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Penn State Takes Learning Lesson from Early EIVA Loss

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By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The George Mason Patriots upended No. 7 Penn State in Rec Hall in straight sets Friday night, handing the Nittany Lions their first loss in EIVA play.

"I think that's one of those matches where you just tip your hat to George Mason," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "You go into the locker room, you talk about it, shower off and come back ready to be better tomorrow." 

It seemed no matter what Penn State did, George Mason had an answer. The Patriots not only posted eight blocks as a team for the match, but were also excellent in the serve-receive game, frequently able to run their offense comfortably.

Much of that was due to Penn State's inability to put pressure on George Mason's defense with its serving, an area where it particularly excelled last weekend. Penn State also turned in its lowest hitting percentage, held below .100 for the first time this year.

"I thought Mason served and passed better than we did," Pavlik said. I thought our physicality was nonexistent. There were stretches where we were just on our heels and [George] Mason took advantage of it with their offense or their serving. We just didn't put enough pressure on them and a lot that you just have to tip your hat to them."

George Mason was also terrific behind the service line, recording seven service aces. As a result, Penn State had a more difficult time than its opponent passing the ball in serve-receive, which prevented the Nittany Lions from settling into any consistent offensive rhythm.

"They didn't do anything at the net that surprised us," Pavlik said. What slowed us down offensively was the fact that we were running our offense from about 12-13 feet off the net with Luke [Braswell] on the move. It made us pretty predictable."

The Nittany Lions played out of system often throughout the match and had trouble establishing their middles. Kevin Gear finished with six kills and hit .500 to highlight the night.  

That made things difficult for Penn State's pin hitters to get going, as the patriots held Calvin Mende to just seven kills. Matt McLaren, who has arguably been the hottest offensive player on the team as of late, had just five kills for the match.

"They were serving pretty tough," setter Luke Braswell said. "What we try to do is serve hard and get them to not pass well so they're off the net and we can block better. They did that to us today. When they have their block formed they're pretty good blockers. That was part of their game plan and they did it pretty well."

Pavlik rotated some different Nittany Lions into the lineup later on in the match in an attempt to provide some spark. In the third set, Jason Donorovich and Lee Smith replaced starters Jalen Penrose and Aidan Albrecht.

"In practice, this week [Donorovich] blocked just about everything that was thrown at him and at that time we were looking to see if we could start to slow them down," Pavlik said. We wanted to get Lee in there to pass and block. I'm not sure that it paid off as much as we hoped it would."

While Penn State's goal to finish undefeated in EIVA play is no longer attainable, the Nittany Lions still remain tied for first place in the conference with plenty of volleyball to be played this season.

"Maybe this is something we needed because now we know we're not the top dog anymore," Gear said. "Now we can't expect anything. We just need to go and take what we need to take back. I have faith in our team that we're going to be able to come back and be a different team the next time we see these guys."

Penn State has an experienced team and a very close group, who will make the attempt to bounce back from the loss much more manageable. Despite the unfavorable result of Friday night's match, the Nittany Lions remain optimistic.

"There are plenty of ups and downs through the season with the intent of becoming better," Pavlik said. "You've got to get good at turning the page. Tonight Mason did it much better than we did and that's okay. I think we can still be pretty good."

"We've got to throw it away. Tomorrow is a new match for us. We just need to come back tomorrow ready to play," Braswell said. 

Penn State will look to bounce back Saturday night, taking on Charleston (W.Va.) at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall's south gym. 

Braswell Commanding the Offense

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By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State men's volleyball will be back at Rec Hall again this weekend for a weekend series against George Mason Friday night, followed by Charleston (West Virginia) Saturday evening.

The Nittany Lions are 3-0 to start EIVA league play, coming off two impressive victories against Sacred Heart and Harvard. Looking back on the weekend, head coach Mark Pavlik thought his team's physicality from behind the service line against the Crimson propelled them to arguably its best game of the season so far 

"We were so physical with our serving this past week," Pavlik said. "If we can keep that physicality growing with consistency of hitting it on the court, it will really help us moving forward."

Senior middle blocker Jalen Penrose arguably the most powerful server on the team and his eight service aces in the two matches this weekend proved why. However, Matt McLaren was also dynamic behind the service line this weekend, chipping in six aces of his own.

Penn State received an immense boost with right side hitter, Calvin Mende, returning to the lineup after missing several weeks with an injury. His return gave setter Luke Braswell another big arm to go to up front. It also magnified the depth Penn State has enjoyed up front this season.

"With Cal [Mende] back and us firing on all cylinders, it just shows that our team has a lot of depth and that we have a bunch of unique guys that can come in and play any spot they're told to play," Braswell said.

Braswell has been in full control of Penn State's offense recently, as the second-year starter has evolved as a setter, brining valuable leadership to the court this year.

"He is developing a better and better feel for how the game goes and where he should go with the ball at certain times," Pavlik said. "He understands where [his hitters] are on the court. He's doing a very good job as an analytical setter."

Mende is not a typical right side hitter in the sense that he is a 7-foot lefty, so there is a distinct way the ball has to be set for him. Over the last couple of years, he and Braswell have begun to master the timing to the point where even Mende's absence should not disrupt the chemistry they've developed. 

"With him, the ball can't be too fast or too low, so it has to be fast enough where the other team's blockers can't get out to the pin and close out on him. But also slow enough for him where he has enough options," Braswell said.

Pavlik has also been impressed with the improvement Braswell has made from last year to this year with the shape of his sets. 

"As you play more, you learn the different heights that go to certain places and then you get the back row involved," Pavlik said. "And now it goes from almost a single dimensional point to two dimensions to three dimensions. I think that's where he's really started to understand his game." 

A year makes a huge difference from a mental standpoint of the game though and this area is where Braswell believes he has made the most substantial jump in his game from last season. 

"It's more just mental and figuring out the team, as well as what it takes as a team to win," Braswell said. "The setting is something I practice every day so it's something I feel okay with, but figuring out how to be the guy everyone looks to, especially because volleyball is a very up and down type of sport where you have your highs and lows, has been big for me."

Strong Serve Powers Penn State Past Harvard

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By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State improved to 3-0 in EIVA play with a dominant win against the Harvard Crimson in Rec Hall's south gym.

For Penn State, the story Saturday afternoon was its prowess behind the service line, along with a stifling defense that limited Harvard to a meager .115 team hitting percentage.

Erratic serving has at times been a point of emphasis for Penn State, but Saturday the Nittany Lions posted nine service aces to Harvard's two, while committing just 15 service errors, a number well below their season average.

"Our serving was what won the match again for us tonight," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "The physicality of our serving really knocked them off the net. It can just wear people down."

Jalen Penrose has been known throughout his career to possess a rocket arm and it was on full display during the match. After tallying three service aces against Sacred Heart Friday night, he followed up with four aces and 10 kills against the Crimson Saturday.

"It's like getting beat by a baseball bat," Pavlik said. "You just keep absorbing those punches and sooner or later the physicality just wears people down especially when you don't see it in your own gym."

Penn State was frequently able to force Harvard out of system, which allowed the Nittany Lions to take a substantial amount of pressure off its defense. The Nittany Lions went on to record nine blocks in the match, holding Harvard's leading hitter, Erik Johnsson, to just seven kills and a .115 hitting percentage.

"We served them well, kept them off the net and they couldn't run their fast offense," setter Luke Braswell said. "It just had to be high balls everywhere, and then our middles could get there and close blocks."

Friday night, Penn State's offensive efficiency was the story of the match against Sacred Heart. While Saturday's offensive performance against Harvard was a bit overshadowed by the Nittany Lions' serving and defense, they still saw Matt McLaren, Calvin Mende and Kevin Gear all hit higher than .300 for the match.

McLaren led the way with 11 kills, while Mende and Gear had six kills and five kills, respectively. Through these two matches this weekend, Mende's offensive value has been quite apparent.

"With Cal [Mende] being back now, blockers will cheat towards him, which leaves our middles and pin hitters open to get more attempts with less blockers in front of them," Braswell said. "It makes the other team worry more about him and less about the others and we've had success that way."

Penn State's preseason goal of finishing undefeated in the league is off to the start it's hoping for. However, in a league that has improved significantly this year, the Nittany Lions still have a long road ahead.

"We need to just keep making steps forward," McLaren said. "Our goal is not to win just the first three, our goal is to win all of them. We need to keep working at practice, keep getting better every day and taking steps forward to reach our goal."

Balanced Effort Leads Penn State Past Sacred Heart

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By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa - Penn State put on an excellent display of offensive efficiency in a four-set win against Sacred Heart (25-15, 27-29, 25-21, 25-18) at Rec Hall to move to 2-0 in EIVA play.

The win Friday night ended a two-game skid against the Pioneers. Throughout the week, the Nittany Lions mentioned there would be some extra motivation after one of those losses last season was a sweep at home.

"We mentioned it once during the huddle before first serve, but it wasn't like it'd be our focus," setter Luke Braswell said. "Playing with revenge only lasts for about the first five points and then after that you're just playing volleyball." 

Braswell finished the match with five digs and 42 assists, as a masterful facilitator of Penn State's offense that hit .370 as a team for the match.  

Friday night also saw Penn State's star right side hitter Calvin Mende return to the court after missing several weeks with a sprained right ankle.  

Mende was understandably a bit rusty offensively early on in the match, but he began to find his groove beginning in the third set. He finished with 12 of his 14 kills for the match (.440 hitting percentage) in sets three and four. Mende picked up seemingly right where he left off, particularly effective in the back row too, where he tallied a team-high eight digs. 

"Basically, the whole week was shaking off rust, getting my jump back, getting my swing back and trying to get as many reps as possible for this," Mende said. "At practice the speed is a little different, but as the game wore on, I just kind of got in a rhythm."

Having Mende back on the right side allowed Jalen Penrose to move back to the second middle blocker spot and add another big arm up front. Penrose did not have his best offensive outing in his first match back at middle blocker, but he did add four aces from behind the service line.

Aidan Albrecht and Matt McLaren led the way for Penn State offensively. Albrecht finished with 14 kills (.308 hitting percentage), while McLaren posted 13 kills (.435 hitting percentage). They also combined for three service aces.

Penn State had nine team service aces for the match. While the Nittany Lions did commit 11 service errors in the lone set it lost, they regularly forced Sacred Heart out of system, preventing the Pioneers from running their offense.

"I think our serving really won the match for us," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "They could not get any type of offensive rhythm going. They were so aware of our block that we had some easier balls to play. It was a lot more good than bad."

Penn State's offensive balance was off the charts as well, with Albrecht, Mende and McLaren all totaling at least 13 kills.

"It makes it easier for me, obviously, when I have a lot of guys who can put balls away," Braswell said. "Four of the five hitters hit over .300, which is insane. It is really nice for me to be able to set and watch these guys put it away."

Penn State will be right back at it Saturday afternoon, taking on the Harvard Crimson in Rec Hall's south gym at 4 p.m. to cap off the weekend. 

McLaren and Gear Leading By Example

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By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State is off to a 1-0 start in EIVA play following a road win at Saint Francis last weekend. The Nittany Lions will be back home at Rec Hall this weekend for an EIVA home-opening series against Sacred Heart and Harvard.

For Penn State, Sacred Heart is particularly an enticing matchup, considering the outcomes of its two matches last season against the Pioneers. Although Penn State won the EIVA, Sacred Heart defeated the Nittany Lions both times they met last season.

"It should grab our attention and hold our respect for them," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "They've worked really hard to get where they are as a program. Our guys certainly shouldn't underestimate them coming in because they are a team that can be dangerous and they proved it to us last year."

Prior to the season-opener, Penn State made it a team goal to finish undefeated in the EIVA this year. While Sacred Heart provides perhaps some extra motivation after the results of last year's two matches, Penn State acknowledges every EIVA opponent as a challenge.

"We've been the top team in this conference, so we've always had that target on our backs but what we try to do every match, as a whole, is just look at every EIVA match as the same," middle blocker Kevin Gear said.

With right side Calvin Mende still out, Matt McLaren has continued to step up for the Nittany Lions. At Saint Francis, he finished with 12 kills and three service aces in the three set sweep. While McLaren's production has continued to increase throughout the last few games, his coaches and teammates have not been surprised by his emergence this season.

"You've heard the phrase from every coach to 'practice like you play,'" Pavlik said. "What you see out there with [McLaren] on Fridays and Saturdays, we see Monday through Thursday. There's no difference."

McLaren's teammates only echoed the words of Pavlik.

"We've kind of been looking at [McLaren] these last couple of weeks as the standard because he's one of those guys that everything he does in practice, you see him do in the match," Gear said. "There's no doubt in our mind what we're going to get from him. Every single time he's going to do what he needs to do." 

Jalen Penrose also noted how McLaren has been both a terrific offensive option on the court this season, and a teammate who leads by example. 

"He has brought everything," Penrose said. "If you watch the matches, you can see that he has this tenacious effort where it is everything or nothing and to him it's always everything. I love it, and it really helps fire us up a lot."

Similar to his teammate, both McLaren and Gear are two of the more quiet leaders on the team. Preferring to lead by example, both have been two of the most consistent Nittany Lions on the team this season. 

"I bring what I can to the table every day," Gear said. "I'm not that talkative but I like to feel that through my actions I come in and do the work that my teammates need me to do and keep everybody on track." 

Penn State will lean on the leadership of McLaren and Gear once again this weekend, kicking things off with Sacred Heart Friday at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall. Penn State closes out the weekend against Harvard at 4 p.m. in Rec Hall's south gym.

McLaren Shining in Larger Role

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By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK - No. 9 Penn State is 5-2, on the year, set to begin EIVA play this weekend with a match on the road at Saint Francis Saturday night. The Nittany Lions were the league champions last season, but the Red Flash finished just one game behind them.

Due to injuries, Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik has had to lean on other Nittany Lions for offensive production. Stepping up has been redshirt junior outside hitter, Matt McLaren, who is currently the third leading hitter for the Nittany Lions. 

Last weekend, Ball State took Penn State all the way to five sets, while Fort Wayne provided a challenging four-set match the next day. After the match Saturday, McLaren said this Penn State team is mentally tougher than the Nittany Lion teams he has played for in the past.

"I think a big thing we've been focusing on this year is getting better at learning," McLaren said. "Being better at learning not just the skills, but learning how pressure affects our team and how we can deal with that in better ways on the court."

Over the last year, McLaren noted the team has also had several sessions with sports psychologists to sharpen everyone's mental aspects of the game and so far, it has paid dividends.

Pavlik agreed, pointing out that there is something to be said for this group of individuals having experienced many different types of situations on the court throughout their careers.

"There's a confidence that starts to build and a comfort level that starts to build," Pavlik said. "I think we're in the process of learning and embracing what our personality has become and I kind of like it. We're a little bit more resilient than we were in the past and I tend to agree with [McLaren]."

McLaren also pointed to this year's team returning the majority of its key contributors from last year, meaning another year with the same guys has brought them closer together, allowing them to learn more about playing together.

Following the departure of senior outside hitter Chris Nugent, McLaren has also seen an increased role quickly ascending to one of Penn State's most reliable offensive options.

At certain points during last Saturday's game, Pavlik got the sense that McLaren was in full control.

"You just got the sense that he was going to put us on his back," Pavlik said. "I really like the way that he's starting to let the game come to him. I think he's getting more and more comfortable with his ability to do what he does in his own way."

"My confidence has grown and I think it's because of the team that's around me," McLaren said. "I think I've been developing just by just practicing and doing the same stuff I did last year, while looking up to other guys to figure out what to do and make sure I'm doing all the right things."

As much as McLaren has blossomed into a primary offensive option for Penn State, he thinks his biggest area of improvement has been in his passing. 

"I'm getting a lot more quality reps this year," McLaren said. "It's always been a focus for me, but this year it's a huge focus because that's the player that I think the team needs me to be."

McLaren and the Nittany Lions set a goal in the offseason to go undefeated in the EIVA this year and come Saturday at Saint Francis, Penn State will meet its first obstacle in the quest to achieve that feat. 

Penn State Finds Momentum in Fort Wayne Win

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By Will Desautelle, GoPSUSports.com student staff writer 

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State upended No. 15 Fort Wayne Saturday afternoon in the Rec Hall south gym to close out its nonconference portion of the schedule. 

It was a match that saw Fort Wayne push Penn State to its limit, but the Nittany Lions rallied from behind in a critical third-set victory to shift the momentum and close out the match a set later. 

Amid some serving some miscues Saturday, it wasn't enough to prevent Penn State from coming away with a victory.

"I thought late in game two and into game three we started to match their intensity and I thought we started to execute our game pretty well," head coach Mark Pavlik said.

For the second night in a row though, Penn State showed some tremendous grit, particularly in sets one and three. The Nittany Lions trailed late in both of these frames but battled all the way back to win in extra points behind some tough blocking and defense.

"The teams in the past I've been on at Penn State haven't quite had the mental toughness that we've had and I think it just shows a lot about this team and how fast we can learn," outside hitter Matt McLaren said.

McLaren also had the hot hand on the outside for Penn State, finishing with 13 kills and two service aces. With the departure of last season's leading outside hitter, Chris Nugent, McLaren has taken on a much larger role and has blossomed into a terrific offensive option for the Nittany Lions this season.

"It's nice because he's reliable," Clemens said. "You can always bet on him to pass the ball, get a good swing on it, or give you a second contact if needed. It's nice to have someone like that on the court."

In sparking momentum, Pavlik made numerous adjustments throughout the match. One of those adjustments came in inserting outside hitter Lee Smith into the lineup in set number two for Aidan Albrecht, who was hitting just .143 in the match and struggled with his passing. Smith, who has not seen much time this season coming off an injury, finished with four kills and hit .500 for the match.

"We've got some depth on the team," Pavlik said. "Every one of these guys will tell you that competition exists at their positions. Lee came off the bench and settled down our passing and I think from then on he really helped funnel the energy and intensity into the group."

For Lee, the process of getting back to 100 percent hasn't exactly been easy, but one he's approaching with a day-by-day mindset.

"It was a struggle in the fall to get back to playing and then from there, it was kind of just day by day to build my confidence and my skills," Smith said. "I'm still not where I want to be exactly so each day I'm just taking it day by day and getting better." 

Pavlik also interestingly decided to use both of his liberos, alternating both Royce Clemens and Declan Pierce each point beginning in set three.

"Royce's strength is passing the ball - that's what we needed and he gave us that," Pavlik said. "Declan's been digging some hard-hit balls in practice and it gives us an opportunity to really measure and take a look at the depth we have." 

The action-packed third set victory propelled the Nittany Lions to a dominant victory in the fourth set to seal the deal. Their blocking really began to take control of the match at that point, as they finished with 13 blocks as a team and held Fort Wayne to a .048 hitting percentage in the final set. 

"We were just finally executing," Smith said. "They run that fast tempo ball from pin to pin, so once we started to figure it out, we were pretty much shutting them down."

Jalen Penrose also had another big night from the right side, adding a team-high 15 kills (.333 hitting percentage) and five blocks. Penn State's middles, Kevin Gear (.500 hitting percentage) and Jason Donorovich, (.412 hitting percentage) combined for 21 kills and 11 blocks in a huge performance.

"Kevin is just a steady head. You can always count on him to really play his game," Smith said. "And then Jason at the end was really great to see him stepping into that second middle slot and really just showing what he can do."

Penn State improves to to 5-2 on the year with the win, set to  begin EIVA play with a road trip to Saint Francis next Saturday. First serve is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Penn State Wins Thriller Against Ball State

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By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK - Penn State knocked off the Ball State Cardinals in a back and forth five-set thriller at Rec Hall Friday night.

It was a gritty win for the Nittany Lions after a comfortable advantage slipped away in set four. Penn State then scored seven points in a row in the final set to take control.

"That's kind of the classic example of the men's volleyball world as it is," head coach Mark Pavlik said. "Every team has big strong boys that hit the ball really hard and over the course of the match we forced them off the net more for our defense to handle things more easily and our transition offense to have a much better time at scoring."

The service line was a bit of an issue for Penn State, as the Nittany Lions committed 23 errors, but Pavlik found several bright spots in this part of the game.

"We had 10 aces and almost a one to two ace to error ratio - I'll take that," Pavlik said. "I think in spurts we served the ball better than we have all year long."

One of the more intriguing storylines of the evening was Pavlik's decision to move Jalen Penrose back over to right side for the injured Calvin Mende. Pavlik mentioned last week that he would not consider moving Penrose, who switched to middle blocker this season.

"We needed to put balls away and I think our offense spread out a bit," Pavlik said. "They've got to respect the fact that we can put balls away at both antennas."

The reason for moving Penrose to middle this season in the first place was mainly due to Penrose's inconsistencies throughout his time at right side but tonight, the move paid off.

Penrose finished with a match-high 16 kills adding six service aces, including two clutch aces in the fifth set.

"It was a little foreign to me at first. It took me about the entire week of practice to get comfortable again, but I'm glad I did again," Penrose said.

With Penrose moving back over to right side, Jason Donorovich made his first start of the season at one of the middle spots, finishing with five kills and three blocks.

"It was a lot of fun. We practiced like that all week, so I'm comfortable with the guys," Donorovich said. "I'm always ready to go. That's where my mindset is. I always want to be out there with the guys so I was excited."

Another unsung hero of Friday night's match was Kevin Gear, Penn State's other middle blocker. Gear finished with a team-high six blocks and played a critical role in limiting Ball State's star middle blocker, Matt Walsh to just eight kills in five sets.

"When Kevin got his first block we knew right then that he had control," setter Luke Braswell said. "When he shows up and takes that ownership on the court, it's awesome."

Braswell was outstanding all night with 44 assists for the match, looking every bit the part of a veteran leader when Penn State rebounded after its loss in the fourth set.

"We realized that even though we blew a pretty big lead in the fourth set, it was a new game and we knew that we had them before so we could do it again," Braswell said. "Everyone on the court was just calm." 

Penn State improved to 4-2 with the win and will have one more nonconference match before diving into EIVA play. The Nittany Lions will take on No. 15 Fort Wayne Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Rec Hall south gym, looking to cap a strong finish to their nonconference slate.

Albrecht Filling in at Right Side

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By Will Desautelle, GoPSUsports.com student staff writer

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - Penn State will now turn its attention toward Ball State and Fort Wayne, after coming off of a sweep at the hands of Ohio State on the road last Sunday. Although returning home from the road to Rec Hall, the Nittany Lions will once again be without their big left-handed right side hitter in Calvin Mende.

Mende's presence at the net was particularly missed against the Buckeyes, which forced Penn State to play out of system frequently with an Ohio State lineup full of powerful servers.

"Ohio State kept us in pass," Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik said. "They're the best serving team in the country and they wear you away. They can mentally wear your passers down and all of the sudden your offense is starting from the middle of the court and deeper. That makes their defense and block so much easier to control you."

Being rested and at full strength did not help Penn State in matching up with arguably the top team in the nation, but Pavlik emphasized his team's transition offense will be one of the main focal points for improvement over the next few weeks.

"We know how to create good opportunities offensively but next we need to find out how do we execute them, how do we put it away and actually score points [in transition]," Pavlik said.

Without Mende, the Nittany Lions decided to move their top outside hitter, Aidan Albrecht over to right side. Pavlik mentioned that this lineup may not be the one they stick with entirely while Mende recovers, but Albrecht does have some experience playing from the right side. 

"Aidan is one of those guys that can be utilized anywhere," Pavlik said. "He's blocked middle for us, he has hit left side and passed, he has hit right side, we've considered throwing him in at libero in his career - he's one of those guys I think we can count on to give us a level of quality any place we put him."

For Albrecht, when opportunities present themselves in different areas, he's happy to step in wherever the team needs him.

"My whole time I've played outside, opposite and middle, so I'm used to every position," Albrecht said. "It would have been a little better if we had a little more time but during the season you don't always have the opportunity to have that time and those reps but I was comfortable to do whatever the team needs."

Albrecht's numbers against Ohio State were not overly gaudy but Pavlik remains confident that he can be a factor from the right side or wherever else they put him on the court.

"Aidan was the guy that was putting balls away for us early and then they kind of gave him a little bit more attention. I think he did okay there," Pavlik said. "The issue was that we needed more kills from everybody and we weren't able to get that." 

Albrecht may be the top option to compensate for Mende's loss on the right side, but he acknowledged that they have a difficult task at hand in replacing the big lefty. 

"It's tough when you lose a player like [Mende], especially, but we can play a little better than we did," Albrecht said. "I think we can focus on our first contacts and especially passing. If we can fix our transition a little bit then it will help out a lot."

The Nittany Lions return to Rec Hall this weekend after a two-week stretch on the road. They'll look to get back on track and keep improving before entering EIVA play next week.    

SAAB Hosts Third Annual Lip Sync Battle

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - As is tradition, Penn State's Student-Athlete Advisory Board hosted its third annual SAAB Lip Sync Battle to benefit THON at the HUB earlier this week.

A total of nine Nittany Lion teams put on a show in the Freeman Auditorium to benefit Penn State's annual 46-hour dance marathon, which kicks off February 16 in the Bryce Jordan Center.

Following a full slate of performances, a panel of esteemed guest judges featuring Penn State sports medicine's Dr. Roberta Millard, Mike Herr or better known around campus as, "Mike the Mailman" and Penn State cheerleader Francis Alvare made their selections.

Penn State's men's swimming team took home the golden microphone this year with their rendition of Flo Rida's "Low." Men's volleyball and women's volleyball finished second and third, respectively.

"We've been working on this since October," said SAAB THON chair Tess Kearns (track and field/cross country). "Teams started signing up right before winter break so that was a lot of fun seeing who was coming together and the acts they were doing."

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