By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer
UNIVERSITY PARK - After closing the regular season with a senior night win, Penn State will head to George Mason for the EIVA Championship. Penn State clinched the No. 2 seed in this weekend's tournament with a 3-1 win over NJIT.
Only four of the eight teams in the league qualify for the EIVA Championship each year with the winner automatically earning a berth to the NCAA Tournament. Penn State will take on third-seeded Harvard in Thursday's semifinals.
Penn State defeated Harvard in straight sets early in the season but lost to the Crimson two weeks ago. The Nittany Lions were without three regular starters in Aidan Albrecht, Luke Braswell and Calvin Mende in the most recent loss. Both teams have grown very familiar with each other and Pavlik believes neither team will do anything drastically different from what has been seen in the previous two matchups.
"They run a 6-2 and are not an extremely physical serving team, so you have to pass their float servers pretty well," Pavlik said. "They just play good volleyball - they'll dig balls that are hit at them, and their two setters make good decisions and try to go fast to the antennas to put some pressure on your pin blockers"
For Pavlik though, it really comes down to who can execute to their strengths the best.
This weekend though, will be on foreign grounds for the Nittany Lions, marking the first time this roster has played in the EIVA Championship outside of Happy Valley. Penn State is an experienced group though and Pavlik's message all week has been to worry about the things they can control.
"I think experience is not to be underrated, we've never had to go someplace and play in the EIVA championship," Pavlik said. "We've got to be good at controlling what we can control on the road. You get into the championship events and there are a lot of things you can't control."
The good news for the Nittany Lions is everyone is back at full strength and there are no lingering health problems to be concerned about at the moment.
While the past few weeks for Nittany Lions have been up and down, a big reason for that has been not having everyone healthy. However, with key veteran leaders like Albrecht, Braswell and Mende all healthy, Penn State still has a great opportunity to win the tournament.
Pavlik has been very impressed by the leadership from not only his regular contributing Nittany Lions, but also many of the more inexperienced members of the team.
"Leadership can be everybody," Pavlik said. "I don't think there is one overriding person ever. I think the people that are looking outside in to us tend to see people that are on the court the most and call them the leaders, when in reality, those on the inside who are surrounded by the forest understand that each and every one of us have a responsibility for leading whenever we can."
Penn State and Harvard will face off at 5 p.m. with the winner advancing to take on the winner of top-seeded George Mason and fourth-seeded Princeton in the final semifinal match of the day.