For some teams in the EIVA, splitting a weekend series with conference opponents would be acceptable, and in some cases, satisfactory.
But for the team that has controlled the conference on an annual basis, losing one match constitutes a disappointment, and losing a match on back-to-back weekends can be a real cause for concern.
Fresh off being swept by Ohio Stateon Feb. 9, the Penn State men’s volleyball team hit the road with aspirations of redemption, but its Friday opponent proved to be an unwelcoming host.
The Nittany Lions were swept for the second consecutive match, this time by conference opponent Harvard on Friday night in Cambridge, Mass. The loss was Penn State’s first in the conference since 2008, as the Crimson exacted their revenge after falling to the Lions in Rec Hall earlier this season.
“You play a good team when you’re at home, and then you expect them to be even better when you’re on the road,” coach Mark Pavlik said via telephone Saturday. “I hope we get another shot at them later in the year.”
Pavlik’s squad struggled mightily Friday, hitting just .244 with a bulk of the kills coming from the Russell brothers, Aaron and Peter. The coach said Harvard limited easy points for the Lions, something that they could typically get away with against other conference opponents.
With nothing falling the Nittany Lions’ way Friday, the days changed and the switch flipped on Saturday.
Penn State brought its rare losing streak into Connecticut against Sacred Heart, and took its problems out on the Pioneers. All three games went to the Lions, with most of the statistical categories in their favor as well.
Pavlik said he was a bit worried that the Lions would slump into their second match of the weekend, but that worry was quickly put to rest.
“Anytime you go through an emotional match, you’re always worried about how drained you are,” Pavlik said. “But when we handle our side of the net, we know it’s tough for them to really challenge us.”
Penn State got on top and stayed there from the beginning, which allowed the team to tap into its bench, which has become one of its best assets.
“We had a chance to rest some guys and get other guys in, and they took advantage of the opportunities,” Pavlik said.
Despite earning a win each of the last two weekends, satisfaction is absent in the locker room. The Nittany Lions are eager to get back in their own gym and show the home crowd that they can get back on track.
Penn State hosts two more conference opponents next weekend, including the current first-place Patriots from George Mason and a Princeton team that has been on the Lions’ radar all season.
“We have a huge week coming up,” senior Tom Comfort said. “[George Mason and Princeton] are going to think that we are a weak team right now and that they can come in and knock us out.”
But until the Lions hit the court again, they will again be forced to live with the bitter taste of dissatisfaction in their mouths. According to Comfort, that feeling is something they do not want to deal with again.
“I hate losing. I hope this is the only wake-up call we have,” Comfort said.