Penn State Men’s Volleyball Well-Equipped To Face Top-Ranked Competition In Outrigger Challenge

No. 3 Penn State men’s volleyball has been dominating its opponents week in and week out through the first half of its regular season. The Nittany Lions are 15-1 on the season and in the midst of a nine-game win streak stretching since January 25.

Although things are about to get a lot tougher for head coach Mark Pavlik’s squad, Penn State is in the middle of a five-game road stint on the other side of the country. The Nittany Lions are set to play in the Outrigger Challenge in Honolulu, Hawaii, beginning on Thursday, March 9, and the tournament will feature two top-five opponents.

Three games in three days over 4,700 miles away from State College will test the mental and physical strength of Pavlik’s roster. Not only is the travel a challenge, but the Nittany Lions will face the No. 1 and No. 2 nationally-ranked teams on back-to-back nights.

Neither the stout opposition nor distance has deterred Penn State’s attitude heading into the weekend tournament. The team has had this weekend circled on the calendar all year and knows the competition will only elevate its play.

“Getting to see those higher competition levels of teams will be fun and obviously going to Hawaii will be fun,” Pavlik said.

The Nittany Lions’ first opponent in the Outrigger Challenge is a familiar foe: No. 2 UCLA. The crew will square off with the Bruins at 10 p.m. on Thursday, March 9. In the teams’ second meeting this season, Penn State will aim to repeat history and outlast UCLA.

Hawaii is the No. 1 team in the country and will take on the Nittany Lions at 1 a.m. on Saturday, March 11. The undefeated Rainbow Warriors have yet to concede more than one set all season and are bound to be Penn State’s toughest matchup thus far.

The Nittany Lions will wrap up the invitational against a respectable Purdue Fort Wayne team that is 12-5 in the 2023 campaign. The matchup is slated for 10 p.m. on Saturday, March 10.

The Achilles heel for the Nittany Lions all season has been service errors. Service errors are a key statistic to keep an eye on in all three matches in Honolulu. Should Penn State limit those mistakes, it will be a huge showing considering it’s currently averaging just over 20 errors per match.

The Nittany Lions have the skill and the depth to knock off the two best teams in the country, and as a team that hasn’t lost in over a month, have the wind at their backs heading to the Pacific.

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About the Author

CJ Gill

CJ is a junior from McVeytown, Pennsylvania majoring in broadcast journalism and is an associate editor at Onward State. He's a huge Phillies fan, which has its pro and cons come October. You can send all sports takes to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @CJGill14.

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