They don’t come much bigger than this. An old rivalry, two dominant teams, and a rubber match between them.
A Penn State-Ohio State contest is generally a big event, regardless of the sport. Saturday night’s men’s volleyball match at 7 p.m. in Columbus, Ohio, will be no exception.
Ohio State (14-3, 7-1 MIVA) enters this weekend on a two-match winning streak, while Penn State (14-5, 8-1 EIVA) is looking to end a two-match losing streak.
“Going in to St. John [Arena] to try to win is a daunting task, especially with the way Ohio State are playing right now,” Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said.
The teams first met in January in the Outrigger Invitational tournament in Hawaii, where Penn State swept the Buckeyes. The next meeting was in February, when Ohio State came to Rec Hall and beat the Lions. Both teams having defeated each other once this season will only add to the drama.
“We lost to Ohio State last time and it was like the turning point of our season before a little bit of a downhill slide,” senior Nick Turko said. “But if we bounce back with this match we’ll hopefully be going uphill again.”
In order to recover from the rough past weekend, Pavlik gave his team off from practice on Monday and Tuesday.
“We’re nine weeks into this [season] already, and when you do anything for that long, I think there’s a fatigue that sets in not only physically but mentally,” Pavlik said. “And hopefully giving them time off with the Buckeyes coming up on Saturday, it gives them a chance to reset and refocus.”
The team took well to the days off.
“It was just nice to just be able to relax, a lot of the guys on the team right now are a little beat up, so it’s good to let your body recoup,” redshirt freshman Matt Seifert said. “I think it does a lot mentally too, you’re not worrying about volleyball, you’re not thinking about it. It gave us some time to catch up on school work too, so it was nice to have these two days to ourselves.”
Ohio State has a sizable squad that has been playing well lately, which Pavlik and the Nittany Lions are smart to be wary of.
“I really like their team. I think they’re athletic, they’re strong, they’re physical, and it’s a good test when we play them,” said Pavlik.
Ohio State has considerable offensive firepower, especially in redshirt sophomore Andrew Lutz, who has amassed 187 kills thus far this season.
“I’m not sure anybody has stopped him except himself,” said Pavlik.
Aside from Lutz, Pavlik has taken notice of several other Buckeyes’ offensive weapons, including a strong libero, experienced middles, and excellent outside hitters on a team with a .294 hitting percentage.
“These guys have been there all season long, and now the passers are starting to catch up to the servers, so we’ve got to figure out more ways to score points than just off of our serve,” Pavlik said.
No matter what happens, the Nittany Lions anticipate an exciting match on Saturday evening. As stated by Pavlik, “it’ll be a challenge for us that I’m looking forward to.”