The probability of flipping a coin 19 times and getting the same result each time is one in 524,288.
That is also the probability of a team winning 19 consecutive games, given only which of the two benches it is sitting on.
It seems improbable, but entering the fifth game of Penn State’s Friday night match with Hawaii, it was the case.
At that point in the Outrigger Volleyball Invitational, no team sitting on the south bench had lost a game. Each match from Thursday and Friday went back and forth with the team playing on the south end of the court winning each game.
When a match reached a fifth game, which all four matches on Thursday and Friday did, the team finishing on the south side won as well. Penn State finished Friday on that end.
In the fifth game of the Friday match, Penn State was a point away from its second loss in as many nights. But with a final rally, the Nittany Lions turned around and stunned Hawaii to take the match.
The match swung due to a Warriors’ service error, then a double block by Penn State and a final kill by Tom Comfort, but with the way things were going, some players and coaches were wondering if that bench actually had something to do with it.
At the outset of that fifth game, Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik was seen laughing with Hawaii head coach Charlie Ward as they had picked up on the unbelievable trend.
When the teams switched sides, mandated after a team scores eight points in the fifth game, Ward was reluctant to relinquish his half of the court, but Pavlik’s team was eager to keep the streak going.
“No one could lose on that bench; it really seemed that way,” Pavlik said, with a laugh of disbelief. “I’ve never seen anything like that.”
Robart Page, an outside hitter for tournament foe UCLA, took to Twitter to talk about the unusual trend of outcomes after Penn State’s match Friday night.
“So it’s settled,” Page tweeted. “I called it. There’s a curse on the [north] side of the stadium.”
The trend of consecutive wins from the south bench ended when Penn State defeated Ohio State on both sides of the court Saturday night. The streak of matches in the tournament reaching five games also ended in that match.
“It was one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen,” Pavlik said.
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