets, 3-0 (33-31, 30-22, 30-26).
"It was pretty typical of an early season, on-the-road match, especially up here in Springfield," Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said. "[Springfield is] a team that just doesn't quit."
The Lions helped the Pride's cause early and committed 11 hitting errors in the first set, five of which fueled an 8-3 Springfield run to tie the set at 29.
To survive the frenzied Springfield upset attempt, the Lions leaned on their playmakers. Price tallied the next three Penn State kills, and the Lions escaped the first set with a 1-0 lead.
"The guys that really make us go really did what they had to do," Pavlik said.
While reigning EIVA Player of the Week Price turned in a performance his coach called a testament to "the player that Will is," Pavlik offered much of his post-game praise to junior libero Dennis Del Valle.
Del Valle tied a career high with 18 digs and was second on the team with four helpers.
It was the best performance the junior had turned in "in a long, long time," Pavlik said, while teammate Jesse Wagner called Del Valle's outing "phenomenal."
"I was just patient," Del Valle said. "Usually I get frustrated when I don't get digs. I was just reading them well and just waiting for the ball."
Setter Edgardo Goas also enjoyed another strong match.
The sophomore set up his teammates a team-high 38 times, dug out six balls and recorded a block.
"Those guys, they put us on their backs and carried us," Wagner said.
The atmosphere in Blake Arena may have also affected how well the out-gunned Pride were able to keep pace with the sixth-ranked men's volleyball team in the nation.
Springfield College deemed the evening matchup a "black out" -- all students in attendance donned black shirts -- and Pavlik said the Pride fed on the energy of its home crowd.
"We're kind of their Super Bowl," Pavlik said.
The adrenaline boost Springfield enjoyed came as bad tidings to the Lions, who admittedly played "flat volleyball," as Wagner called it.
"We didn't play our best," Wagner said, "but getting a 3-0 win on the road is always a good thing."