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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - No. 13 Penn State men's volleyball is set to kick off the 2017 campaign this weekend, traveling to Columbus OH for the Pac-12/Big 10 Challenge at Rec St. John Arena. The Nittany Lions will square off against No. 2 UCLA (1-0) Friday, Jan. 6 at 5:00 p.m. ET, before taking on (RV) USC (1-0) January 7 at 3:00 p.m. ET. Fans can catch a live video stream of the matchup against UCLA at https://www.facebook.com/offtheblockvolleyball and USC on BTN2Go.
Live stats for all Penn State matches will be provided as well.
PENN STATE vs. UCLA
Penn State last faced UCLA during the opening weekend of last season pushing the Bruins to a fifth-set before falling 3-2. UCLA leads the all-time series 29-6 dating back to 1982.
All starters return for the Bruins - OH Jake Arnitz, MB Mitch Stahl, MB Oliver Martin, S/H Micah Ma'a, S/H Hagen Smith, OH JT Hatch, Libero Davis Gillett. In addition, first subs Opp Christian Hessenauer, OH Michael Fisher, OH Dylan Missry, MB Eric Sprague are also back. Veteran Jackson Bantle returns as well as a OH/Opp.
Last season, the Bruins participated in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since it captured the program's 19th title in 2006 when it took on Ohio State in the semifinals in University Park, Pa.
PENN STATE vs. USC
Penn State knocked off then-No. 12 USC in straight sets (25-18, 25-19, 25-21) at home in Rec Hall for the Nittany Lions' first win against a ranked opponent last season during their last matchup on January 7, 2016. Southern California leads the all-time series 18-8 dating back to 1980.
Receiving votes in the latest AVCA Coaches' Poll, USC welcome back 12 lettermen from last year, including at 4 starting spots: 3-year starting middle blocker Andy Benesh, 2-year starting outside hitter Lucas Yoder, opposite hitter Jon Rivera and co-starting setter Gert Lisha. A number of other returning Trojans have key playing experience.
PENN STATE IN THE NATIONAL RANKINGS
Penn State finished 2016 ranked in the top-25 in five different team categories including top-10 rankings in Kills Per Set - 13.11 (6th), Blocks Per Set – 2.36 (10th) and Assists Per Set - 12.38 (6th). Individually, Chris Nugent was ranked 13th in the nation in Points Per Set (4.43) and 12th in the nation in Kills Per Set (3.80), while Matt Callaway finished 21st in the nation in Blocks Per Set averaging 1.01. Taylor Hammond finished fifth in the nation in Assists Per Set averaging 10.97.
PENN STATE VOTED EIVA PRESEASON No. 2
The Penn State men's volleyball team, 18-time defending Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) champions, were selected as the preseason No. 2 as voted by the league's eight head coaches Monday afternoon. The Nittany Lions, who finished the 2016 season 19-10 advancing to the EIVA Semifinals, received 54 points and one of the eight first-place votes. George Mason, led by former Nittany Lion assistant coach Jay Hosack - the reigning EIVA Champions from the 2016 season - received seven of the eight first-place votes. The Patriots captured 63 points as voted by the league's eight head coaches. Rounding out the top-three is Saint Francis (Pa.), who fell to George Mason in the EIVA Championship match last season in Rec Hall, taking home 49 points in this year's poll. Princeton and NJIT were separated by one point as the Tigers earned 33 points to place fourth and the Highlanders secured 32 points to claim the fifth spot in the preseason poll. Harvard is sixth with 29 points, Sacred Heart has 19 points in seventh, while Charleston (WV) rounds out the poll with nine points in eighth-place.
NITTANY LIONS PICKED 13th IN AVCA PRESEASON POLL
Penn State and No. 10 George Mason were
the only EIVA schools to earn a spot on this year’s AVCA DI-II Men’s Volleyball
Preseason Poll. The Nittany Lions checked in at No.13. Ohio State earned this
year’s No. 1 overall spot as the defending national champions, while UCLA grabbed the No. 2 position. NCAA runner-up BYU checked in at No. 3, while Long Beach State and Pepperdine rounded out the top five at No. 4 and No. 5, respectively.
Anderson, Holt, and
Russell Captured Bronze Medals for Team USA at 2016 Rio Olympic GAMES
Earlier this year Nittany Lion alums Matt Anderson, Max Holt, and Aaron Russell earned bronze medals as a part of the U.S. Men’s Volleyball National Team at the summer olympic games in Rio.
PAVLIK KNOWS HOW TO WIN
In his 23rd year at the helm of the program, head coach Mark Pavlik has amassed
over 500 wins. Pavlik recorded 19 wins in the 2016 campain totaling 522 for his career.
FRESH FACES ON THE COURT IN 2017
The defending EIVA regular season champion men’s volleyball team returns a core group of eightletterwinners and four starters this year, while welcoming five freshmen to the roster.
The new additions include 6-10 MB/OH Cameron Bartus from West Seneca, N.Y.,
Declan Pierce, a 5-10 Libero from Buffalo, N.Y., Kyle Mackiewicz, a 6-8 OPP/MH from
Edison, N.J., Bobby Wilden, a 6-8 OH/MH from Ashburn, Va. and Nathan Smith, a 6-5 setter from Los Altos, Calif.
The Nittany Lions take a weekend trip to the state of Indiana as they face non-conference opponents Ball State and IPFW Jan.13-14, respectively.