As the regular season closes out for the Penn State men’s volleyball team, the fate of the season lies in the results of these upcoming games.
After splitting last weekend with Charleston and George Mason, the team will use the loss against George Mason as motivation moving toward this weekend with another strong opponent.
“I think with the way George Mason was handled was a fluke of how we play. That was not how we normally play. We just cannot worry about that game, and have to focus on this upcoming weekend because that is now our next focus,” Henry Payne said.
With a missing Will Bantle, one of the team’s biggest struggles was communication — between seams and overall. As freshman Cal Fisher took on a new role as the defense’s quarterback, he is still adjusting to the position he has never had much game experience with in his past.
“I was very nervous considering I have never really played libero before. I have to get better at seams and communicating,” Fisher said.
Princeton is currently leading the conference with an 11-1 record in EIVA play. Penn State is tied with Saint Francis, an opponent who Penn State beat twice in conference play. However, Penn State lost to George Mason twice in both matches while Saint Francis won both of its matches against George Mason.
The last time Penn State played Princeton was at Rec Hall, and lost in four sets. Although the Nittany Lions won against New Jersey Institute of Technology in four sets, they are not overlooking any opponent in order to finish out the season strong.
“We need to worry about beating NJIT because last time we played them, we beat them in four but they were a good team and willing to put it on the court so we need to focus on them first,” Payne said.
There is still a slight possibility the Nittany Lions can host the EIVA tournament, but that is not on the forefront of their brains. For coach Mark Pavlik, he is focusing on one team at a time, and wherever the tournament is will not be an issue.
“We cannot control things. So I am not going to worry about that. If we are good enough and put ourselves in those positions, that is great. If not, we will figure out who we play, show up when we are supposed to and play who we are supposed to,” Pavlik said.
With the recent defeats and close matches against high ranked opponents, it can be questionable if this is a championship team. Redshirt junior Jason Donorovich believes in this team, and can see them going far in the upcoming games.
“Absolutely. I do not care who is on the floor — you could take the six guys on the bench or six guys on the floor — this team fights. Everyone wants to win, and we just have to translate that to the court,” Donorovich said.
Yet the translation from the hard work in practice is not fully evident in matches — such as George Mason. When asked the question regarding how come the translation between those two environments is not fully working, Donorovich was unsure how to answer.
When asking other players, Payne had an idea as to where the problem could be stemming from. Not only could it be a realization the team needed, but something that only time can fix.
“From my standpoint, a lot of what’s translating to the games are the stuff that we want to get rid of. There is a lot of positives that go on in practice that do not end up translating, and the reason why is maybe that shift in pressure,” Payne said.
“In practice, you should always practice how you want to play, but there is always that difference from game day versus a practice. That pressure of knowing that each point matters triggers something different in each person.”
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