The Nittany Lions experienced a home atmosphere away from home Saturday night.
Penn State enjoyed strong fan support for their away match against EIVA opponent St. Francis, they swept the Red Flash 3-0 (). With the win, Penn State continued their undefeated streak in the EIVA, Penn State has also not lost a set to any of their conference opponents.
Although not hitting their best early on, the Lion’s controlled the match through their service game. The Lions hit nine aces throughout the match and were able to build streaks through their exceptional serve placement. Nick Turko opened the match with three aces and Penn State began on a 6-0 run.
“I knew we were going to be back to our serving as soon as Turko ripped off five or six in a row to begin the match,” said redshirt senior Joe Sunder. “That’s a huge confidence boost, takes a little bit off every other part of the game and we can focus on other things a little bit more.”
After experiencing their first losing streak of the year after facing Pepperdine and USC last weekend, the Lions were able to come back and set a tone that they would not their struggles keep them down.
There were a couple times we let the ball get away from us a little bit, but much better than last weekend,” Sunder said. “We can definitely get better.”
Fan support played a part in Penn State’s momentum. A relatively short distance from Penn State’s campus (64 miles) the St. Francis stands were filled nearly half way with Nittany Lions’ fans. The fans at one point started a “Thunder Sunder” chant cheering on Sunder after a streak of three straight aces. The Penn State fans gave a standing ovation to their team on the match point, which was won after a St. Francis hitting error.
“We had enough Penn Staters and our fans make the trip to kind of balance things out,” head coach Mark Pavlik said. “On top of that, the way we started with Nick [Turko]’s run to start off the game with his serving really put them on their heels to begin with and they never really recovered.”
Top performers for Penn State included Aaron Russell with 8 kills and a perfect hitting percentage, as well as the dominant Sunder who provided 13 kills on .500 hitting along with the three aces. Starter Peter Russell sat out of the game due to a “violation of team rules” according to Pavlik.
The confidence of the Lions along with their physicality allowed them to dominate over the weaker Red Flash, frustrating St. Francis’s head coach Mike Rumbaugh
“It’s team mentalilty, Penn State comes out knowing their going to win and we think we can win but still in the back of our mind, it’s Penn State,” said Rumbaugh. “I think the first eight points for Penn State were total mentality.
The Lions continue action next week against another pair of EIVA opponents NJIt and Rutgers-Newark.