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Penn State Bounces Back with Weekend Sweep

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By Ryan Berti, Student Staff Writer


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Rebounding from midweek road loss at Ohio State, Penn State men's volleyball went 6-1 in a pair of wins against Mount Olive and Coker at Rec Hall this weekend.  


Friday night, the Nittany Lions swept past Mount Olive to record its 10th consecutive victory in the all-time series against the Trojans. Chris Nugent and Lee Smith both had big nights offensively, combining for 26 kills, just four less than the Trojan's team total.


The next night, Penn State completed its undefeated weekend, taking down Coker in the first meeting between the two teams in program history.


Coker entered the matchup with an undefeated record, but it was strong outing by the Nittany Lions that handed the Cobras their first loss of the year in four sets.


The Cobras were the first to five in the opening set, but the Nittany Lions quickly worked their way to a lead. When Penn State pulled ahead at 16-13, neither team was able to build a lead of more than three, before the Nittany Lions scored five consecutive points to break the 20-point mark with a commanding 20-13 lead.


A big part of the Nittany Lions success came from Smith, who finished the night with 16 kills, eight digs and five blocks. Smith was joined by Nugent and Calvin Mende, who each had 12 kills each, to give Penn State a total of three Nittany Lions with double-digit kills.


Postgame, Nugent gave credit to his team's ability to execute its plays with quality passing.


"We were able to stay in system a pretty good amount," Nugent said. "When we hit .479, it's usually pretty good passing, so Luke [Braswell] can kind of run whatever he wants, so I think that helped us a lot too."


Penn State rode their hot streak to set point at 24-17, but the Cobras answered to arrive within two at 24-22. Setter Aleksa Bijelic's service error ended the comeback giving Penn State the first set, 25-22.


An emphatic block by Mende and Kevin Gear opened the second set, establishing the tone for the Nittany Lions for the rest of the set. Penn State followed with three more blocks and 13 kills, attacking at a .600 clip as they cruised to a 25-16 victory for a 2-0 lead at the intermission.


With Penn State leading the match, 2-0, Coker came out aggressive behind the big arms of Joao Victor Santos and Luca Berger, powering the team to a 25-22 victory.


Head coach Mark Pavlik and his squad came out with a different look than they did in the third set, battling back with stellar all-around play, limiting Coker to -.045 hitting to secure a 25-14 win in the final frame to secure the win.


With the big weekend, coach Pavlik said he was pleased with the team's ability to finish out the month strong as the Nittany Lions head toward conference play.

"I think it's important every weekend that you close on a high," Pavlik said. "And it just propels you into a week where we can sit down and look at the shortcomings that popped out at us and attack it."


With February looming and EIVA competition drawing closer, Penn State is happy to have earned its wins, but will not remain content, continuing to push forward/'


"This team enjoys the win, and then it's over with," Pavlik said. "They tend to turn things around pretty quickly. I'm sure they'll enjoy this win tonight, and then Monday get in the gym and start preparing for Saint Francis."


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