Men’s Volleyball: Penn State Sweeps Weekend

Story posted February 28, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by John Petrolias

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 6 Penn State (12-2, 7-0 EIVA) coach Mark Pavlik compared his team to a baseball pitcher working from behind the count "a lot" in Saturday's 3-1 win (25-23; 25-23; 16-25; 25-20) over George Mason (5-10, 1-4 EIVA). His team ground through 32 ties and 15 lead changes in four sets, and overcame as many as four-point deficits. 

But when the time came to close out each set against his former assistant coach of six years Jay Hosack at the Patriots' helm, Pavlik's team delivered. 

"When we got to 20 [points] in games 1, 2 and 4, we competed as well as we competed the entire match," Pavlik said. "We took our play to another level."

When Penn State reached 20 points in the three sets the Lions won, the Lions only registered three errors at that point in each set for the whole match. 

Saturday's 3-1 win over George Mason followed a 3-0 steamrolling of Charleston that saw many Nitany Lion players see action that normally would stand aside Pavlik the entire game, but the Lions gained control and capitalized on several George Mason Patriots mistakes. 

After the game, Pavlik tipped his cap to the Patriots' serving abilities, which saw seven aces, five of them from Patriots' outside hitter Jack Wilson. 

Yet service errors were the difference for George Mason. The Patriots racked up 22 service errors to Penn State's 10. Pavlik said that those two 22 missed serves "gave us the game." 

"This was one of those where we weren't at our best but we found ways to win," Pavlik said. "Great teams will do that." 

Redshirt junior outside hitter Spencer Sauter proved to be a difference maker in the second set when he entered the game with his team down 10-7.  Sauter's entry and eventual two straight kills helped Penn State tie the set at 15 apiece and ultimately take a 2-0 lead in the match. 

Sauter's teammates know what the outside hitter is capable of. 

"Even when [Sauter] comes off the bench, we're always comfortable with whoever's in that spot," junior outside hitter Chris Nugent said of his teammate. "There's no dropoff. Spencer settled us down [with his] passing. He did everything he was supposed to do and really helped us play the way we should play." 

Redshirt senior middle hitter Matt Seifert added that Sauter's experience helped the team even further with "a couple big digs in the last set" and good ball control. 

"[Sauter's] been around for a while now, he knows what he's doing," Seifert said. "I think a lot of us trust that he's...going to get the job done. When he comes in, there's a sense of relief and everyone can take a deep breath." 

Nugent, an outside hitter, led the Lions in both kills and digs in Saturday's win. He stressed the importance of depth and how everyone on his team is expected to step up and do what they need to do to win. 

"Defense is just as important as offense," Nugent said. "We can pick up the balls they take big swings on. It's frustrating to them and it gives us great energy. I try to do as best as I can at everything and I take pride in all facets of the game." 

Even though Penn State had to grind out Saturday's win as opposed to Friday's 3-0 cakewalk against a young program in Charleston, the Lions came away with two key conference wins and are sure to bolster their ranking as the season wears on. The Lions have two pivotal matchups at Rec Hall heading into spring break as No. 12 Cal-State Northridge (10-6, 5-6 MPSF) and No. 1 Long Beach Sate (15-2, 12-2 MPSF) look to end Penn State's 11-game win streak. 

John Petrolias is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email at jpetrolias@gmail.com.