As the ball comes down onto setter Taylor Hammond's hands, opponents see their worst nightmare unfold right before their eyes.
Four of Penn State's most dangerous hitters are coming straight to the net, and any one of them can elevate for the kill.
Nick Goodell, Aaron and Peter Russell, Matt Seifert and even redshirt freshman Matt Callaway have all contributed significantly to the Penn State offensive attack.
Each of the aforementioned hitters has amassed more than 50 kills this season, while Goodell and the Russell brothers all have more than 100.
Goodell, a redshirt junior, said the variety only helps the No. 10 Nittany Lions (12-2, 5-0 EIVA) as they enter the second half of the season.
"If one of us was having an off night, we could always go to someone else,” Goodell said. “But having everyone have a good night, that just makes it easier on us and harder for [an opponent]."
Penn State has not hit less than .200 percent so far this season, but the number fluctuates with each game. The team’s effort on attack was best summarized between its two matches against Mount Olive and St. Francis.
On Jan. 31, the Lions hit for a season high .406 percent and swept Mount Olive. The following night, Penn State hit a season low .208 percent, and battled for a hard-fought, four-set victory.
Coach Mark Pavlik has seen a clear improvement across the board from his attack.
"Offensively, it looks like we're starting to come together a little bit more," Pavlik said. "We're getting production from the right antennae with Nick [Goodell], and it's helping us out a little bit because everyone knows Aaron [Russell] is the guy you've got to slow down at times."
Aaron Russell led the team in kills in four of the first seven matches and established himself as the go-to guy early on. But the focus that opposing teams have put on Aaron has not slowed down the outside hitter. The junior leads the team in kills this season with 176.
While teams spend their time gameplanning for Aaron, the door has been opened for other Lions to get in on the attack.
In Saturday's match against Harvard, for example, Aaron totaled only eight kills — just the fourth time the junior failed to reach double digits this season — but his teammates made up for it.
Goodell registered 11 kills against the Crimson and Seifert, Callaway and Peter Russell each added more than five to the effort. Thanks to the variety of attack, Penn State cruised to a sweep.
"[Harvard] couldn't stop us in one aspect of the game that I saw," Goodell said. "Distributing it out equally makes it hard for the other team to know where it's going, so I think that's what we mainly shoot for."
Garrett Ross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @garrett_ross.