In the final regular-season home match of their careers, the four seniors on the Penn State men’s volleyball team made sure they would keep doing the one thing everyone knows them for so well: winning.
Penn State defeated Saint Francis, 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-23), on Senior Night to move to 21-5 on the season. With the win, the No. 7 Nittany Lions completed a 14-0 EIVA regular season conference slate.
Before the match, seniors Joe Sunder, Ryan Wolf, Tor Covello and Edgardo Goas were honored for their contributions to the program in front of 1,203 patrons, the largest Rec Hall crowd of the season.
Joe Sunder led the way for Penn State with 12 kills on .364 hitting, but overall, it was a total team effort as 12 players saw game action and made contributions.
For Wolf, it was the most game action he had seen all season.
He replaced struggling sophomore Jace Olsen, who had a negative hitting percentage midway through the second set, and finished with six kills on 10 attempts for .500 hitting.
It wasn’t Penn State’s best hitting performance of the season, as the Lions hit just .283 for the match.
However, one area of the game that was strong for the Lions was their serving. The team recorded 10 service aces, with Goas and freshman Aaron Russell each finishing with three to lead the team.
“I thought there was some real good choices from our servers tonight to make sure [Saint Francis] handled the ball,” Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said.
Saint Francis was in the mix for the fourth and final playoff spot in the EIVA tournament but with its loss and Princeton’s win, Princeton eliminated the Red Flash from the tournament because they won four sets in the season series to Saint Francis’ three.
With Princeton’s victory in the back of their heads, the Red Flash came out and played the Lions tough because they knew a win would keep them out of the tiebreaker scenario.
But the struggles containing Penn State’s serve were too much for the Red Flash in the end.
“Our guys just can’t imitate [Penn State’s] serve at practice,” Saint Francis coach Mike Rumbaugh said.
Pavlik said he knew the match would be tough with Saint Francis fighting for its postseason life.
“We talked about trying to take their best shot early and I thought [Saint Francis] played pretty well,” Pavlik said.
In the third set, Pavlik pulled each of his seniors during separate breaks and the crowd cheered loudly to acknowledge them once more.
Covello got his first game action when he replaced Goas and he finished with six assists.
Now that the regular season has concluded, the next step for the Lions is hosting the EIVA Tournament, which begins next Thursday.
The Lions will face Princeton at 7:30 p.m. while second-seeded Harvard will face third-seeded George Mason in the first match at 5:30.