Whenever someone made a comment about a lackluster performance early in the season, head coach Mark Pavlik reiterated that the team was still working through its “January volleyball” phase.
Now that the calendar has changed, Pavlik’s phrase will need to be updated.
Penn State finished January on a six-match winning streak, and picked up a pair of wins this weekend to improve its record to 8-1 overall.
With this much early success, the Nittany Lions are optimistic that they are on pace for another run for a national title.
“We’re right on schedule,” Pavlik said. “In my career, this has been about the time where things start to settle in and guys start to understand ebbs and flows of their daily grind.”
The team is not only satisfied with the game-by-game results, but the way it has gotten the job done has fortified the Lions’ confidence as well.
Aaron Russell leads the team in kills (83), with Tom Comfort (82) and brother Peter Russell (81) not far behind. But no one has been forced to shoulder the load the whole way.
The group has led a consistent attack for the Lions, even earning the “Russell-Russell and Comfort” business-quality nickname from Pavlik, but on a night when any or all of them struggled, there was no hesitation from others to step in.
That story repeated itself again this weekend, the first two matches of “February volleyball.”
Junior Scott Kegerreis and sophomore Nick Goodell, two players seeing limited action so far in 2013, rose to the occasion and stocked the box score when called upon.
“Any time you can get guys experience feeling something other than what they feel in practice, we’re going to do that,” Pavlik said.
The trio of leading hitters totaled only seven kills in Friday’s match against Pfeiffer, as the story of the match was Kegerreis and Goodell leading the way off the bench. The pair posted 17 kills in the effort, carrying the team into the weekend.
“Scotty Locks,” as Kegerreis was dubbed by Pfeiffer fans in the crowd due to his shoulder length hair, attributed his success to working with teammates in the offseason to expedite the meshing process.
“In the fall and up until now, I’ve been working with both setters,” Kegerreis said. “It’s not too difficult to change rhythms here and there.”
Kegerreis did not return to the court on Saturday, but Goodell stayed hot through the weekend. In a more prominent role, Goodell upped his offensive output on Saturday to a team-high 13 kills in the win.
“I love getting on the court,” Goodell said. “No matter who it is, anyone can have their night to go off, and it was the luck of the draw for me.”