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Lions Claim EIVA Championship, Punch Ticket to NCAA Semifinals

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By Kelsey Detweiler, Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Thanks to three-straight sets of some of the best volleyball that the Nittany Lions have played all year, Penn State swept Harvard in the conference tournament final and won its 15th-straight EIVA title on Saturday night.

8884564.jpegOn their home court for the last time this season, the Lions came ready to play and literally ran on all cylinders to out-hit, out-serve and out-dig the Crimson.

Harvard head coach Brian Baise said that once Penn State got hot, there really was not stopping them.

"They were just extremely sharp and focused for the entirety of the game," said Baise. "We really weren't able to put any pressure on them and they just didn't let up."

After two sets, the Lions had made just one hitting error and were playing nearly perfect volleyball. Collectively, the team finished the night hitting at a clip of .474 and dealt seven service aces from behind the line.

Junior Peter Russell led the team with 14 kills on .875 hitting and said that while he was happy to have played well as an individual, he was even more impressed at the way everyone in blue and white performed.

"It's really tough to stop a whole, well-rounded attack," said Russell. "If you look at the numbers really the whole team played very well and hit a pretty high percentage. I wasn't that surprised though - I know that our team is a very, very capable team of playing like this."

His younger brother and teammate Aaron Russell followed with 10 kills on .273 hitting and said that once he and the Lions got rolling, there was no turning back.

"We just played confidently and we kind of came in and just took care of business," said Russell. "We knew what we had to do and we just did it. We didn't care how we did it, we just wanted to win."

The Lions were relaxed and focused from the opening serve forward. And as fun as winning an EIVA Championship can be, the team said that what's next is what it's really looking forward to. The conference championship earns Penn State a bid to the final contest of the men's volleyball season at the 2013 NCAA Tournament in Los Angeles, Calif. next week.

Just four teams from Division I volleyball advance to the semifinal in Pauley Pavilion on May 2nd, and freshman Matt Seifert said that to be one of those teams is everything he had hoped for.

"Honestly going from last year, my redshirt year, and sitting back and watching the team win it and being a part of it this year and contributing, it's a cheesy cliché but it's like a dream come true for me," said Seifert. "This is what I wanted when I was in high school and to be here is pretty awesome."

Penn State will meet No. 1 BYU in the NCAA semifinals on Thursday inside Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles (11 p.m. ET).  The winner moves on to face the winner of No. 2 UC Irvine and No. 3 Loyola Chicago in the national title match on Saturday (9 p.m.).

Unlike Seifert, the Lions' head coach Mark Pavlik has taken the trip to the national tournament before. Having won the national title in 2008 and knowing what it takes to do so, Pavlik said that the biggest advantage that his group of athletes have is themselves.

"This has been a true team in every sense of the word throughout the entire year," said Pavlik. "Everybody's on the same page and everybody's doing a real nice job of controlling what they can control and that works for us." 

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