On Friday, Penn State’s home opener was pushed into the South Gym at Rec Hall. On Tuesday, the Nittany Lions reclaimed their floor and continued their dominance on it.
With a three-match winning streak on the line, the Nittany Lions squared up against the equally hot Ramblers from Loyola-Chicago and downed them in three games.
The Lions’ attack was challenged throughout the first game, but after that the Lions were unmatched in every phase of the game.
“It was more energy-related in the beginning,” head coach Mark Pavlik said. “We came out saying ‘how hard do we really have to work tonight?’ Once we got rolling, we were able to create some much-needed energy.”
The Lions played a comparatively clean match, finishing with just six attack errors, while Loyola racked up 16 in the loss.
Penn State improved from its last match, where its 25 attack errors against Lewis on Friday made for a more treacherous effort.
“We really highlighted our transition game,” Pavlik said. “It’s so dynamic and spontaneous, but I think we hit a rhythm tonight.”
Penn State received ample support from the entire cast, but junior Peter Russell led the way.
Russell found himself in good company on the team’s statistical leaderboard, finishing tied for the team lead in kills (10) and hitting percentage (.667).
The junior attributed some of his drive to playing alongside his brother Aaron, and the two frequently matched each other’s points throughout the night, which is not uncommon for the two hitters.
“I remember against Ohio State, [Aaron] came up to me and said ‘I out-killed you today’ and it was going back and forth,” Peter said. “There’s a little bit of a sibling rivalry, but ultimately we’re on the same team and it’s a lot of fun playing alongside each other.”
“Good players find ways to make people around them better,” Pavlik said. “They’re just going to get better, and this team is nowhere near where I think they can be.”
As Pavlik’s term “January volleyball” wears down to its final week, Penn State’s hitters are starting to hit their strides but are not accepting the credit.
Tom Comfort dished the praise to setter Taylor Hammond, but even his success may be coming from another source.
“Credit has to go to [assistant coach] Colin McMillan who put together a great scouting report and these guys stuck to it,” Pavlik said. “We didn’t waver over time and the work these guys put in practice paid off.”