After passing its first test of the NCAA Tournament, Penn State could not ace a second one.
In the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the Nittany Lions fell to the Lewis Flyers in straight sets Tuesday evening.
The blue and white was fresh off a sweep of its own as it took care of business with relative ease against Belmont Abbey Monday night. In that victory, Penn State set an NCAA Tournament record with 11 aces.
But heading into their match against the Flyers as underdogs, the Nittany Lions looked to mimic their dominant performance in hopes of keeping their championship dreams alive.
It would be all for naught, however, as coach Mark Pavlik’s squad fell, losing 25-23, 27-25 and 25-20 in the trio of Tuesday night sets.
Offense couldn't get into a grove
It was clear from the very first point played that the Nittany Lions would need to be on top of their game in order to walk away with a win.
The most important key to the match was to take care of the ball, something Pavlik has preached all season and has worked out for the blue and white for the most part when put into practice.
However, Penn State couldn’t seem to find a rhythm as it was unable to clawback from an early deficit after leading in the first set on just two occasions. Most of the Nittany Lions’ points came on Lewis errors, with very few of them coming from kills or service aces.
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In matches where Penn State has not been getting points from its offense, its chance of winning have plummeted and such was the case against the Flyers.
Defense fails to bring fire power
After a very dominant past few matches, the Nittany Lions seemed to be a different team defensively against a Lewis squad that was a consistent force.
As the lower seed, it was no secret the blue and white was the underdog in the match. Instead of playing to Lewis’ level, which Penn State has seemed to do all year, it acted like it didn’t belong on defense.
Penn State went the whole first set without a single block while Lewis totaled eight of them.
Defense was another key that could have led to a Nittany Lion win.
Keeping a very powerful Lewis team to a low hitting percentage and conversion rate is no easy task, however, even for an EIVA regular season and conference tournament champion Penn State squad.
Serve acts as Nittany Lions’ downfall.
After a dominant match against Belmont from behind the service line that featured 11 aces, the blue and white struggled to find any sort of consistency.
Penn State has had few matches on the season with a significant amount of service errors, but Tuesday night, it gave Lewis free points on serves that went long or went right into the net.
The serve is an easy way to get points quickly as it sets the team up for a successful volley. In past Nittany Lion affairs, this approach has helped them get in front and win matches.
The lack of dominance while serving was another difference maker in a match that was closer than the scoreboard would indicate.
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