Penn State Downs Mount Olive in Straight Sets

Story posted February 1, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Uriah Tagle

Riding the momentum of three straight wins entering the match, the No. 12 Penn State Nittany Lions (4-2) downed the visiting Mount Olive Trojans (1-5), 3-0 (25-14, 25-13, 25-19), for their fourth consecutive victory.  Despite beginning the season with two straight losses to UCLA and Hawaii in Honolulu, during the Outrigger Invitational, the Nittany Lions have not lost since returning home to Happy Valley.

Despite Mount Olive’s 1-4 record coming into the match, Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik wanted to make sure that his team did not overlook a competitive Trojans squad.

“We thought coming into this that we had to make sure this wasn’t a trap type of game,” Pavlik said.  “We wanted to make them play big boy volleyball for a long, long time.”

Penn State jumped out to a 15-8 lead to begin the first set, and never looked back, thanks to two kills each by redshirt freshman middle blocker Matt Callaway, and redshirt sophomore middle blocker Matt Seifert.

After a Mount Olive timeout, the Trojans went on a 3-0 run, which was quickly countered when the Nittany Lions went on a 5-1 run of their own.  On the set point, redshirt sophomore setter, Taylor Hammond, floated the serve over the net to the Trojans, who returned the ball directly into the wall of Aaron Russell and Matt Callaway, sealing the set for the Nittany Lions, 25-14.

Penn State dominated the first set statistically, with Mount Olive closing the period hitting an atrocious -.087%.  Callaway and Seifert finished the first set with three kills apiece for Penn State, with Aaron and Peter Russell each adding a kill as well.  

The Nittany Lions remained hot to open up the second set, taking a 7-1 lead into the first timeout.  While the Trojans went on a few small runs, they were not able to sustain anything substantial, and trailed Penn State for the majority of the period.  6-4 freshman outside hitter Joey Farrell ended the period emphatically for the Nittany Lions, with a vicious kill that gave them a 25-13 set win.

While Farrell ended the second period with a bang, the beginning of the set was his Penn State debut.  The freshman out of Lombard, Illinois, shined in his first match, hitting .444 with six kills, and adding two digs on the defensive end.

“I was very nervous when I first got out there, I had to look over at the coaches and they told me to settle down, relax, and breathe,” Farrell said in the postgame press conference.  “Once I finally got into it, it was just really fun.”

The Lions continued their roll in the third stanza, outplaying the Trojans in every aspect of the game.  Penn State took an 18-9 lead into the first timeout on the floor, but the Trojans quickly countered.  A 9-5 run brought Mount Olive within striking distance, but the Penn State offensive was just too strong.  The Nittany Lions went on to win the final set 25-19 thanks to a service error from Mount Olive’s freshman outside hitter Garret Dimm.

When it was all said and done, 6-7 redshirt freshman outside hitter Spencer Sauter led the Nittany Lions in kills, recording seven while hitting .875.  While Sauter did not record a kill in the first set, he closed out the match strong with four of his kills coming in the final frame.

“He’s a great ball control guy, his net game is getting better and better, and he’s been blocking the best he’s ever blocked in the last 3-4 weeks,” Pavlik said.

On the defensive side of the ball, the Penn State front line continued to impress in the matchup against Mount Olive, recording three blocks, and earning the praise of Pavlik.

“The thing that sticks out most is our blocking, we’ve done some pretty serious work on it in the practice gym,” said Pavlik.  “You get fourteen blocks in three games, and you’re doing a pretty good job”

Penn State will begin EIVA conference play on Saturday, when they host the visiting Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash (2-2) at Rec Hall.  ComRadio will have the call live at 8:00 p.m.

Uriah Tagle is a junior majoring in communication arts and sciences, and economics. To contact him, email uriahtagle@gmail.com.