Nittany Lions Move Into NCAA Semifinals
May 1, 2011
By Jeff Sattora, GoPSUsports.com Student Staff Writer
The top-seeded Lions took out third-seeded Springfield College, 25-20, 25-14, 26-24 to win the program's 23rd EIVA Tournament title, and 13th straight.
With the win Penn State has advanced to the NCAA Championship for the 26th time in program history, and 16th under current head coach Mark Pavlik.
Although the Lions did win in three straight, Springfield was in no way a push over for the home team.
`They have three very formidable weapons in Bravo, Falcone and Palumbo and Mike Becker does a real nice job running that offense," Pavlik said.
The third set was especially a battle for Penn State, as after leading 1-0, they didn't hold a lead again until 21-20.
That third set became the time for Joe Sunder to shine as the 6-7 redshirt junior recorded seven of his team high 13 kills to secure the sweep.
"There was a rally there where we weren't really taking very aggressive swings," Sunder said, "I just looked at that and realized we had to step it up a little bit and that's what I did."
Serving seemed to be a key to the match for the Lions to come out on top.
"We knew we would have to control their serves to the point we could make our serve receive a weapon, which I thought we did well today," Pavlik said, "and we had to try to slow down those three (Bravo, Falcone, Palumbo) and the two middles with our serving and not give them as many swings."
The Lions were able to hold down EIVA First Team All- Conference member Alberto Bravo, who after having 26 kills in the semi's only had 9 against the Lions, hitting .086.
"We just wanted to have hands in front of him, we wanted to make him know he wasn't going to get clean kills," Pavlik said talking about their strategy against Bravo.
Penn State on the other hand was able to have three players get double digit kills with Sunder's 13 to go along with Tom Comfort and Ryan Wolf both having 11.
Libero Dennis Del Valle helped lead the Lions with 14 digs and two assists to take home the tournament's Most Outstanding Player Award.
While his head coach said about his performance tonight, "it might have been the finest match I've seen Dennis have in a long, long time," for Del Valle it was all about the team moving on, even with his individual award.
"This is a team sport, and I personally just wanted to win and play at home, this is my last year so I'm just trying to enjoy it and be a leader for them and keep the energy going," Del Valle said. "I guess I just got lucky getting plays."
Del Valle and his teammates are going to get at least one more match in front of the home crowd as the NCAA semifinals and finals will be held in Rec Hall on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. No. 1 USC will meet No. 4 UC Santa Barbara at 7 p.m., while the second-seeded Nittany Lions will take on No. 3 Ohio State at 9 p.m. Both semifinal matches will be Thursday.
Penn State knows how big home court advantage can be in the NCAA tournament as they fell to the home team Stanford in three games in last year's NCAA finals.
"It's going to be five or six times the crowd we had tonight, Stanford experienced it last year and it worked for them, we need to take advantage of it and use it to our ability," Sunder said.
Penn State will try to use that crowd and momentum from Saturday's sweep to put itself in a position for another NCAA title.