By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State will head back to the road this weekend for back-to-back matches against NJIT and Princeton. After dropping its first league match last Friday to George Mason, the Nittany Lions bounced back against Charleston the following night.
"They won the serve-pass battle and I think that they handled their offense better in non-perfect situations than ours did," head coach Mark Pavlik said.
State will have a second crack at the Patriots on April 7th, but
Pavlik says for now the Nittany Lions must take it one match at a time and use
that Friday match as a learning experience to improve moving forward.
The Nittany Lions are a team full of experienced and resilient individuals, which allowed them to rebound with few issues Saturday. Despite the outcome though, Penn State has been quite upbeat at practice this week, remaining confident about the future.
"I think we know what we can do," middle blocker Kevin Gear said. "There has been plenty of matches where we've been behind and then we've come back. We're a resilient bunch. We've done it so many times and believe that we're never really out of it."
A team with the experience Penn State has makes Pavlik's job much easier, as he can often let his veterans figure things out by themselves on the court without having to get heavily involved.
"I firmly believe that it's really them that leads to their success," Pavlik said. "In a match, I can't stop a rally, so they've got to get used to figuring it out themselves. In practice, we can create situations they'll experience in games so they know what options they have in the match situation and can be successful."
With a trip to Hawaii coming up for Penn State in two weeks, the Nittany Lions will take on BYU, Hawaii and Lewis, some of the top teams in the country.
First, Penn State will look to finish the first half of EIVA action on a high note this weekend. Pavlik mentioned that at this point in the season, it is all about making incremental improvements across the board, so the team can continue to separate itself in closer games.
"I think we just need to take the same steps that we want to take at this point in the season," Pavlik said. "We've got to refine the offense, further refine the defense and make those small adjustments that give us more opportunities to put a couple more points on the board per game."
For Gear, it comes down to the amount of preparation Penn State is willing to put in.
"We need to take this weekend to prepare like we would against these top 10 teams that we're going to face in a couple of weeks," Gear said.
Despite an always competitive Outrigger Invitation that could be potentially be a big resume booster, Pavlik and Penn State will be challenged this week in two hostile environments.
"We're walking into their home environments, and nothing would make their season more than knocking us off in their home gym," Pavlik said. "We're going to have to play with some poise and just handle the crowd and be sure we're ready to play like we were against Charleston."
Penn State will take on NJIT Friday at 7 p.m. and be right back at it the following night at Princeton at the same time Saturday night.