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Nugent Returns, Penn State Balance Shines

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By Jack Milewski,

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Chris Nugent returned to the lineup and Penn State men's volleyball didn't skip a beat. The Nittany Lions downed Cal Baptist in four sets to secure their 13th win of the season, improving to 2-1 in the nonconference slate.

Once again, Penn State showed its balance, as four Nittany Lions recorded double digit kills. Nugent led the group with 16, Calvin Mende chipped in 13, while Aiden Albrecht added 11 and Kevin Gear recorded 10.

"I though tonight we were tested in two ways, coming back from two nights off and getting [Nugent] back in the lineup," Pavlik said. "I thought it would have been easy for us in games three four to just roll over, but we kept fighting and pushing and got the result we wanted."

Sidelined for more than three weeks, Nugent returned to the court at Rec Hall with a bang. Facing their fair share of adversity during the midpoint of the season, Penn State has opted to instead, rise to the occasion, embracing a next man up mentality. 

"For us it is just about being in a rhythm and I thought we were there all night," setter Luke Braswell said. "I thought all of our hitters did a great job and because of that we were able to get a good amount of looks." 

Not only did Nugent have an impressive performance in his return, but Gear continued to make an impact in the middle, recording a match high .500 hitting percentage to go along with four blocks. Gear has been an absolute force the past two weeks, not only defensively at the net, but also offensively in the middle. With the added attack support, Penn State has been able to push past opponents in different ways the last couple of matches.

The Nittany Lions showcased what Pavlik has been talking about all season long, their ability to bounce back from adversity and win tight sets. The first set, third set and fourth set were decided by two points and the Nittany Lions took two of three from Cal Baptist to win the match. 

"We kept battling and when their servers got hot, we didn't buckle," Nugent said. "It was a solid match for us and especially when the match got close, I think we played some of our better volleyball." 

The Nittany Lions will take on Lewis and Loyola Chicago next time out, hitting the road to begin its final stretch of nonconference action. Penn State faced both teams earlier in the season, beating Loyola in five before dropping a five setter the next night to Lewis. Both matches are set to begin at 7 p.m. ET.

"Both teams are playing well and I fully expect hostile arenas," Pavlik said. "We played them tough at our place and now we have to get on the plane and go to see them so it should be a fun one."

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