Princeton stuns Penn State’s No. 2 men’s volleyball in EIVA tournament opener | Penn State Men’s Volleyball News
After finishing the regular season with a 23-3 overall record, a perfect 16-0 record against EIVA competition and a No. 2 ranking, Penn State was stunned Thursday night at Rec Hall.
The Nittany Lions dropped their EIVA semi-final match against No. 4 seed Princeton.
The blue and white’s Achilles’ heel in this match was the opening set, as they lost their opening set 25-16 and the attack struggled to find their rhythm for much of the night.
Penn State found itself only hitting a .176 hit percentage on the board while only recording six total kills. In addition to the difficult attack to start the match, Nittany Lion’s serve was not up to standard, causing six service errors.
Nittany Lion’s defense struggled with Princeton’s serve throughout the set as they gave up four service aces in the opening set alone.
“The big thing that comes to mind when they came out is that they certainly won the battle by the wayside throughout Games 1 and 2,” coach Mark Pavlik said. “They had four aces in the first game. If we pass four balls, put four of those teams away and four points to our score – we’re at 21-21.
The Nittany Lions came out of that first set looking like a whole new team, as the offense showed more fire and the defense made the plays they needed.
The Nittany Lions’ intensity seemed to reach a higher point on the pitch as they now faced a 1-0 set deficit on the evening.
However, Princeton remained sharp throughout the set and matched every Nittany Lion play or run with one of their own, taking a 2-0 lead.
“That’s something you try not to do, get off to a slow start,” senior outside hitter Brett Wildman said. “But at the same time, you have to have the mentality of like, ‘Well, you’ve done it now. Here it is now.'”
The blues and whites came out swinging the next two sets, showing why this was the No. 2 team in the country.
Penn State had 29 combined kills in the third and fourth sets while hitting a .407 hit percentage on the team in the fourth set game.
The blue and white defense snuffed out the Tiger attack which had been setting up a clinic all game so far, keeping it at .200 and below striking percentages during sets 3 and 4.
As for the fifth and final set, Penn State was running with a lot of momentum in this game.
He reached a point in the set where the blue-and-whites took a 9-6 lead over the Tigers and looked set to pull away.
Princeton coach SAm Schweisky called a time out.
“At that time we were rolling,” Pavlik said. “I liked how offense looked, I liked how blocking and defending looked. We were hitting our serves.
But a strong run wouldn’t last beyond the stoppage, and Princeton showed it wasn’t fazed by Penn State’s comeback and sealed the deal.
“Here is a team that has improved over the year,” Pavlik said. “They put us in situations we haven’t been in all year and fought and made a playoff game everything a playoff game is supposed to be.”
The Nittany Lions’ semi-final loss is a very big surprise, as they have shown throughout the regular season that they are one of the best teams in the country.
Wildman was announced earlier this week as the EIVA Player of the Year and Pavlik also received the EIVA Coach of the Year award.
Penn State’s national tournament hopes now rest with the NCAA Tournament Committee as the final bracket is announced Sunday afternoon.
“Sometimes the toughest games are the games you’re supposed to win,” Pavlik said. “And now we leave our fate in the hands of the committee, and we will see what happens.”
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