Senior opposite Tom Comfort’s last name can describe how the No. 6 Nittany Lions looked in their home opener.
Despite being on the road for the first three matches and being pushed to the South Gym in Rec Hall due to Friday night’s wrestling match, the Nittany Lions opened their home schedule with a win over No. 12 Lewis, 3-1 (25-22, 25-23, 20-25, 25-18) behind Comfort’s 18 kills.
“I thought there were stretches certainly through the first and second games where he kind of carried us a little bit,” Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said. “I know at one point in game one I think he was 7-for-9, hitting .778. That is a torrid pace. You don't expect hitters to carry that through.”
The Nittany Lions (3-1) will now roll into tonight’s match with Loyola-Chicago at 7 in Rec Hall on a three game-winning streak. Penn State’s last loss was its opening match of the season against UCLA.
It will be the first EIVA match for both teams.
Pavlik said Friday night’s home opener was a chance to debut a new look Nittany Lion team.
“I thought that tonight was a great way to kind of introduce this issue of Penn State Nittany Lion volleyball team to the crowd,” Pavlik said. “What you saw, all of the effort on the court tonight, we've seen through the fall. We've seen through every time we've been in the gym. I think it's going to be to our advantage.”
Comfort’s 14 kills through the first two games helped the Nittany Lions hold off the Flyers where the two schools were tied 26 times. In that time frame, there were seven lead changes.
The senior had seven kills in both sets.
The New York native was slowed down in the games three and four posting just four total kills, but his damage was already done. The senior’s 18 kills were a season-high for Penn State.
“I thought Tom did a very nice job, especially at the beginning of the match,” Lewis coach Dan Friend said. “We made some adjustments, and I think we finally got him a few times as the match progressed a little bit but I think he did a nice job.“
Tonight, Comfort and the Nittany Lions try to stay in that groove against a hot Loyola-Chicago team. The Ramblers come into tonight’s match on a four match-winning streak.
“I think it's really about attitude,” senior middle hitter Nick Turko said. “I feel everyone on the team has the exact same attitude. We know we want a national championship. We know we want to win every single point and everyone is working the hardest that can and focusing the most they can every single point.”
Penn State has a .268 hitting percentage. The Nittany Lions hit .195 Friday night, but still out hit Lewis, which hit .154.
“It was tenuous at best,” Pavlik said. “But you create opportunities with the effort. I just think we are going to out-work a lot of teams. We aren't going to be the sexy team this year.”
Penn State opened Friday’s match hitting .345 in the first game, but .184 and .026 in games two and three respectively. The Nittany Lions hit .286 in game 4. Comfort led Penn State in hitting in players who had more than 10 attempts (.265).
“There's really no excuse for the second and third game where I didn't do too hot,” Comfort said. “We have been working what we call hitting the box. Hit it off high off the hands, I kind of go away from that and hit it straight down. I got a little comfortable I guess. No pun intended.”