Coming off of last week’s win against Ohio State, Penn State felt like it had something to prove in the second half of EIVA conference play. After tonight’s match, the Nittany Lions showed their teeth and grit they would have going into the second half of the season.
The Nittany Lions played Saint Francis at Rec Hall Tuesday night, and had one of their most impressive performances yet. Penn State won in three straight sets (25-16, 25-21, 25-21) over the Red Flash all thanks to its defense
Defense was the biggest factor for Penn State in the opening set. The team had several key blocks and single hand saves in order to maintain the momentum. In the middle of the match, Penn State went on a six point scoring run to give the Nittany Lions a significant lead which would benefit in them as the set was coming to a close.
Heading into the second set, Penn State hit a rough match. The team was unable to find the court and looked to be playing more timid versus their performance in the opening set. Halfway through the set, coach Mark Pavlik called for a change in the group of men on the floor.
Freshman setter Cole Bogner was taken out for upperclassman Luke Braswell, and Calvin Mende took Brett Wildman’s spot as the team’s right side. The energy of the team continued to raise their spirits as it pushed them to play better.
In the third set, Saint Francis’ timidness started to show and overpower its style of play. With Penn State having most of its points come from Saint Francis’ unforced errors. Coach Mike
Rumbaugh mentions how the name of Penn State started to get in his players minds, which could have resulted in their underperformance that night.
“I think everyone gets a little jitters walking into Rec Hall, and the environment you are going to be in. I think sometimes we play the name of Penn State more than the team at Penn State,” Rumbaugh said.
Braswell and Mende were the two stand out players of the match. BehindMende’s hitting percentage of .545 and Braswell’s 16 assists, the demanding offense was thriving off of the best serve and pass game Pavlik said he has seen yet.
“I thought our pass and serve game was just as good as we’ve seen it over the past four weeks. I thought we came out with a game plan, and these guys did an outstanding job,” Pavlik said.
Mende and Braswell used their bench player rowdiness when taking the court to the Nittany Lion’s advantage to prevail in the match. With now an even greater sense of confidence, the team is ready to continue out their roles to succeed in this upcoming weekend’s match.
“I love how everyone on this team embraces their role. For Cal and I, our role at the start of the match it was not to be starters but support players. We did what the team needed us to do at that time, when we were on the bench it was to cheer, get loud, make noise and rowdy. Then we came in and it was bring the same energy from the bench -- the cheering, the rowdiness -- bring that to the court and our guys could feed off of that,” Braswell said.