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‘I Don’t Think We Change Much’: Penn State Men’s Volleyball Staying The Course Through Challenging Road Stretch

After dropping only two sets and going 4-0 against EIVA conference opponents for the past two weekends, perhaps the toughest stretch of Penn State men’s volleyball’s season is right around the corner.

Penn State departs for California at 2 a.m. on Thursday morning to face No. 2 Long Beach State on Friday night, followed by No. 16 CSUN, No. 11 USC, and No. 4 UCLA next week.

Despite the tough schedule, it’s business as usual for the Nittany Lions.

“I don’t think we do anything to prepare differently for a top-five team versus a team that’s not ranked in the top 20,” head coach Mark Pavlik said. “I don’t think you base your approach to how the season plays out on who you play. There’s a process involved where we think this is the best way to become the best team we can become.”

Rather than being focused on preparation for individual matches, Pavlik said his team is focused on the big picture: the NCAA Tournament.

“We use the competition as mile markers. Where are we at? What do we have to do?” Pavlik said. “Our ultimate goal is to win the EIVA to get the automatic berth and see what we can do in the week at nationals.” 

“We have eight more matches that, arguably, are more important than the matches over spring break,” Pavlik added.

That doesn’t mean these games lose value, though. Pavlik said this trip is a good test for his team when it comes to preparing for the NCAA Tournament because teams like Long Beach State and UCLA are likely to be in the event.

“It just gets you a real good dry run at, hopefully, what we’re going to be doing that first week of May. That, to me, is the important part of this trip,” Pavlik said. “Our guys are going to be put into situations where there’s hostile crowds, and we just got to do what we do.”  

Preparation may remain the same for Penn State, but Pavlik understands there is less margin for error in highly-ranked matchups.

“If we don’t take the opportunities to put balls away, physically, those teams are going to say, ‘Thank you very much,’ and run it down our throats,” Pavlik said.

Against NJIT last weekend, there were moments at the end of both matches when Penn State took a lead and played keep-away for the remainder of the set, forcing its opponent to play at a high level if it hoped to mount a comeback.

Pavlik expects the next four opponents to set the bar high, but he wants his team to be able to compete.

“All of those four teams are going to do something where they go, ‘You want to beat us, you got to be at [our] level,'” Pavlik said. “How interested are we to say, ‘Damn right, we’ll be up there.'”


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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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