Nittany Lions Stuff Sacred Heart in Rec Hall Return
April 7, 2012
By Kelsey Detweiler, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
Thanks to a productive offense that swung at a .380 clip, collectively, and a defense that tallied a season-high 15.5 blocks, the Lions sailed to their 12th conference win of the season. With just two EIVA matches left to go play this season, Penn State remains atop the leader board in conference standings with an undefeated 12-0 mark.
The Nittany Lion defense made it tough for the Pioneers to score as it relied on the big single-, double- and triple-blocks throughout the night. Penn State held Sacred Heart to just a .085 offensive average for the match and won 25-19, 25-22 and 25-19 respectively.
Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik said that the blocking effort that his team put up all evening was just about as good as it has been all season long.
"You saw our best blocking defense tonight," said Pavlik. "I think what you saw what were the results of the work we've been doing in the past couple of weeks with it."
The freshmen kept things especially tight at the net as Aaron Russell led the pack with eight block assists and Nick Goodell followed with another six. Pavlik said that the team has been focusing on their block technique and really concentrating on the block during practices especially for the past three or four weeks.
The head coach said that one of those freshmen in particular has really turned his game around since the beginning of the 2011-'12 season.
"Goodell, who at one point in the fall we were wondering if he could block an intersection with a car, he did a really nice job on our block and defense," said Pavlik.
While Goodell laughed at his coach's critique, he too agreed that his improvements and his team's have been a huge help defensively at the net.
"It's just all starting to pay off," Goodell said of the blocking game. "Even in practice, not just getting blocks but just touching the ball and keeping it on our side. It's just hard work really paying off."
Penn State led the way offensively as well with the help of redshirt senior Joe Sunder's match high 13 kills hitting .409 for the evening. Sunder said that his performance on the court has not been as productive as he would have liked in recent matches, and that his match high hitting was a good reminder of what he can do.
"It felt like something I haven't really done in a while," said Sunder. "Tonight was the first time in a while that I felt confident coming out strong."
Sunder said that it was an especially nice feeling to be able to wake up in his own bed and catch a short ride to Rec Hall for the night's match rather than have to meet in a hotel lobby and ride a charter bus to an opposing team's gym.
Pavlik agreed, and said that the idea of having home court advantage is something that usually gets taken for granted.
"That is one of the underrated joys of coaching," said Pavlik. "Waking up in your own bed after long road trips and on game-day saying, you know everything can be in a normal routine."
The Nittany Lions will host Harvard on Saturday night in hopes of a 13th conference win, which would make Penn State the owner of the EIVA title yet again and allow the team to host both the conference semifinals and finals at the end of the month.