2010 Penn State Men's Volleyball Outlook
Jan. 4, 2010
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Penn State men's volleyball team looks to put another successful season in the books in 2010 with 14 returning letterwinners, including five returning starters, from last year's squad that finished 27-4 overall and finished 12-0 in the EIVA for the 13th time. Despite losing All-American Max Holt, as well as the services of Jon Sherrick, Ryan Sweitzer and Jay Stauffer, head coach Mark Pavlik welcomes the assistance of five newcomers to this year's team. Pavlik is joined by third-year assistant coach Colin McMillan and first-year assistant Jay Hosack.
Anchoring the outside for Pavlik this season is senior AVCA First Team All-American Will Price and redshirt-sophomore All-EIVA second team honoree Joe Sunder. The experience of this pair will make up for the loss of Stauffer, who saw time in 29 matches last season. Pavlik is looking forward to benefiting from the experience and physicality of the duo at either end of the net.
"We're going to expect Joe and Will to take a majority of our swings this season," said Pavlik. "They give us the option of playing at either side and being effective in both places. We're looking forward to having both of them on the court. We know they can take big swings for us and block pretty well. Having them puts us in good shape early on this year."
Price started all 31 matches last season, finishing the season second on the squad with 343 kills (3.43 kills per set) on .365 hitting. He was also strong on defense registering 134 digs (1.34 digs per set) and contributing 62 total blocks (0.62 blocks per set). The Nittany Lions could also count on a tough serve from Price. The Gaithersburg, Md. native finished second on the team with 51 service aces (0.51 aces per set).
Sunder, who started 28 of 31 matches for Penn State last season and closed out the season with 251 kills, spent the summer competing on the U.S. Junior National Team. After earning Second Team All-EIVA, Sunder guided the U.S. men to a second place finish in Pool A of the 2009 FIVB World Championships in Pune, India. The team went on to finish eighth in the tournament. It was Sunder's second summer with the Junior National Team, as he competed in the NORCECA Championship in 2008.
Joining Sunder and Price on the outside are senior Jason Ambrose, junior Thomas Pereira, sophomore Ryan Wolf and newcomer Kyle Mars. Pavlik feels these four players all bring something different to the squad.
"Kyle is pretty quick with long arms," said Pavlik. "He passes the ball well and he's very good with in-system attacking. Ryan has worked his way up the depth chart. He is not a flashy player, but he's quietly competitive. You notice Ryan because he's always smack in the middle of good things happening. Thomas has the most live-arm of these four. He brings a lot of energy to the court and we've used him in a number of situations where the energy level on the court needed to be brought up and he responded well. Jason is the most consistent passer in the group. His ability to control the ball allows us to slow things down. He is also a good serve/receive option for us."
Jason competed in three matches last season for the Nittany Lions. He saw action against Harvard, recording two kills and one dig, and also had two digs against in a match against Mount Olive. Pereira also saw time in three matches in 2009, including against Juniata, Harvard and Mount Olive. He posted five kills, three digs and one block. Wolf played in four matches and six sets for Pavlik. His first collegiate appearance came against Harvard in which he registered one assist and one dig. Later in the season, Wolf tallied two assists, one dig and two blocks against Princeton.
Mars joins the Nittany Lions after a successful career at Gates Chili High School in Rochester, N.Y. The two-year captain played for Pace Bootlegger Volleyball Club that were three-time East Coast Championship champs and two-time Can-Am Qualifier Champions. Mars also competed for the USA Youth National A2 Team in 2007 and the USA Junior National A2 Team in 2008.
"Alan is heading into his fourth year after we redshirted him," said Pavlik. "His strength is his blocking. He has steadily improved offensively at the opposite spot the last few years, as well. Alan has been around the program and he knows what is expected. In truth, he is probably the `bigger brother' to more than just Kyle. The opposite spot may be a little inexperienced in terms of starting, but I think we have two guys in Alan and Tom that we can get numbers from. As the year goes along, I think we're going to see a nice steady improvement at the right pin."
Mars played in nine matches in 2009 finishing the season with 20 kills and seven blocks. He saw time in two sets against Juniata putting down a season-high five kills. He tied his season high with five kills and two blocks in a 3-0 sweep of Princeton on March 27.
Comfort was a three-year letterwinner in volleyball and a two-year letterwinner in both basketball and baseball at Orchard Park High School in Orchard Park, N.Y. During his senior season, Comfort guided his high school team to the New York SPHAA State Championship. He's a Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 selection and was a member of the 2009 New York State Volleyball Championship Team. He played for the Eden Volleyball Club out of Buffalo, N.Y., which finished fifth in the Junior Olympics.
Pavlik is excited about the return of All-American middle Max Lipsitz who will provide leadership and experience to the front line. Behind Lipsitz are freshmen Nick Turko and Ian Hendries and sophomore Mark Shipp.
"To have an All-American middle in Max returning to our lineup this year is very comforting for this team and the staff," said Pavlik. "He has certainly establish himself as one of the best middles in the country and I think he's poised for a strong season. His continued improvement in blocking will allow him to control a lot of middles he'll face. Max is going to force a lot of opposing defenses to worry about what he's going to throw at them.
"While there may be no experience behind him with Ian, Nick and Mark, there is some great athletic ability. If the fall gives us any glimpse of what is going to happen in the future, I like where the future with those three lies. We might not get the same numbers that Max Holt put up for us last year, but we're going to have three options that can go in and all do different things. Ian is a strong blocker, Nick is great offensively and Mark knows what is expected on the floor. Combined, those three can do some pretty nice things."
Shipp saw his first collegiate action against Harvard early in 2009 where he had one block. He also saw action against NJIT, where he posted one kill.
Hendries is 6-8 and hails from Cardiff, Calif. He guided La Costa Canyon High School to four league championships and to CIF Championships in 2008 and 2009. His team went on to finish third at States his senior season.
Turko joins the Nittany Lions from Red Land High School in Lewisberry, Pa. where he was a three-year varsity starter. He was the Divisional MVP and the Carlisle Sentinel Player of the Year, a Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 selection and an AVCA First Team All-American his senior year. Turko also played for the Yorktowne Volleyball Club, which finished first at the Rochester Can-Am.
"When you have an All-American setter coming back, as we do with Edgardo, it allows you to start on a whole different chapter," said Pavlik. "Edgardo learned much last year from starting and certainly from the last match in the NCAA Semifinal. He's had a fall we are really pleased with. He is a pretty good blocker and he's shown stretches where he can dig balls really well. Edgardo also controls his serve really well. He's going to have a great connection with Max, Will and Joe.
"We know we can count on Tor, as well. He has made some great strides since last year and understands the collegiate game much better. He has been working with Jay to iron out some technical issues and has developed a good sense of offense. I like where our setting is heading into 2010. It will help us have a pretty good attack, both conceptionally and in execution."
Goas, the 2009 EIVA Newcomer of the Year, started every match last season and played in all 106 sets. He led the team with 1,367 assists and averaged 12.90 assists per set, good enough for sixth in the nation. The San Juan, Puerto Rico native guided the Nittany Lion offense to a nation-leading .397 attack percentage with five primary hitters averaging more than 2.67 kills per set. He spent the summer competing for the Puerto Rican Junior National Team at the Pan Am Cup in Chiapas, Mexico. The team finished fifth in the tournament.
Covello saw the floor in five matches, including dishing out seven assists in his first collegiate appearance against Harvard. He also saw time against NJIT where we posted one kill, four assists and a block, as well as against Mount Olive in which he contributed three helpers.
Junior Dennis Del Valle will once again grace the Penn State crowds with his jaw-dropping plays as the anchor of the Nittany Lion attack. Backing Del Valle up at libero will be classmate Jesse Wagner.
"Obviously we're losing the points from Holt and Sweitzer and the blocking from experienced guys," said Pavlik. "This means we're going to need Dennis and Jesse to help us win our fair share of rallies. Dennis has improved upon his success last season and had an outstanding fall. Jesse has continued to improve as well and will be one of the team captains this year. These two guys are the driving force during our matches; they're our little engine that just keeps chugging along. If we can make it so Dennis makes the majority of our first contacts, then it will make Edgardo's job easier and our hitter's will reap the benefits."
Del Valle earned his second All-America honor in 2009 after starting every match at libero. The Toa Alta, Puerto Rico native averaged 3.07 digs per set, which ranked fourth in the nation. His set the Penn State single-season record for digs with 310 and ranks 10th on Penn State's all-time career-digs list with 574. Del Valle had double-digit digs in 16 matches and no less than three digs in every match of the season. Against Long Beach State, Del Valle posted a career-high and rally-scoring-era school record with 18 saves and did it again less than a month later against George Mason. His effective passing also allowed the Nittany Lions to attack at a nation-leading .397 attack percentage.
Wagner played in six matches for Pavlik posting 11 digs for the season. He served as libero for the third set against Juniata where he had two digs and also notched two digs against NJIT in the final set. He went on to lead the team with six digs in two sets against Mount Olive.