The first two times Penn State and Princeton played this season, the Nittany Lions were overmatched.
The teams played seven sets in the regular season, and Princeton won six of the seven, including a sweep on April 13 in the season’s final game.
One week later, Penn State put up a much stronger fight, but it still was not enough.
Even though the Nittany Lions played one of their best matches of the season, they fell short against Princeton, losing in five sets to the Tigers in the EIVA championship game on Saturday at Dillon Gymnasium.
“I could not be any more proud of these guys right now,” Pavlik said. “If you would have said to me in February, I'll give you game five, and it’s 8-8, in the EIVA Championship, I wouldn't have believed it.”
For Princeton, this is its second EIVA title in program history and the first since 1998. The Tigers advanced to the NCAA tournament with the win.
The Nittany Lions will not advance to the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.
After winning in five sets over George Mason on Thursday, Penn State played another long and physical match against the Tigers.
While the Nittany Lions were unable to come out on top, this match showed how far Penn State has come since January.
“I couldn't be any more proud of where we have came from the beginning of the year, all the hard work put in by the freshmen especially,” redshirt senior Matthew McLaren said.
Penn State immediately responded after losing a close first set, by winning the second set to tie the match.
The teams split the next two sets, with Penn State playing a poor third set, but then rallying again to win the fourth and force a final set.
In a hard-pressed fifth set, the Nittany Lions tied the score at eight, before Princeton won the next three points to take control of the set.
An error from Henrick Fault Lauten ended the match and sent Penn State home, ending its season.
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” Pavlik said. “We lost 15-13 in game five, I’m not sure there was a lead that we never overcame outside of game three.”
“I wouldn't have done anything differently, these guys just competed their butts off.”
The final set was a disappointing end to the season for the seniors, as their careers at Penn State are now over.
“We’ll miss the seniors like no other,” Brett Wildman said. “We have learned so much from them, not just from volleyball, but in general. I looked at Cal Fisher and said ‘this isn't going to happen again.’ I think well take away that feeling.”
Saturday’s match was a result of Penn State’s hard work this season and possibly a representation for the near future for the Nittany Lions.
“Today was the combination of what they have been working for all year long, especially with understanding what it means to play at a big level,” Pavlik said. “They're going to get better as volleyball players, and if they if they use this as a springboard for how they compete over the next three years, were going to have a lot of fun in that gym.”