Perfection has been the theme for the Penn State men’s volleyball team lately.
The Nittany Lions were able to get their second win against an EIVA opponent on Saturday, sweeping NJIT, 3-0 (25-15, 25-15, 25-23). The Lions are undefeated throughout their past 12 sets and are undefeated at home (4-0) so far this season.
“Our goal is winning the EIVA, hosting the EIVA Championships here, and we have to protect home court,” coach Mark Pavlik said. “This is a big first weekend for us to establish that not much is going to change this year no matter who is on the court for us, we’re ready to defend our EIVA title.”
The Lions were able to get into a rhythm early in the match tonight, especially through their serving. Penn State committed only three service errors in the first set, and also had a service ace from freshman Aaron Russell. The team was able to ride its early momentum through the rest of the match holding NJIT to a lowly .182 hitting percentage. Redshirt senior Joe Sunder explained how a new warm up attested to the team’s serving.
“When we served to warm up we tried a different thing this weekend, we had starters serve from one side to get good reps,” Sunder said. “Something as little as that just helps our serves get in at the beginning and gets us going a little bit quicker.”
Sunder and junior Tom Comfort led the way for the Lions with seven and nine kills, respectively. Sophomore Peter Russell was able to step up big for the Lions once again with nine kills and four digs.
“Edguardo [Goas]’s sets have been in good spots lately and it’s almost like we don’t even have to think about it,” Sunder said.
Penn State was able to capitalize against a shorter defense that struggled with blocking.
“We were able to take advantage of the high balls, we tried to go over top of shorter blockers and we were able to get points,” Russell said.
For another match, the Lions were able to go deep into their bench. With the majority of bench players in for the third set, the Lions struggled and were down for a while to NJIT. But through the play of Comfort and other reserves, they were able to fight back to win the set.
“I’m pleased with the way we responded,” Pavlik said. “We went on a 6-1 run that allowed us to shift momentum.”
Even after an impressive start in conference play, Pavlik stressed the team must go about their play as “business as usual”.
Penn State will attempt to keep this same mindset next week against EIVA opponents Harvard and Sacred Heart.