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No. 6 Lions Return to Rec Hall to Open 2013 Season

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By Kelsey Detweiler, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - After a three-match, week-long trip to Honolulu, Hawaii to start its 2013 campaign, the Penn State men's volleyball team returned to the confinements of Rec Hall to face Lewis on Friday night.

8488107.jpegMore than 700 faithful fans filed into South Gym to watch as Penn State defeated the No. 12 Flyers in four sets.

Coming off of a 2012 season that led them to an NCAA National Semifinal, the Nittany Lions opened the year with the same attitude and the same goals, but a few different weapons.

Seniors Tom Comfort and Nick Turko took the floor to start the match against the Flyers, alongside the familiar likes of underclassmen Aaron and Peter Russell and Connor Curry. New to the makeup of the starting seven were freshmen Taylor Hammond and Matt Seifert, who seemed to fit right in.

Comfort picked up right where he left off in 2012, leading the squad with 18 kills on. 293 hitting, and Turko did the same with a string of impressive service runs behind the line. The Russell brothers emerged as even stronger options on the outsides for the Lions and Curry controlled the ball on the defensive end as an improved libero.

And the rookies followed suit too. Seifert picked up seven kills on .417 hitting and Hammond immediately took control of the setting on Penn State's side of the net, notching 43 assists in the match.

Head coach Mark Pavlik said that this kind of team performance, where everyone on the court pitches in from start to finish, is what can be expected of his squad this season.

"You saw all of the effort on the court tonight, we've seen that through the fall and every time we've been in the gym," said Pavlik. "We're going to be a tough team for people to run away from, score-wise."

And the Lions are planning to use that 'sheer-effort' strategy with a few big goals in mind. Turko said that he and his teammates share similar ideas of where they hope to be at the end of the season, and in turn have similar ideas of how to get there.

"I think it's really about attitude," said Turko. "I feel that everyone on the team has the exact same attitude. We know we want a national championship, and we know we want to win every single point and everyone's working as hard as they can."

In particular, the Lions said that they will count on their tough serving and consistent blocking to get them through the stickier situations this season. Comfort added that, as a senior, he'll be taking advantage of every second he has left of playing volleyball in Happy Valley.

"This is our last year so this is the last chance we've got and we definitely don't want to lose on our home court," said Comfort. "I'm going to do everything I can to try and lead these guys."

With just four matches under their belt, the Nittany Lions have begun what they hope will be a memorable season with a much different group of athletes than it had just a year ago. And while it may be just the beginning, Pavlik said that his team is right where he expects it to be.

"We're playing January volleyball right now," said Pavlik. "Pitchers are ahead of hitters, the servers are ahead of passers right now - but the effort that they're giving, we're creating so as long as we keep creating, we're going to get really good by the end of the year."

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