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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – The Penn State men’s volleyball team will look to keep the momentum going as it travels to Sacred Heart and Harvard this weekend for a pair of EIVA matches. The Nittany Lions will tangle with the Pioneers on Friday, March 30 at 4 p.m. before taking on the Crimson at 7 p.m. on Saturday, March 31.
Fans can follow along with each match on Twitter (@PennStateMVball) or click on the links for live stats and live video on the right sidebar.
Quick Notes: Penn State
Penn State enters the weekend with an 11-8 overall mark and a 6-2 record in EIVA competition with three weeks remaining in the regular season.
The Nittany Lions are currently tied for No. 2 in the EIVA with Harvard entering the weekend, with both squads chasing George Mason (8-0) for the top spot and right to host the EIVA Championships at the end of April.
After winning seven of eight matches to run its record to 10-3, the Nittany Lions dropped five in a row - including four-straight to top-10 ranked foes - before beating St. Francis (Pa.) on March 18.
Notable streaks entering Friday's match at Sacred Heart include 13-straight matches with at least one block for Kevin Gear and five-straight double-digit kill matches for Calvin Mende.
Gear has been a force at the net this season for Penn State, posting at least one block in 17of 18 matches played, including 16 matches with at least two blocks.
Mende started his streak with 13 converted swings at Princeton and followed that up with 18 and 10 kills, respectively, vs. No. 4 BYU and No. 2 Hawai'i to open the Outrigger Invitational in Honolulu. After missing the final match in the Outrigger vs. Lewis, he boasted 15 successful swings against No. 9 Ohio State and added 10 kills vs. St. Francis (Pa.) in his last outing.
NCAA Career Leaders
Penn State men's volleyball has long been among the most storied programs in the sports history and some current Nittany Lions are ranking among the career active leaders in the NCAA.
The following five Nittany Lions are among the top-25 of the active NCAA Division I-II student-athletes in a bevy of categories;
Luke Braswell - S, R-So.
Assists 1,672 22nd
Assists Per Set 10.13 3rd
Royce Clemens - L, R-Jr.
Digs 734 4th
Digs Per Set 2.42 7th
Kevin Gear - MB, R-Sr.
Total Blocks 221 18th
Blocks Per Set 0.90 18th
Calvin Mende - OPP, R-So.
Hitting Percentage .294 16th
Jaylen Penrose - MB, R-Sr.
Service Aces 100 10th
Service Aces Per Set 0.33 14th
Tough From the Line
Penn State enters the weekend ranked No. 9 nationally and No. 2 in the EIVA in service aces per set. The Nittany Lions are averaging 1.68 aces per set and have nearly 30 more service aces this season than their opponents (121-92).
In 19 matches, Penn State has posted 7-or-more service aces on 10 occasions, owning an 8-2 mark in those contests. On the flip side of that, Nittany Lion opponents own just five such matches.
Three Penn Staters sit among the top-35 in the NCAA in service aces per set, led by redshirt-senior Jaylen Penrose at No. 4 (0.569 aps). Redshirt-senior Aidan Albrecht is No. 21 (0.418) and redshirt-junior Matthew McClaren is No. 32 (0.385).
Quick Notes: Sacred Heart
Sacred Heart has won two of its last three matches to improve to 4-11 on the season. However, the Pioneers are still searching for their first EIVA win of the season, entering Friday's action with an 0-8 conference mark.
SHU is doing it with defense, ranking among the top-5 nationally in digs per set and blocks per set entering Friday. The Pioneers are No. 12 nationally with 2.36 blocks per set and rank No. 13 in the nation at 9.63 digs per set.
Junior Emerson Waumans leads the team with 3.4 points and 2.76 kills per set, while fellow third-year Taylor Bloomquist leads all qualifying Pioneers with 1.08 blocks per set. Senior Joshua Ayzenberg ranks No. 2 nationally with 3.08 digs per set, a total that leads the EIVA.
Series History and Team Comparison on Page 3
Last Time Out: at Penn State 3, Sacred Heart 1 (2/16/18)
No. 9 Penn State took care of Sacred Heart 3-1 (25-15, 27-29, 25-21, 25-18) Friday night in Rec Hall to remain undefeated in EIVA play on the season. The victory snapped a two-match skid versus the Pioneers for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State (7-2, 2-0) started the opening set on a 6-1 run and cruised to a decisive 25-15 set-one victory to take the early edge on Sacred Heart (2-5, 0-2).
In set two, the Pioneers matched the Nittany Lions point-for-point, as the set saw the score tied on 20 occasions and ended with SHU grabbing a 29-27 set win to knot the match at one.
Tied at 27-27 in the second, Sacred Heart's Taylor Bloomquist put a ball away to give the Pioneers a one-point lead. The next play was a costly one for Penn State as an attack error ended the set and tied the match at 1-1 heading into the break.
Coming out of the break, it was all Penn State as the Nittany Lions took set three, 25-21, and handled the Pioneers in the fourth set, 25-18, close out the four-set win.
Matthew McLaren, the Mike Anderson Player of the Match, finished with 13 kills, three service aces, three digs and one block.
Joining McLaren in double-digit kills were Aidan Albrecht and Calvin Mende who each registered 14 apiece. Mende returned to the court after a short stint on the sideline with an injury in impressive fashion hitting at a clip of .440, adding nine digs and two blocks.
Quick Notes: Harvard
After starting the season 1-8, Harvard has reeled off six wins over its last nine matches to enter the weekend with a 7-11 overall record, including a 6-2 mark in EIVA play.
Senior Brad Gretsch has been a beast in the middle over the last nine matches for the Crimson, posting six double-digit kill matches and adding a 19-kill, 10-dig double-double at NJIT on Feb. 24. Gretsch has played in only 11 matches, missing seven competitions between Jan. 27-Feb. 17, yet leads the team in points (159.5) and kills (139).
Harvard is another squad that is strong on the defensive side of the net, ranking No. 4 nationally with an EIVA-leading 10.18 digs per set. That is helped by 2.26 blocks per set, which sits among the top-20 nationally.
Series History and Team Comparison on Page 3
Last Time Out: at Penn State 3, Harvard 0 (2/17/18)
No. 9 Penn State men's volleyball swept past Harvard 3-0 (29-27, 25-14, 25-18) Saturday afternoon in the South Gym of Rec Hall.
Penn State (8-2, 3-0) allowed Harvard (1-8, 1-2) to stick around in the opening set with a slew of self-inflicting errors. The Nittany Lions spotted the Crimson 14-points by way of attack r service errors. However, Penn State continued to serve tough and, in the end, the service line was the key to winning the set. Luke Braswell used an opportunity at the service line to ace Harvard for the final point in the 29-27 set one win.
Penn State grabbed the second set, 25-14, and closed out the match with a 25-18 win in set three to complete the sweep.
Jalen Penrose, the Mike Anderson Player of the Match, finished with 10 kills, four service aces, two digs and five blocks. Also registering double-digit kills was Matthew McLaren who put down 11 balls on the night. Calvin Mende capped his comeback weekend by adding six kills on 15 swings, hitting .333 vs. the Crimson, to go along with five digs and four blocks.
A complete game note packet can be found by clicking here.