2009 Penn State Men's Volleyball Outlook
"The defending national champion Penn State men's volleyball team will look to keep the NCAA trophy on the east coast at the end of the 2009 season. The Nittany Lions return 12 letterwinners and five starters from last year's squad that finished 30-1 overall and 11-1 in the EIVA.
Penn State will have to contend with the loss of setter Luke Murray to graduation and outside hitter Matt Anderson to the professional ranks, but the Lions gain the services of three players with international experience to fill the gaps. Head coach Mark Pavlik and his assistants Craig Dyer and Colin McMillan will look to keep the squad on track to contend for the NCAA Championship once again.
"Jay Stauffer will be asked to continue in his role of ball control and overall court leadership," said Pavlik, who begins his 15th season with the squad. "His contribution may likely go unnoticed by those outside of the team but we know that his competitiveness and leadership will make those around him better. Will Price and Joe Sunder will be asked to provide explosive offense and quality passing after redshirt seasons. Price and Sunder both have the experience with the U.S. Junior National team to aid them as they get ready for their first competitive season in a Penn State jersey. Thomas Pereira, Ryan Wolf, Brad McCoy and Jason Ambrose round out the outside hitting group with Pereira being the most experienced of them. This group will provide some outstanding offense and blocking as they develop through the year, and will give us some additional firepower from the serving line."
Price transferred to Penn State from George Mason, where he was named the EIVA Newcomer of the Year in 2007. He led the Patriots with 5.49 kills per game on .297 hitting and provided 48 service aces, 81 digs and 64 blocks, with double-digit kill numbers in all 20 matches he played. During the summer of 2007, Price was the starting opposite for the United States at the Junior World Championship, and was the leading scorer for the squad that finished seventh in the world.
Sunder also has international experience as he competed with the U.S. Junior National Team in the summer of 2008 at the NORCECA Championship. As an opposite, he recorded a team-high 16 points in the win over Guatemala and the squad finished third to qualify for the 2009 World Championship. Sunder was named the WPIAL AAA Most Valuable Player in 2007 while competing at Hempfield High School, located outside of Pittsburgh.
Stauffer played in 95 games and all 31 matches last season, ranking second on the team in digs with 148 and also serving as a primary passer on a squad that attacked at a .399 combined clip. He recorded a career-high 10 kills on .450 hitting against Lewis and notched nine digs three times during the 2008 season, including during the title match against Pepperdine.
Pereira saw action in 18 games and 13 matches a year ago, recording 19 kills, four aces, 11 digs and seven blocks. He notched a career-high six kills against Princeton and also added in a personal-best two blocks in the contest with the Tigers.
Ambrose played in eight games and seven matches last season, posting a career-high four kills on .333 hitting against Princeton, also adding in his first collegiate dig in the contest. He also picked up a personal-best three digs at East Stroudsburg and posted a career-high blocks twice.
McCoy contributed in four games during the 2008 season, posting six kills on an errorless eight swings to hit .750 for the year. He recorded his first collegiate kill versus Juniata and also posted two digs in the contest.
Wolf comes to Penn State after a successful career at Central York High School in York, Pa. He led his Panther squad to a runner-up finish at the 2008 PIAA AAA state championship, also claiming the YAIAA championship and finishing third in District 3.
"Ryan Sweitzer looks to build upon the success he had last year as he made strides with his offense, blocking and serving," said Pavlik. "A physically strong attacker, Sweitzer will be counted on to balance out the net with his offense and put the opponent into more predictable situations with his serve. Alan Mars will also be added to the mix. He has the capability to become a very good blocker and server, and will provide additional depth at the opposite position. He also could help at the outside if needed."
Sweitzer recorded 331 kills on .297 hitting with 96 digs and 73 blocks last season. His 3.38 kills-per-game average was good for second on the team and he posted 19 double-digit kill matches in 2008, including 11 of the last 14 contests of the year. He set a new career high with 20 kills on .353 hitting at Long Beach State and also added 19 kills at Ohio State. He recorded a career-high four aces at Loyola-Chicago and posted a career-high seven digs at George Mason, also providing at least one block in 27 matches.
Mars played in 28 games and 18 matches during the 2008 season. He recorded 24 kills, three aces and eight blocks for the year, posting his first collegiate kill against IPFW. Mars provided a career-high eight kills at East Stroudsburg and posted six kills against Princeton and again versus East Stroudsburg, also tallying a career-high three blocks in back to back contests against Princeton and at East Stroudsburg.
"The argument can be made that we have the best combination of middle hitters ever in Max Holt and Max Lipsitz," stated Pavlik. "Their continued development will cause opponents much stress in attempting to neutralize their strengths. Holt will continue to score points for us at the net and from behind the service line. Lipsitz has continued to improve his offense and serving and will also continue to provide outstanding blocking. Backing up those two will be Jon Sherrick who has shown his value as a blocking specialist and will continue to be asked to appear late in games for additional blocking. Freshman Mark Shipp joins the group and will bring added athletic ability to our gym."
Holt was tabbed as an AVCA First Team All-American in 2008 after averaging 3.18 kills per game on .548 hitting, a mark that was first on the team and in the country and also ranked second all-time in Penn State history. He recorded 18 double-digit kill matches, with a season-high 17 kills on .727 hitting at Princeton. Holt tallied 12 kills on .417 hitting in the NCAA Championship match against Pepperdine, also equaling his personal best with nine blocks against the Waves.
Lipsitz earned AVCA Second Team All-America honors after averaging 2.45 kills per game on .499 hitting with a 1.17 blocks-per-game average. He posted 10 double-digit block matches and 28 multiple-block contests. Lipsitz set a new career high with 17 kills on .500 hitting in the NCAA title match against Pepperdine and produced a personal-best 12 blocks in the NCAA Semifinal match against Ohio State.
Sherrick played in 71 games in 2008, recording 21 kills on .415 hitting and 13 total blocks. He posted a season-high five kills against Princeton and was perfect on all four swings at Juniata. Sherrick notched a season-high three blocks at East Stroudsburg and added in two stuffs versus IPFW, Princeton and Juniata.
Shipp was a two-year letterwinner from Archbishop Moeller High School in Cincinnati, Ohio. He helped the Crusaders to a third-place ranking in the state of Ohio during his senior year and the Ohio state championship during his junior season. Named a First Team Ohio All-Star, Shipp owns the single-match kill record and finished fourth in school history with 88 block assists.
"With Edgardo Goas coming off a redshirt freshman year and incoming freshman Tor Covello, the setting position is poised for a multi-year stretch with capable leadership," said Pavlik. "Goas spent his freshman year running the second team offense and forging his relationship with Will Price and Joe Sunder. In addition to last year, Goas has spent considerable time with the Puerto Rican Youth, Junior and Senior National Teams in international competition. Covello will be in the position to compete every day against some of the best players at their positions on the starting side. His development is crucial for the program's success as he will provide the offense on the second side of the net to test this year's team. Coming off a fine scholastic career, Covello will be counted on to be a presence at the net."
Standing at 6-5, Goas brings an added dynamic to the Penn State offense. He has served as the team captain for the Puerto Rican Junior National Team, recording nine blocks in a match against Cuba, which is a Puerto Rican international competition record for boys or men. Goas was a three-year team captain for Colegio Marista High School in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, and he led the Seahawks to two varsity and two junior varsity championships. He spent the summer of 2008 with the Puerto Rican Junior National Team at the NORCECA Championship, competing against Sunder and the U.S.
Covello was a three-year letterwinner at Pennsbury High School in Fairless Hills, Pa. He led his team to a two-year varsity record of 45-6 and spot in the PIAA AAA state quarterfinals. Covello helped the Falcons to the 2008 Suburban One League and District 1 championships and was a two-time first team all-league and all-district selection.
"Dennis Del Valle continues to produce high-level ball control and game play for us," said Pavlik. "Dennis will be asked to make as many first contacts as he possibly can and also to continue to be the quarterback of the serve receive and floor defense. He will be fun to watch as he continues to raise the bar for the play of a Penn State libero. Jesse Wagner has continued to develop and is becoming a very dependable passer and defender. He has also become a great teammate and works hard in providing quality passing and defense across the net from Dennis. The libero position will continue to be the engine that runs our scoring machine."
A 2008 AVCA Second-Team All-American, Del Valle led the team and ranked eighth in the country with 2.64 digs per game. His 264 total digs places him eighth on Penn State's single-season dig list and he recorded 11 double-digit dig matches last season. Del Valle produced a career-high mark of 16 digs three times, including in the NCAA title match against Pepperdine, also posting 14 digs in the NCAA National Semifinal win over Ohio State. His passing also allowed the Nittany Lions to pass at a nation-leading and school-record .399 combined hitting percentage.
Wagner played in nine games and nine matches in his initial season with the Nittany Lions, posting nine digs for the year. He recorded his first collegiate dig versus Juniata and tallied a career-best four digs against Princeton.