Senior outside hitter Kyle Mars saw action in two matches of No. 6 Penn State’s five matches before last weekend.
Entering last Friday, Mars had recorded one kill during his small amount of playing time.
Mars, who does not start, finished this weekend’s matches with 10 kills and helped the Nittany Lions dominate Sacred Heart and fend off Harvard, playing in consecutive matches for the first time this season
“I think it tells [coach Mark Pavlik] I’m ready to go when he can use me,” the New York native said. “I know that I’m not like probably going to be used that much in each game, but if he really needs me, I’m there to come in and step.”
Mars said he expects to be used in certain situations. But his hard-hat style of play was key in Penn State’s two wins this weekend.
“Over the past four years, he has progressed a lot,” Kyle’s brother and former Penn State middle hitter Alan said. “He stuck in there. He’s an older figure… He’s progressed into a leader, and I’m pretty happy for him.”
The senior was key in Penn State’s win over Harvard in five sets, replacing Aaron Russell, who hit -.231 after the first two sets. Mars’ energy and four kills in the third set helped Penn State bounce back to win the third after losing the second, 25-20.
“[I’m] not trying to make big plays, stuff like that,” Kyle said. “It’s all good though, you know, to come off the bench help my team a lot.”
The Rochester native was named the Lions’ co-player of the Harvard match, as he finished with seven kills, nearly tripling his season total.
Kyle said he knows his role on the team and when Pavlik will go to him. Mars’ role is similar to a utility player in baseball. The senior is called on to help out where he can as an outside hitter for the Lions.
“I’ve always been of the opinion you’ve got to know your team from top to bottom,” Pavlik said about using players like Mars. “You just can’t know the top-half guys, talent wise. You’ve got to know what everyone can bring.”
Before Kyle’s time at Penn State, he and his brother played volleyball together in high school. While Alan was on the varsity team at Gates Chili High School, his younger brother joined the same roster as a freshman. He made an impact immediately and was named to his county’s honorable mention team.
“I got pretty close with Kyle when he started playing volleyball at about the same time I did,” Alan said.
By the time Kyle was finished in high school, he was MVP his senior year, a four-year letter winner and two-year captain.
Kyle Mars is the youngest of three brothers, and Alan, the middle brother, said that Kyle didn’t hit his growth spurt until later so he was the smallest of the three. However, Kyle, who is now 6-foot-3, would hold his own in family competitions.
“I think that actually helped grow to be the athlete that he is because he would stop pushing us around,” Alan said.
Kyle said that even though Alan is no longer on the team, he still has a close relationship with his brother and his former teammates. Kyle added that Alan comes to hang out with his former teammates and watch Penn State matches.
“[Alan is] still pretty close to me all my life,” Kyle said. “He still comes to games. He’s pretty close with this whole team. I really look up to him a lot.”
Like his brother, Pavlik uses players like Mars when the situation calls for it.
“You have your team, you try to make the best decisions about who you think strengths are best suited for what you need at any particular time,” Pavlik said.
As for his play last weekend, the senior wasn’t trying to be a superstar.
“I wasn’t trying to do too much,” Kyle said. “Just trying to do what they needed me to do. Kind of come in and stabilize things a little bit.”