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Penn State Men’s Volleyball Searching For Offensive Improvement After Sweeping No. 15 Princeton

Penn State men’s volleyball returned to State College with two more wins after sweeping EIVA conference foe Princeton, in which the Nittany Lions gave up only one set all weekend. Penn State holds first place in the EIVA and earned its 30th-straight regular-season conference win in Saturday night’s match.  

The last time the Nittany Lions lost to a conference opponent in the regular season was on April 3, 2021, when they fell 3-2 to No. 15 George Mason in Fairfax, Virginia, but head coach Mark Pavlik was just glad his team got the wins this weekend.

“When we put the season schedule together, I hoped we’d be 1-1 coming out of [last] weekend,” Pavlik said. “The fact that we ended up with a 2-0 weekend is great. ” 

Penn State is 10-3 and sits at No. 9 in the AVCA coaches poll, but there is still room for improvement for Pavlik’s squad. One area of concern, Pavlik said, is the transition offense. 

“Can we get better at not giving [our opponents] the ball back?” Pavlik asked. “Can we make our transition offense more efficient to where if we keep the ball off of our court, we put it away, we make them pay?”

Those questions remain to be answered as Penn State has struggled to turn digs into kills and eliminate offensive possessions for its opponents this season. Part of that is due to the offense struggling to capitalize on side-out opportunities.

“We’ve got to be better in the middle third with our bic series, with our quick middle series, and then to play off of that to make our pins better,” Pavlik said.

However, one facet of side-out offense has started to improve for the Nittany Lions.

“I like the idea of putting pressure on opponents blocking,” Pavlik said. “I think that’s one of the steps our side-out offense is taking.”  

This was evident in Friday night’s match, but not as much in Saturday’s. On Friday night, John Kerr, Michal Kowal, Toby Ezeonu, and Owen Rose all had double-digit kills. As a result, Princeton had only six blocks. However, in Saturday’s matchup, only Kowal had double-digit kills as the Tigers tallied 11 blocks.

These are relatively minor growing pains teams go through, especially after losing two-time EIVA Player of the Year Cole Bogner, two-time AVCA All-American Cal Fisher, and two-time EIVA Player of the Year and three-time AVCA All-American Brett Wildman. 

That only means there are more opportunities for younger players to take the next step in their development, and that is exactly what Pavlik aims to do. A goal of Pavlik’s is to get sophomore Matthew Luoma, redshirt sophomore Matt Cosgrove, and Rose, a junior, more comfortable at the service line.

“I think they’re getting used to the different pressures that are on you when you go back to serve in a match as opposed to just going back to serve in practice,” Pavlik said “Everybody will tell you in practice, ‘We know it’s different,’ but then you get into a match and what do you have to fall back on? Fall back on your training.” 

Additionally, Pavlik mentioned needing to make the transition from serving in practice to the game smoother, and he is optimistic that it will be. 

“Are you doing things that you can translate from the practice gym to make it easier for you to serve in the competition gym?” Pavlik asked. “I think we need to make a little bit better headway there, and I think we will.” 

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About the Author

Mitch Corcoran

Mitch is a junior broadcast journalism major from Johnstown, PA. He is a big Pittsburgh sports fan and in his free time he likes to listen to music, play video games, and rewatch old football games. He also loves Seinfeld, Star Wars, bucket hats, and Dua Lipa. If you want Justin Herbert propaganda or random sports content, follow him on Twitter/X @MitchCorc18 or email [email protected]

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