Top-five teams rarely find themselves in bad situations two weeks into the season.
Lewis had high expectations after being given the No. 5 ranking in the preseason, but a 1-4 start has them slipping and desperately clinging to No. 12.
The MIVA preseason favorite was cursed with a brutal early season schedule, facing four different ranked teams, all away from home.
The tough tests do not end yet for the Flyers, as they head to University Park less than a week after being handed a convincing loss at No. 3 BYU.
But Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said he and his team know the Flyers want to straighten themselves out and they are capable of doing it at the Lions’ expense.
“We have a very healthy respect for Lewis and that program,” Pavlik said. “We know they’re good, and they’re in good shape.”
Lewis’ roster has grabbed the Nittany Lions’ attention, and they realize that, despite their opponent’s record, the other side of the net will consist of some exceptional talent.
Outside hitters and brothers Jay and Greg Petty are second and fourth on the Lewis team in kills, respectively, and Pavlik calls them “as good on the outside as anybody we’re going to face.”
Pavlik also handed out praise to outside hitter Geoff Powell, one of the most dominant forces in the MIVA. Powell leads the conference in kills with plenty of room to spare, and excelled in Lewis’ lone win, with 24 kills and a .767 hitting percentage against BYU last Friday.
Sophomore middle hitter Aaron Russell is wary of the opposition as well.
“We struggled against top servers and we know Lewis has strong servers and great players,” Russell said.
As a freshman last year, Russell’s first experience against Lewis ended on a negative note. Lewis handed the Nittany Lions their first loss of the 2012 season and nearly a year later, Penn State hopes to return the favor.
The Lions are fresh off a tournament in Hawaii, where the team went 2-1 including a dominant win over then No. 10 Ohio State and a nail-biting victory against the host of the tournament, Hawaii.
“We need to recover from Hawaii,” the younger Russell brother said. “We need to get ready to play.”
The Friday match marks Penn State’s home opener and the beginning of a stretch that includes 10 of its next 12 matches at Rec Hall.
According to Pavlik, it shouldn’t be too tough to get the guys motivated.
“If I’ve got to get my guys up, we’re screwed,” Pavlik said. “They know exactly what they’re up against so I’m not worried about that.”
If you can’t get excited about your home opener, you’ve got a problem.”