Penn State won its ninth straight match Friday, with another outstanding offensive performance for the Nittany Lions in Rec Hall.
But the offensive success wasn’t the main focus of the post-game press conference.
Penn State (11-1, 5-0 in EIVA) swept its fifth straight EIVA opponent to get the 3-0 (25-18, 25-15, 25-18) victory over Princeton, a win anchored by an impressive .462 hitting percentage. Head coach Mark Pavlik and two of its standout players from the match mentioned being pleased by this but focused more so on the need for the team’s blocking to improve.
The match against the Tigers was highlighted by several successful outputs from different players.
Fifth-year senior Joe Sunder and redshirt freshman Nick Goodell led the team with 10 kills each, Sunder on a .643 hitting percentage and Goodell on .471.
Fellow fifth-year senior Edgardo Goas paced the offense with 37 assists, also adding five digs and two kills.
“Overall, I really like the offense. I thought Eddy [Goas] ran a great offense tonight,” Pavlik said. “He got great swings from everybody.”
Pavlik said Goas’ ability to be in sync with Goodell, especially, made a big difference for the Lions tonight, helping Goodell to have another solid offensive game.
“Certainly he and Eddy [Goas] are developing a real nice tempo and relationship between them,” Pavlik said. “We’re gonna need that. That’s something that we saw outta [Goodell] last year and he just keeps getting better and better.”
However, even when asked about the team’s offense, the team harped on the fact that in order to win, it will need to have a better blocking performance than it did against Princeton.
Penn State had just three blocks total in the match, and the players realize this cannot be a pattern if they want to succeed by the end of the year.
“I think tonight’s match was probably more of a tribute to our serving and our offense,” Pavlik said. “The disappointing part was our blocking.”
Goas added the team must improve in this aspect of the game, or else Penn State will be looking at an early exit in the national tournament at the end of the year.
“We blocked three balls. That’s not enough,” Goas said. “If we look at the big picture, coming in May, we definitely need to get better at those things.”
So although Penn State held Princeton to a low .234 hitting percentage, it knows that its defensive performance needs to improve.
Pavlik said the team’s blocking must progress because when the matches mean the most in May, the opponents will be better in virtually every aspect of the game.
“What we’re trying to achieve is probably being as efficient at the net as we can with our block, and we’re gonna run into teams that can pass our serves. We’ve gotta make sure we’re ready for that type of offense.”
Depth, however, was once again a bright spot for Penn State, with reserves making steady contributions against Princeton.
Tom Comfort, for example, came off the bench in the third set to tally five kills on a .364 hitting percentage.
In the words of Princeton’s head coach, Sam Shweisky, having substitutes of Penn State’s caliber makes any hope of a comeback even slimmer.
“Depth is a big deal. Especially since a lot of times, maybe they win the first two, maybe they put in some subs, and that’s your chance to kind of go for it,” Shweisky said.”
“They put in the subs and it’s Tom Comfort. It’s like, okay, that’s a hell of a sub.”