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Nittany Lions Split Weekend on Home Court

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By Kelsey Detweiler, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In their final two matches of eight-straight at home, the seventh-ranked Nittany Lion men's volleyball team hosted two different 'conference' foes and saw two different outcomes.

8560696.jpegOn Friday night, Penn State defeated EIVA rival and travel partner Saint Francis in three sets. As all conference matches are to the Lions, the win was a crucial one to get in the team's season-long race for its 15th-straight EIVA title.

The Lions' six service aces and tough defensive play made the Red Flash what head coach Mark Pavlik called 'pretty unidimensional' and allowed his team to skate to a sweep. But Pavlik said that his group still has some growing to do.

"I'll take being 3-0 in the EIVA right now," said Pavlik. "But it's still a work in progress. I think this team is still learning how to maintain its focus."

That point was hit home the following evening when the Lions fell to a very physical and competitive Buckeye team in just three sets. Penn State was unable to close out sets when it needed to and Pavlik said that his team didn't have that focus when it needed it.

"I thought tonight's match had the feel of a national semifinal," said Pavlik. "The difference between winning and losing all three games was a very thin line. I thought for most part, in the tough parts of the games, Ohio State out-competed us."

The Buckeyes out-hit and out-blocked the Lions, pounding out big kills and playing smart volleyball when they needed to. And even though Penn State's Connor Curry and Aaron Russell made big defensive plays against the offensive firepower, it wasn't enough to stop the damage.

After the match, the Lions' setter Taylor Hammond said that the loss meant more to the team than just an additive number in a column of its record.

"This is our big punch in the mouth," said Hammond. "This is our loss of the season that's going to fire us and we're going to be back and we're going to be better. We're all going to remember this feeling and we're going to put it in the back of our minds and bring it to the gym every day and we're going to get better."

This was the second meeting between Penn State and Ohio State this season. The Lions swept the Buckeyes in Hawaii less than a month ago, so the teams stand at 1-1 in the series of what will be three match-ups. The two teams hit the hardwood again on March 16th in Columbus for what Pavlik said will be the rubber-match to watch.

"When you come out of a match bruised, battered and bloody, you don't want that to happen again," said Pavlik. "I'm more excited to see how this team reacts to what happened and I don't think I'm going to be disappointed."

And for Hammond and his teammates, the bullseye on the back of those Buckeye jerseys just got a little bit bigger.

"It's going to be one that we look forward to," said Hammond. "It's already circled on my calendar and we're going to be better and they're going to be better. It's going to be a good match."

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