Lions Win Two in EIVA Opening Weekend

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By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The sixth-ranked Nittany Lions made it five-straight wins this season with back-to-back victories in Rec Hall over the weekend. Penn State opened conference play on its home court, defeating Sacred Heart and Harvard.

8513809.jpegThe Lions swept the Pioneers on Friday night behind a dominant offensive performance and captured their first victory of the weekend. The following night, Penn State battled for five sets and beat the Crimson in what head coach Mark Pavlik said was a game that his team needed to win.

Penn State has quickly emerged as what Pavlik calls the ultimate blue-collar squad, working together as a complete team of multiple talents rather than highlighting just a few key players. Pavlik said that a dedicated attitude and strong work ethic is something his team will especially need this season.

"The EIVA this year is the most competitive it has ever been in my career," said Pavlik. "This is the first time that I can remember that we have a meaningful EIVA match in January."

Twelve of the 17 rostered Lions contributed to the two wins through a total of eight sets of volleyball. Tom Comfort and Peter Russell each put up a team-best 16 kills on the weekend, Aaron Russell notched 11 more and Kyle Mars added another 10.

But the highlight of the two performances was the combined success that Penn State received from its players off of the bench. While guys like Mars, Ian Hendries, Nick Goodell and Zack Parik did not start either matches, they proved ready to play as soon as they were needed.

"I'm happy with the guys that came off of the bench and the effort that they gave," said Pavlik. "I think it's huge just for the team confidence. This is as good a team as I think I've ever had here. They're all pulling in one direction."

For Mars, starting a match and getting the nod is relatively unimportant. He said that entering a match late or even mid-set is something that he has gotten used to doing, and even feels comfortable with.

"That's something that I've pretty much been doing for three years now," said Mars. "My mentality is that I just need to try to compliment my teammates and not try to do too much."

Mars said that the role of a guy on the bench is essentially the same as any of the starters. He said that the great thing about wearing a Penn State jersey is that he and his teammates all work together.

"I think most of our game is just feeding off of one another - that's how we play well," said Mars. "It's a big strength for us."

Just seven matches into the 2013 season, Pavlik and his athletes agreed that there is still much work to be done. Libero Connor Curry said that in order for the Lions to make progress, they also need to stay consistent.

"I think steadiness is just a huge factor for us," said Curry. "We want to host [the EIVA championship] and that's what we've done for the last however many years and it looks like we're on our way." 

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