After a rollercoaster of events on this past road trip, Penn State men’s volleyball continues to see the good through it all. Coming off of two wins this past weekend at Harvard and Sacred Heart, the team managed to play through injury and sudden changes.
In the start of the third set during the Sacred Heart match, redshirt freshman libero Will Bantle collided with freshman Brett Wildman while attempting a dig. The collision between the two players resulted in Bantle being seriously injured and a 25-minute medical timeout.
Bantle proceeded to be taken off the court on a gurney, as redshirt freshman Henry Payne was brought in to fill the libero position. As Bantle was being brought off the court, the team had an even bigger fire under it to close out the match after the Nittany Lions previous two set victories.
In a situation that has a major impact on the team, players can react in one of two ways. Either they can feed off of the negativity of what recently occurred or use it to play harder for one of their brothers.
Coach Mark Pavlik has consistently spoken about how the team’s attitude is unlike any other he has coached. The team has an ability to seek the positives through the negative situation and recognize the overall job at hand.
“Anytime something happens like that it can go one way or the other. I think our team for the entire year they preached and taught each other being a good team. One of their teammates goes down, but the game still has to be played. The faith they have in everybody else works pretty well,” Pavlik said.
Payne has played in the libero position one to two times in practice prior before his appearance as a libero in the third set. With just merely 25 minutes to mentally prepare for his task as a libero, Pavlik was pleased in his performance to complete the mission tonight.
“He did what we thought he could do. He passed the ball, and has played enough volleyball to know where he has to be defensively to make some good plays and some good first contacts to get some good swings out of them,” Pavlik said.
“I mentally prepared and focus my breathing to finish the set out,” Payne said about how he prepared after being told he was going in to finish the match as a libero.
As Penn State was riding on the safe side for some time and finally restoring players back to health, a vital player to Penn State’s defense went down. Pavlik said there is no update on Bantle’s status or if he will be playing this upcoming weekend.
The libero position has a high level of importance to the fluidity and rhythm of the team, and needs to be filled as soon as possible. Penn State’s roster has been characterized for having depth in every aspect of the game, and have a few standbys ready to take over the position part time.
“At that point, it is all up to the coaches and we will just do what we need to do to get ready for this upcoming weekend because it is a pretty big one. We want to beat Mason,” Payne said.
With senior night and the last home matches of the season rapidly approaching the Nittany Lions, the team is still focusing on one thing at a time. Their first goal is to be 1-0 after Friday, and from there to take what comes as it comes.
“I think we focus on what is ahead of us, and what is ahead of us is Charleston. We are going to keep doing the same thing we have been doing week in and week out. The things that we can control, we work at controlling them to the best of our abilities. The things that we cannot — we do not have will — and there is nothing we can do about it,” Pavlik said.