Penn State Men’s Volleyball To Lean On Veterans In EIVA Tournament
No. 3 Penn State men’s volleyball dominated the regular season by posting a 24-3 record, including a perfect 10-0 against EIVA competition. Mark Pavlik’s squad only dropped a single set in the conference en route to winning a regular-season EIVA title.
The regular season is in the past, though, and the postseason is on the horizon. The Nittany Lions are set to host the EIVA conference tournament at Rec Hall from April 19 to 22 on the heels of sweeping Charleston in dominant fashion. It shouldn’t be surprising that they are heavy favorites to be crowned champions on Saturday.
Longtime program staples Cal Fisher and Brett Wildman have been instrumental all year for the Nittany Lions, as well as juniors Toby Ezeonu and Michal Kowal. Fisher is currently as hot as anyone in the country, hitting a team-best 3.2 kills per set. Ezeonu leads the blue and white in hitting percentage, posting a .499 mark in 26 matches this season.
Pavlik and his veteran team know that anything can happen in win-or-go-home matches, especially after last season’s disappointing tournament loss to Princeton.
“The common thread is you have experience, you have guys that are finishing their fifth year, maybe their sixth year of being in a program. So, they’ve all seen this movie before… And I think that can’t be underestimated,” Pavlik said.
If Penn State lifts the EIVA Tournament trophy on Saturday, it will be thanks to its experienced attack. The Nittany Lions’ offense benefits from great passing from Ryan Merk and Cole Bogner to set up their big-time hitters. Penn State has proved time and time again that it’s a juggernaut, including knocking off top-ranked teams like Hawaii and UCLA. That could be just a taste of what it does this postseason.
Penn State also has some young blood to pair up with its veteran play. Mark, the EIVA Freshman of the Year, has been a key piece of the team all season long, while 6’7″ sophomore Owen Rose has been a pivotal figure at the net. Merk and Rose could be x-factors in unlocking the team’s full potential this coming weekend.
The Nittany Lions are proud of their regular season and what they accomplished but believe that the season truly starts now. The players have one thing on their minds: hardware.
“I think all of our guys are really excited to bring back this EIVA Championship to where it belongs,” Merk said.
The Nittany Lions will be rewarded for their strong play throughout the 2023 campaign with home court in front of what is sure to be a packed Rec Hall crowd. Penn State’s fans have been great all season long and have a chance to make a significant impact in its matches.
“I think this team has developed a great relationship with Rec Hall fans…and we’re letting our personalities come out, we’re going to have the support of the fans behind us, and it just makes it much more special,” Pavlik said.
Penn State will play the winner of the quarterfinal matchup between Harvard and George Mason on Thursday, April 20. The start time for first serve is still to be determined.
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