Saturday afternoon was nearly historic for Penn State for all the wrong reasons. Facing a 2-0 deficit against the Harvard Crimson, things were looking desperate for the Lions who were undefeated in conference play this season as well as undefeated at home.
“Our offense got real predictable and we were kind of waiting for them to give us a point,” coach Mark Pavlik said. “At that point they believed that they could win.”
Fortunately for the Lions they were able to crush the Crimson’s hope and momentum and earn the win over Harvard 3-2 (20-25, 21-25, 25-13, 25-21, 15-10).
Penn State’s offense struggled terribly throughout the first two sets. Though they came out and built a 13-7 lead in set one, Harvard was able to manufacture a nine-point run to build the lead and to completely deflate the Lions’ offense.
The Crimson kept the Lions on the ropes in the second set. After the score was tied 11-11, Harvard went on a 3-0 to create separation and never looked back winning the set 25-21. Harvard was able to hold Penn State to a lowly .114 hitting percentage throughout the first two sets.
After a stern talk from the talking staff between the second and third set Penn State came out in the third set with a renewed focus and fire.
“He just told us what we needed to hear and obviously it worked,” said redshirt senior Joe Sunder.
The Lions were able to dominate the set, winning 25-13 and continue their strong play into the fourth set taking that as well.
Heading into the fifth set, momentum belonged to the Lions. At 10-7 the two teams battled for a point on a rally that went back and fourth over five times. After towering blocks and leaping digs from both sides, Goas was able to set redshirt freshman Nick Goodell up for a booming kill to the back of Harvard’s court. The crowd roared and rose to a “We Are” chant during the set. Penn State was able to capitalize following the decisive point, ending the set with a block by redshirt freshmen Nick Goodell and freshmen Aaron Russell.
Top performers for the Lions were Sunder, whose 17 kills on .481 hitting along with 11 digs earned him player of the game honors, as well as Goodell who contributed a match high and career high 22 kill and 8 digs. After some early struggles, redshirt senior Edgardo Goas was able to control the offense with 59 assists.
“We wanted Eddy to understand some things point blank that we needed to be doing,” Pavlik said. “By Game 3 our offense started to hum.”
With the win Penn State was able to clinch the EIVA title and homecourt advantage in the conference tournament for the 26th time in conference history.
This is the second straight week Penn State has gone five sets with an EIVA opponent.
“It’s really nice to see an EIVA team when you’re not playing well make you pay for it,” Pavlik said. “Harvard’s a good team and the EIVA has good teams in it this year and we have to be ready for them.”
Penn State will travel to Brigham Young University next week to face the No. 4 Cougars on Friday and Saturday at 9 p.m.