UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - It didn't go as planned for the Nittany Lions as they closed out the 2016 postseason earlier than many expected.
Penn State dropped a tough four set match to Saint Francis in the EIVA semifinals at Rec Hall. Arguably the second best team in the EIVA, Saint Francis was ranked fourth in the conference, but alongside the Nittany Lions, were one of two ranked teams in the EIVA at 15 in the nation.
"We were still in it, we had chances, we needed one point in game to go up 2-0 and maybe that changes the timber of the match. We never got that side out, and we were in a dogfight from there on," head coach Mark Pavlik said.
The match ended in four sets, but every set could have gone either way as the teams could not find separation until the later stages of each set. The disappointment for the Nittany Lions was palpable in the postgame press conference but there was still time for reflection from some of the seniors.
"The past five years this program is kind of all I have ever known," senior Matt Seifert said. "I thank Pav for all that he has given me and I will take a lot of the things I learned here with me. I think he cares about his players more than any other coach I've had."
Sometimes you work extremely hard and the results don't turn out in your favor. That was the sentiment shared from many of the Nittany Lions as they team scratched and clawed all season, but in the end couldn't fine the results they desired.
Despite the exit that many didn't see coming, the positives are still there for this season, as they always are. They just usually don't show themselves until a few days after a tough loss. Three Nittany Lions received first team All-EIVA honors in Chris Nugent, Matt Seifert and Taylor Hammond. Nugent was co-EIVA player of the year. Royce Clemens also garnered EIVA honors as the newcomer of the year.
"We have a very strong group of guys here and all of them help the team in some way," Seifert said. "It's nice for the team and a few guys to get recognized like that."
The positives don't just stop with the accolades that the Nittany Lions received this season, in fact they don't just stop with this season. Many of the main contributors and starters this season for Penn State were either juniors or sophomores. The core is young for this team as Pavlik has eluded too many times and this means the future is bright.
"We have gotten contributions up and down the lineup all season long," Pavlik said. "This one hurts, but for the guys coming back next season it should also serve as a motivator, that will be interesting to see how it works out in that way."
For Penn State, the returnees include Nugent, Aidan Albrecht, Jalen Penrose, Matt Callaway, Kevin Gear and Clemens. All these players were main factors in victories at one point or another for Penn State this season.
"Obviously we aren't happy with the way this season ended," Albrecht said. "But we know we have a group of guys who have experience and can help us build a very good team next season as well. We just have to work hard and make sure were ready."
Though the loss may sting for a few more days, the new season has already started for Pavlik and Penn State.
"This is a feeling we haven't felt in a while, now the job is to take this disappointment and make sure the program benefits from it," Pavlik said.