By Jack Milewski, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's volleyball has continued embracing its next man up mentality, as another new Nittany Lion has emerged in the face of adversity.
Right side Jalen Penrose played some of his best volleyball of the season, pushing the team, through two weekend wins. Replacing Calvin Mende midway through the George Mason match, Penrose earned a spot in the second matchup of the weekend.
It is this type of intersquad competition that has made the Nittany Lions, and Penrose in particular, successful on the court as of late.
Penrose has faced some challenging moments on the court this year, but Friday and Saturday last week, the redshirt junior was electric. Totaling 19 kills in two matches, he closed out the weekend with a hitting percentage close to .525. He also logged one of his most efficient games in his career at George Mason, totaling 11 kills on .714 hitting.
"I think we all play better in hostile environments like we saw at Mason," Penrose said. "I love trying to quiet the crowd. We come together as a team even more when everyone is against us like that."
Penrose has always been one of the most athletically gifted Nittany Lions on the roster, however the last two matches are a sign of mental maturity that head coach Mark Pavlik has seen an improvement in.
"I think Jalen is learning to play to his strengths but not over do it," Pavlik said. "He can hit the ball incredibly hard, but if he tries to do too much that's when he can get in trouble. This past weekend he played within himself and played some very smart volleyball."
With Mende at right side to start the season, Penrose has been on the sidelines in a bit of a different role. After such a stellar performance last weekend, the question becomes who gets the start. This kind of question prompts what Pavlik calls "friendly competition" in practice, something the team welcomes.
"We are all competitive guys," Penrose said. "We go at it in practice because you always want to be the player who is helping out on the court. I have no problem being the guy on the bench though if someone earns it over me. That's why we always compete because we want to make whoever is playing earn it."
For Pavlik, the next step for Penrose comes in the ability to sustain the successful level of play. Penrose has shown that he is capable of being an incredibly dynamic player, in fact, he has proven it. Pavlik said he wants that consistency element to be the next step in his development as a player.
"We really liked what we saw from Jalen, now we want to see that continue," Pavlik said. "It all starts in practice. What we see there usually translates over on to the court."
After a phenomenal weekend for Penrose and the rest of the Nittany Lions, Penn State will look to continue its winning ways against a few teams from across the country. Matchups against UC Santa Barbara and Stanford this weekend begin a six-match nonconference stretch for the Nittany Lions.
Despite the fact that the games do not impact the EIVA standings, Pavlik explained that the games are still very important.
"First of all it's a nice way to promote the game of volleyball by getting teams like that to come and play here," Pavlik said. "We can really use this games as a measuring stick to see what teams we will likely be up against in the tournament if we make it there."Penn State hosts UC Santa Barbara Friday before welcoming Stanford Saturday at Rec Hall.