UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa.
- Penn State's 2014-15 season was one marked by excellence on the field, in the
classroom and in the community. GoPSUsports.com takes a look back at the
campaign in a season highlight reel.
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The end goal was so close, they could almost
Penn State's roller coaster season came to a difficult close Thursday
night after the Nittany Lions (21-10) fell to the top-seeded Lewis Flyers
(27-3) in four sets (20-25, 25-22, 16-25, 20-25) at Maples Pavilion on the
campus of Stanford University.
"I think we created opportunities,
and I thought we got some good swings, but we could not score points easily
against [Lewis]," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "I thought we had some good
swings against them, but that I thought was the difference."
Since this was as a tight a group
of players Pavlik has ever coached, emotions were running high for the Nittany
Lions following the match.
For the four seniors, it was
difficult to say goodbye to a program that has meant so much to them.
Mythical Mike If you do not know Mike Hobson, he was an integral part of the program
the past two years as a student manager. His efforts are difficult to quantify
into words, so here is how his head coach and teammates will remember him.
"He's the most undervalued person on our team," redshirt senior libero Connor Curry
said. "He gets absolutely no recognition for what he does, but the amount of
hours that he's logged throughout the season and the ways that he's helped us -
he's completely sold out for the team this year and last year, too - we owe a
lot to him as a team."
"He's always willing to do whatever our team needs," senior outside hitter Aaron Russell
said. "That's what you want in anyone on a team.... I had a lot of fun having him
as part of this team."
"I will go on record to tell anybody if they want a young up-and-coming
coach, he's going to be getting his graduate degree from Northwest Missouri
State, and he's going to be helping their women's team out," Pavlik said. "Keep
an eye on him, he's worth it.
Groovy Goodell "He's a fun guy to play with," Curry said. "He's hot and cold a lot of
the time, up and down personality wise, but that's what makes it fun. He's been
my roommate for the last three years, so I've gotten to know him pretty well.
It's been fun."
A 2015 Second Team All-EIVA honoree, Goodell persevered through injury
to finish his last rodeo on a high note. The redshirt senior tallied 30 kills
and 11 digs in this year's NCAA Tournament, while placing ninth in the EIVA
during the regular season with 3.54 points/set.
Clap for Curry "It's been an unbelievable
experience," Curry said. "Coming from California, I didn't come to Penn State
for the weather. I came here for the experience. I came for the people mostly,
the people on the team and the coaching staff. That's what I've been around for
the past five years, and I wouldn't trade it for anything."
With seven digs against Lewis,
Curry completes his Penn State career with 1,043 digs. That is good enough for
second place in program history behind only Dennis Del Valle, who notched 1,260
digs from 2008-11.
Applause for Aaron "I've had so much fun playing for
this program," Russell said. "When I was being recruited by a bunch of
different colleges across the country, I was told that if I went out east that
I wouldn't become a good player, or I wouldn't be as good of a player if I went
out west. What [the coaching staff] did, I've learned so much through the
program. I think that without them I wouldn't be where I am today. I
just thank them so much. I owe everything that I am right now to Penn State."
A two-time First-Team
All-American AVCA honoree, Russell ends his stellar Nittany Lion career second
in program history with 198 service aces. Only Max Holt, who donned the Blue
and White from 2006-09, recorded more punch-outs with 207.
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer PALO ALTO, Calif. - The fifth-seed Nittany Lions (21-9) face the
top-seeded Lewis Flyers (26-3) in the NCAA semifinals on Thursday. First serve
is set for 11 p.m. ET inside historic Maples Pavilion. Having already lost in four sets twice during the regular season against
Lewis, Penn State comes into its 17th consecutive NCAA national
semifinal match on Thursday with a chip on its shoulder. "We're looking forward to the battle with the Flyers," head coach Mark
Pavlik said. "We've seen them twice this year.... It's a lot of fun to play those
guys. They play big boy volleyball. It's a very physical game, not only at the
net but from behind the service line. It's men's volleyball at its best." The Blue and White have battled adversity all season long. From starting
4-9 to having to deal with a number of student-athlete setbacks due to injury,
resiliency is the word to describe this year's team. "The first two times we played them, I don't think that we were as
physical as we could or should have been," senior outside hitter Aaron Russell
said. "I think we also just didn't really compete as hard.... We've come a long
way since then." In order to top Lewis for the first time this season, the physicality
that Russell talked about above will have to be in full force from start to
finish. "If we can serve well...if we can knock them off the net and if we can
really force them to not be as physical as they can be, I think that's where we
can really expect us to get some separation from them in the game," Pavlik
said. Scouting No. 1 Lewis After finishing 15-1 in conference play, Lewis ended the regular season
as MIVA champions. However, the Flyers completed the season by falling to No. 3
Loyola (25-2) in the MIVA Championship game. Nonetheless, the committee
rewarded Lewis with the top ranking for this year's NCAA tournament. Having lost just three matches all season long, the Flyers have a host
of quality wins. Strong wins include: UC Irvine, Stanford, Penn State (twice),
Ohio State, IPFW (twice), and Ball State (twice). Lewis's three losses have all
come at the hands of ranked foes in BYU, Ohio State and Loyola. Offensively, a three-headed monster leads the Flyers. Redshirt senior
outside hitter Geoff Powell, senior outside hitter Greg Petty, and senior
opposite Eric Fitterer are incredibly physical pin hitters that have challenged
opponents all season long. Each of the three are averaging more than 2.75 kills
per set and hitting higher than .296. All three players detailed above are AVCA All-Americans. Together, the
Flyers combined for five this year, however. The other two? Senior libero Lucas
Yanez who is averaging 2.02 digs this season and junior middle blocker Bobby
Walsh who is averaging 1.53 blocks per set this year. "Bobby [Walsh] is an up-and-coming middle who is really doing the right
things and playing the right way," Pavlik said. "They use him so well...Walsh is
in the middle saying 'hey, don't forget about me.'" What's at Stake? The winner will advance to the 2015 NCAA title match on Saturday at 9:30
p.m. ET and will play the victor of No. 2 UC Irvine and No. 3 Loyola.
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer PALO ALTO, Calif. - Thanks to the superb play of its pin hitters,
fifth-seeded Penn State (21-9) upended fourth-seeded Hawaii (24-7) in four sets
(25-22, 25-20, 17-25, 27-25) in the second of two play-in games Tuesday night
at historic Maples Pavilion.
With the win, the Nittany Lions advanced to the NCAA national semifinals
and will face top-seeded Lewis at 11 p.m. ET on Thursday, May 7. This is the 17th
consecutive season Penn State has reached the final four.
The Blue and White's pin hitters - made up of Aaron Russell, Nick
Goodell and Chris Nugent - accumulated 92 percent of the team's kills (54 out
of 59). The trio's dynamic offensive balance created defensive problems for the
"I thought that our outside hitters did a good job," head coach Mark Pavlik
said. "Nick [Goodell] balanced out the rights side with the night that he had. Overall, when the match was on the line, our
competition level was as high as it's been all year long."
First-team AVCA All-American Aaron Russell led all hitters with 20 kills
in the match. He swung at a match-high 46 sets and finished with a .239 hitting
percentage. Russell also added seven digs and a perfect receive percentage.
"I think we've come a long way
since the beginning of the year when we faced Hawaii and it feels good to get a
little revenge and next we have Lewis who we also lost to twice," Russell said.
"And I think the adversity we experienced at the beginning of the season really
has helped us improve, and I definitely think that's one of the reasons why were
on this run that we're on right now."
The senior outside hitter has
been a leader all season long but is using the postseason platform as a pedestal
to help make sure his teammates and coaching staff achieve their end goal, a
"I think I'm getting more
comfortable," Russell said. "Being out this past summer in Anaheim really
helped me learn a lot, it was a good experience. My experience being a senior
now, I've been through a lot and played with a lot of these guys and so were
getting comfortable with each other and gelling, and it's a lot of
Redshirt senior opposite Nick
Goodell and sophomore outside hitter Chris Nugent were the two x-factors,
however. Goodell was magical, killing 19 attacks on a .378 mark and adding one
service ace and four digs. Nugent was spectacular, as well, tallying 15 kills
at a .400 attacking percentage.
The performances described above
would not be possible without setter Taylor Hammond. The redshirt junior kept
the Nittany Lions in system and served up a match-high 54 assists. His play
certainly did not go unnoticed by his teammates.
"Again it starts with the
passers," Goodell said. "Once they're able to get in a rhythm, then Taylor
[Hammond] can get in a rhythm. Then with our middles getting up like they did,
everyone is going to be successful. We're a very hard team to stop like that."
Prior to upsetting Hawaii yesterday, the last time Penn State had beaten
a team ranked higher than them in the NCAA tournament occurred back in 2010.
That year, the Nittany Lions reached the championship only to lose to host and top-ranked
The winner of Lewis vs. Penn State will play the victor of
Loyola-Chicago vs. UC Irvine in the 2015 NCAA National Championship on May 9.
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
After winning its 17th straight EIVA Championship title last Friday
over George Mason, No. 7 Penn State (20-9) earned the No. 5 seed in the 2015
NCAA Tournament being played this week at Maples Pavilion on the campus of
Stanford University. The Nittany Lions open
on Tuesday against fourth-seeded Hawaii (21-6) at 11 p.m. ET in the second of
two play-in matches. Before we take a look
at the strengths of the Rainbow Warriors and what the Nittany Lions need to do
to stymie Hawaii, let's check out how Penn State's journey to the tourney. Penn State's Journey Three weeks into
the season, the Lions knew they had work to do. They opened play on a six-match
losing streak. After falling to Lewis on Feb. 20 and Loyola-Chicago on Feb. 21,
Penn State's record stood at 4-9. Since those two
losses, however, the Nittany Lions have caught fire and rolled off 16-straight
victories en route to their 31st EIVA/ECVL regular season title and
17th straight EIVA Championship title. The Blue and White arrived
in California for the 2015 NCAA Tournament on Sunday. Take a look through some
highlights. University Park to Palo Alto The Blue and White departed from Rec Hall at approximately 6:30 a.m. on Sunday
and bused to Dulles Airport. After making sure the players locked up aisle
seats for the flight, the team flew across the country to San Francisco. Around
dinnertime, the plane touched down in the Bay Area and the group then chartered
to the team hotel in Palo Alto. Following dinner, Penn State traveled to Santa Clara University for a nighttime
edition of serve and pass. The post-practice events were anything but ordinary as the Nittany Lions had an
opportunity to meet two iconic sports stars - NBA MVP Steve Nash and 1999 FIFA
Women's World Cup star Brandi Chastain. The two famous athletes were extremely
down to earth and super cool, causing the team's motivation and will to want to
win elevate to new heights.
Back on Jan. 9, the Nittany Lions lost in straight sets (26-24, 25-19, 25-18)
to Hawaii in the 21st annual Outrigger Resorts Invitational. The
Rainbow Warriors hold a 14-8 advantage all-time in the head-to-head series.
Here is a breakdown of some things to watch from Hawaii on Tuesday night: Curbing Taylor Averill Redshirt senior Taylor Averill is arguably the best overall player in the
Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF). The 6-foot-7 All-American middle
blocker holds the second-highest hitting percentage in the country with a .483
mark. He was named to the All-MPSF first team last Thursday. Containing Kupono Fey Sophomore Kupono Fey grew up in Honolulu, Oahu. He's a homegrown player
competing for his hometown school. The six-foot-five outside hitter has been
key in the last few weeks. Against Long Beach State in the MPSF quarterfinal
two weeks ago, Fey notched 17 kills and 12 digs for his first double-double of
the season. Preventing Passing In addition to Averill and Fey, the Rainbow Warriors have more hard swingers with
outside hitter Sinisa Zarkovic and opposite Brook Sedore. The junior Zarkovic
is second on the team with 3.20 kills per set, while the senior Sedore leads
the squad with 3.36 kills per set. If able to remain in system, Hawaii is
dangerous. Strong passing leads to strong sets from sophomore Jennings
Franciskovic (10.8 assists per set), which in turn leads to potent swings from
Hawaii's pin hitters.
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK,
Pa. - They did it. Again.
For the 17th-straight
season, No. 7 Penn State (20-9) captured the EIVA Championship. This time, the
title came in the form of a straight sets (25-16, 25-17, 25-17) win over George
Mason (15-13) in Rec Hall on Friday.
"Defense is leading to our offensive," head coach Mark
Pavlik said. "And the offensive guys are working hard to finish those
opportunities. It's something that if we can continue, we are going to force
teams to play pretty physically against us."
With the victory, the Nittany Lions are headed once again to
the NCAA tournament being held in Palo Alto, California. The Blue and White
will find out its seeding Saturday, when the selection show begins at 1 p.m.
Thanks to the senior class and assistant head coach Colin
McMillan's integrated defensive scheme, Penn State breezed by the Patriots.
Aaron Russell finished with a match-high 15 kills on a .619 attacking
percentage. He also added six digs and two service aces en route to being named
the 2015 EIVA Championship Most Outstanding Player.
Just like in Wednesday's semifinal match against Princeton,
tonight's bout ended with a Nick Goodell service ace. By taking advantage of
George Mason sending two and three blockers to Russell, the redshirt senior
finished with 11 kills and eight digs.
"Everyone looks to Ron for them to block, and then whenever
one of us steps up, it makes it that much harder, but when everyone steps up,
teams don't have a chance," Goodell said.
The third senior on the team, Connor Curry, kept the Nittany
Lions in system all match long. Curry dug five swings, initiated brilliant
first contacts and added three assists to pace the Blue and White.
"I've been lucky to have won this thing five times," Curry
said. "I'm just happy to be going back to NCAAs, and that's our goal at the
beginning of the season. We've set ourselves up in the right place, so we'll
see what we can do in the next three matches."
However, it was two non-seniors who changed the complexity
of the match in favor of the Nittany Lions. Sophomore Chris Nugent accumulated
14 kills on just 19 swings and redshirt junior setter Taylor Hammond compiled
"I thought our passing and serving was pretty good," Pavlik
said. "Can't give enough credit to our offense. We took what they gave us, and
we understood what they were giving us, and made it real tough on them to try
to adapt to anything we did."
Russell echoed the words of his four-year head coach, but
went even further by praising the play of his talented setter.
"A lot of credit to Taylor [Hammond]," Russell said. "He spread
the offense really well tonight, and he gave us a lot of good opportunities....
We had a very offensively efficient game, and that is a good thing when you're
going into a national championship tournament."
Now Penn State has a quick turnaround before leaving for
Stanford on Sunday. Though according to Russell, the team's challenging
non-conference schedule this season has prepared the team well for the NCAA Tournament.
"Through the non-conference play that we've had, we've
experienced a lot of adversity," Russell said. "I think that just being able to
learn and improve from that has brought us to where we are today.... We want to
take it to these teams that are standing in our way of a national championship."
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK,
Pa. - A strong contingency of Blue and White fans witnessed history Saturday
afternoon at DeGol Arena as the Nittany Lions defeated St. Francis in straight
sets (25-21, 25-19, 25-22) in their final match of the regular season to give
Mark Pavlik his 500th career victory.
Pavlik, who is in
his 21st season as head coach of the men's volleyball program,
embodies everything that Penn State stands for academically and athletically.
His love of teaching and respect for others reflects the true heart of a
"In those 500 wins
I have not served a ball in the court," Pavlik said. "I have not put a ball
away. I have not set a ball. I just happened to be here that long to see it.
More than anything else, I think it speaks to the true foundation that Tom Tait
laid for this program back in the late 70s. We've been able to represent the
university and the athletic department, not only with our current teams, but
also with our alums."
It was a fitting
end for No. 7 Penn State (18-9, 12-0 EIVA) over St. Francis (6-20, 4-8 EIVA). Immediately
after senior outside hitter Aaron Russell earned the final point of match, the
entire team rushed to Pavlik and paraded him with silly string and a
win is a lot of proof to what he's done for the program and the experience that
he has," Russell said. "What a great coach he is. He's coached a lot of good
players, and he's given a lot to me and my family. It's nice to be able to play
for him, and his 500th win to be able to give something back to him."
Under the tutelage
of Pavlik, the Nittany Lions have gone from losing their first six matches of
the 2015 campaign to finishing the regular season on a 14-match winning streak.
Even further, the
program is now a perfect 36-0 all-time versus the Red Flash, having dropped
just seven sets ever against the university just down the road from University
Park in Loretto.
"It's not something
that [Pavlik] shows a lot, but you know it really means something to him,"
middle blocker Matt Seifert said. "To be able to get it on the last regular
season match of the year, and to be able to celebrate with him the way we did,
it's just special. I'll remember this with him for as long as I play."
The Blue and White utilized
experience to slip past the Red Flash. Sixteen kills from Russell, nine kills
from redshirt senior Nick Goodell, 34 assists from setter Taylor Hammond, and
11 digs from libero Connor Curry paced Penn State. Sophomore outside hitter Chris
Nugent added five more kills and Seifert and Matt Callaway each had four kills to
balance out the Nittany Lions.
Penn State had
already clinched its 17th straight EIVA regular season title two
weeks ago after wins over Harvard and Sacred Heart. That means the Nittany
Lions will once again have the top seed and home court advantage for the EIVA
Championship coming up on April 29 and May 1 at Rec Hall.
"Just keep things
rolling," Russell said. "I think we're doing a good job now. We're going to
turn it up more in practice knowing what's at stake. You can always see a
difference between playoff play and regular season play, in our mindset even.
I'm just looking forward to the focus and the fun we're going to have competing
on the court. I'm looking forward to the postseason."
With George Mason
topping Princeton and NJIT this past weekend, the Nittany Lions will face
Princeton to open the EIVA Semifinals on April 29. First serve set for 7:30
p.m. at Rec Hall.
"There's three different
seasons, and now that two of them are in the books, the most exciting one
starts," Seifert said. "It's business for us. Getting the first seed and
winning the regular season conference title is something that we've done many
times while I've been here and many times before I've been here. It's the same
type of approach. It's all business, and we have a couple more goals that we
want to accomplish before we're done this year."
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer UNIVERSITY PARK,
Pa. - In his 21st season as head coach of the men's volleyball
program, Mark Pavlik is on the brink of his 500th career victory.
After wins over
NJIT and Princeton last weekend, Pavlik now sits in his Rec Hall office with
499 wins under his belt at the helm of Penn State Men's Volleyball heading in
to Saturday's match at Saint Francis.
"It's a nice round
number that people tend to remember," Pavlik said. "You get a chance to look
back on it. If it happens this weekend, I'm glad it happens with this group of
guys. I really enjoy this team. They've been so resilient, so much fun to be
around, and they've worked so hard. It's just a time where you get a chance to
think about what's come before you."
owns a lifetime record at Penn State of 499-151. He has won more than 77
percent of the matches he has coached, a statistic that speaks volumes to the
standard he has set in Happy Valley.
He captured the
2008 NCAA National Championship and has made University Park one of the premier
spots across the country to play Division I men's volleyball. He has helped
Penn State earn 17 straight EIVA Regular Season Championships, EIVA Tournament
Championships and NCAA Tournament appearances.
The maestro has
coached 21 different players to 41 All-America awards. Even further, each
season at least three of his student athletes have earned first team
"Any coach will
tell you 500 [wins] is a great accomplishment, but it really means that you've
been doing it for quite awhile with some really great people around him,"
assistant coach Jay Hosack said. "He's been lucky enough to be in a place like
Penn State where they've been very supportive of the program and supportive of
him. The quality of the kids that he gets here, you look at the whole package,
and that's really what that means."
For Pavlik, winning
has always been important, but what he takes pride in is the way in which he
develops his players into well-rounded student athletes who positively impact
both the program athletically and the university academically and socially.
"I think Pav will
tell you that the 500 wins belong to the players, and he's just happy to be a
part of all the great players that have come through that have provided him
with the opportunity," assistant coach Colin McMillan. "He's been a great
shepherd and steward for the program throughout his 21 years as head coach."
sealed the top spot atop the EIVA standings, the Nittany Lions will host the
EIVA Tournament for 17th straight season under Pavlik. Garnering
home court advantage is an area that Pavlik understands is integral to the
success of his team in the postseason.
"It's huge," Pavlik
said. "You look at our history, and I think our guys, over the course of all
the EIVA Championships that have been hosted by us, we've been able to stay in
our routine and embrace the pressure that's on us to win these matches. They've
done that really well. This year, with the other three teams involved, we're
going to have two tough matches to play, and we're going to have to be ready
for them. That's the beauty of hosting."
The Nittany Lions
will look to not only help get Pavlik his milestone victory, but also close out
their regular season a perfect 12-0 in EIVA Conference play when they travel to
Loretto to meet Saint Francis at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
"The way we've been
playing, we've shown that we can play a pretty high level game, and we're
playing for a longer and longer period of time during a match, and I just want
that to continue," Pavlik said. "Let's keep building. Let's keep getting
stronger because after this weekend, their season can end in one match, and I'd
like to stay with this group for as long as I can."
By Tyler Feldman, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -
Thanks to a pair of wins inside Rec Hall over the weekend, the seventh-ranked
Penn State men's volleyball team (15-9, 9-0 EIVA) clinch its 31st
EIVA regular season title. Sparked by the senior
class, the Nittany Lions survived Harvard (11-11, 5-5 EIVA) in five sets
(25-20, 20-25, 24-26, 25-21, 15-10) on Friday night. Then in Saturday's senior
day match, the Blue and White defeated Sacred Heart (12-11, 3-7 EIVA) in four
sets (25-15, 20-25, 25-17, 25-18). With the two wins, the
Nittany Lions clinched the top seed in the EIVA Tournament. That means that
Penn State will have home-court advantage once again in the postseason. All
matches will be played at Rec Hall on April 29 (Semifinals) and May 1
in our home gym and just maintaining our normal routine is really helpful,"
senior libero Connor Curry said. Looking back on Friday
evening's five-set match, the Nittany Lions committed their most attacking
errors this season (36), which led to just a .178 hitting percentage, but found
a way to score a victory. "We
weren't great at times, but I thought we were great when we had to be," head
coach Mark Pavlik said. "I think that's a mark of a pretty good team." After winning the
first set, the Crimson took games two and three before Penn State clawed back
and won the last two frames. Seniors Aaron Russell
and Curry led the way. Russell posted a match-high 26 kills, while Curry compiled
a season-high 19 digs. Redshirt junior Taylor Hammond added 56 assists to complete
the comeback against Harvard. "We knew what we had to do," Russell
said. "We didn't take losing as an option, and I think that we just kicked it
into another gear." The fourth game
electrified the great crowd at Rec Hall. Down 19-20, the Nittany Lions used two
straight kills from Russell, two aces from junior setter Zack Parik and a
Harvard attacking error to regain the lead, 24-20. After a Harvard kill,
Russell answered with a kill of his own to help Penn State tie the match at two
games apiece. "I told Hamm to start
setting Aaron, and we won," Curry said. "Simple as that. And then we started
cleaning up the ball in transition." Russell tallied half
of his 26 kills in the final two frames to jumpstart the Nittany Lions. "The guys just asked
me to step up, and I think I did that," Russell said. Saturday's senior day
concluded the regular season home slate for Penn State as the Blue and White
won in four sets over Sacred Heart. The team posted a season-high 20.5 total
team blocks, featuring Nick Goodell, who sealed the victory with a solo block
in the fourth set. "It felt good just
because I haven't blocked a ball for a while," Goodell said on winning the
final point. "It's just something I've been working on all year. It's what our
team has been working on, so regardless of who it was, getting a block to end a
match is great for us." According to Pavlik,
Sacred Heart's offensive tempo, paired with Penn State's understanding of the
scouting report and match execution, led to the team's block total. To go along with his
3.5 blocks, Goodell also scored a match-high 14 kills. Plus, Russell and Chris
Nugent each earned eight kills, while Matt Callaway led the team with 6.5
blocks. "Having it be senior
night, it's always a little emotional," Russell said. "It's just a lot of fun
to play in front of fans and represent a university that has given so much to
you." The final three
regular season matches for Penn State will be on the road, starting with
Princeton and NJIT next Friday and Saturday.