By Jack Milewski, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The EIVA Championship push is often one of the most exciting parts of the season for any teams when in contention. For the Penn State men's volleyball, they find themselves in a similar spot, at the top of the EIVA standings with one weekend left in conference play.
Penn State currently sits one game ahead of Saint Francis with a 9-3 record, but because the Nittany Lions hold the tie breaker, they will need to win just one of their final two games against Charleston (W.Va.) and George Mason to clinch the top spot and home court advantage headed into next weekend's EIVA Championship.
The madness of the final weekend of the EIVA regular season doesn't include Penn State though, as the Nittany Lions have locked up a playoff berth, but with five teams separated by single game below them, there is still much to play for.
Take a possible look at some potential first round matchups for Penn State in the EIVA Championships.
Princeton (11-12, 7-5
The Tigers have been scrappy all season long, especially when it comes to playing the Nittany Lions. In two matches, both teams have gone the distance, with Penn State coming out on top in each outing. Parker Dixon and Kendall Ratter pack a one-two punch on the outside, averaging 2.75 and 2.71 kills per set respectively.
NJIT (13-10, 6-6 EIVA)
Another team playing Penn State extremely tough this season is the Highlanders. In the first match up, the teams went five and Penn State came out with the victory and in the second of the season Penn State came out on top as well. NJIT has arguable one of the most exciting players in the conference in Jabarry Goodridge. Goodridge leads the conference in kills per set with 4.51 and is a beast behind the service line with 45 aces. As Goodridge goes the team goes as well, but he is a player who can single handedly win a series.
Sacred Heart (13-10,
Penn State has seen its struggles with Sacred Heart all season long. The Pioneers have dealt the Nittany Lions two of their three conference losses and have looked strong against the best team in the conference. Joshua Ayzenberg has been a rock in the back row, averaging more than three digs per set. The attack for Sacred Heart is balanced with Chris DeLucie leading the way with 264 kills. Four others have at least 125 kills. The Pioneers also serve tough, making them a formidable opponent.
George Mason (13-12,
George Mason was projected first in the preseason EIVA poll, but stumbled early on and has not been able to regain the form they possessed last year in the conference championships. Still dangerous, Jack Wilson, who has 299 kills is the key to Masons success. He will be tasked with a heavy work load and if Mason can get past Saint Francis and Penn State, they will be in the playoffs, it just wont be easy against the top two teams in the EIVA.
Harvard (9-12, 6-6
The Crimson are the last of the 6-6 group in the EIVA, and also are still very much alive in the race for a playoff spot. Penn State hasn't dropped a set to Harvard all season long and has dominated the Crimson. Harvard is supported by senior Casey White and freshman Erik Johnsson on the outside. Trevor Dow and Riley Moore are tremendous blockers in the middle of the court. Harvard has some fire power, it is just a matter of consistency and a lack of self inflicted wounds for the Crimson.
Penn State's road to the EIVA title is yet to be paved and the Nittany Lions are unsure which road blocks will stand in their way. One thing is certain, however, and that is Penn State will have a chance to compete for the EIVA title that eluded them last season and that has been the goal since day one of the 2017 season.
"That certainly has always been our goal," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "The win on Saturday against Harvard was huge because now we only have to win one game to host and to be able to play a few more games in front of our fans here will be nice."
Despite a setback against Sacred Heart, Penn State rolled by Harvard in straight sets to secure a berth to the EIVA Championships. The Nittany Lions have now arrived at Friday in hopes they can secure home court sooner rather than later.
"It is absolutely huge that we get the win Friday," Pavlik said. "We don't want to put more pressure on ourselves than we need to so coming home and having a week to prepare we should be more than ready Friday and hopefully we can get things done."
First serve for both matches against Charleston (W. Va.) and George Mason is set for 7 p.m. Prior to Saturday's matchup, the Nittany Lions will honor their seniors in the annual senior night ceremonies. Chris Nugent and Matt Callaway will be the two Nittany Lions honored, but for Callaway and Nugent, along with the rest of the team, they are hoping Saturday won't be the last time they take the court at Rec Hall this season.