UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – Fifth-seeded No. 7 Penn State men’s volleyball (20-9, 12-0 EIVA) is set to square off against No. 4 Hawaii (25-6, 18-4 MPSF) in the second of two NCAA play-in matches Tuesday, May 5 at 11 p.m. ET in Stanford, Calif. at Maples Pavilion.
The Nittany Lions swept past both Princeton and George Mason last week to capture their 27th overall and 17th consecutive EIVA championship title, earning the conference’s automatic bid to NCAA postseason play. The winner of the PSU-Hawaii matchup will advance to the NCAA national semifinals Thursday, May 7, meeting top-ranked Lewis.
Fans can tune into both a live audio and live video stream of the match or listen locally on WRSC-FM 103.1. OC Time Warner Cable Sports will also be televising the match, so fans with a Time Warner account may stream the broadcast live online.
- In addition to an outing earlier this season, Hawaii holds a 14-8 advantage in the all-time series, including a 2-1 lead in NCAA tournament matches against PSU. While the two teams have never met in play-in match, Penn State and Hawaii squared off in the NCAA tournament in 1995, 1996 and most recently in 2002. All of UH’s wins from the 2002 season were later vacated.
- The first play-in match features No. 3 seed Loyola Chicago and No. 6 seed Pfeiffer with the winner advancing to the national semifinals to take on No. 2 UC Irvine.
- Three-time EIVA Player of the Year Aaron Russell earned EIVA All-Tournament MVP honors last week, while redshirt senior Connor Curry and sophomore Chris Nugent joined him on the All-Tournament team.
- PSU swept past Saint Francis in three sets to wrap up a perfect mark in EIVA regular season action at 12-0. Penn State’s unblemished record marks the third time in the last five years that PSU has gone unbeaten in conference play during the regular season.
- Head coach Mark Pavlik earned his 500th career victory in the 2015 regular season finale on the road at Saint Francis. He’s collected all 500+ wins while at the helm of the PSU program.
- Penn State earned a total of five EIVA postseason honors. Senior Aaron Russell highlighted the group with Uvaldo Acosta Memorial Player of the Year honors, while Mark Pavlik earned Bob Sweeney EIVA Coach of the Year Honors. Russell and redshirt senior Connor Curry earned first team honors, while redshirt senior Nick Goodell and redshirt junior Taylor Hammond were second team honorees.
- Russell joined José Quiñones (2000-02) as the only Penn State men’s volleyball student-athletes to repeat as EIVA Player of the Year in three consecutive seasons. He’s also the 16th conference player of the year selection in Nittany Lion program history.
- Penn State is ranked among the top 10 nationally in kills per set, averaging 13.01, which is slated seventh in the country and leads the EIVA. Senior Aaron Russell’s contributing a team-high 4.70 kills per set, which ranks second in the nation and first in the league. He’s reached double figure kills in all but two matches this season.
- PSU is ranked in the top 15 nationally in digs per set, averaging 9.45, which is slotted 12th in the nation and second in the EIVA. Redshirt senior Connor Curry’s leading the way with a team-high 2.49 digs per frame, which ranks seventh in the nation and first in the league. Curry’s 1,027 digs also ranks second all-time on the PSU career record list.
- With 196 career aces, senior Aaron Russell leads all active NCAA players with the most aces. On the Penn State record list, he’s ranked second all-time. On the year, Russell is averaging 0.57 aces per set, which ranks second nationally and second in the EIVA standings. As a team, Penn State’s 1.50 aces per set ranks sixth nationally and second in the conference.
NITTANY LIONS CAPTURE 17TH CONSECUTIVE EIVA CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE
Top-seeded Penn State swept past third-seeded George Mason in three sets (25-16, 25-17, 25-17) to capture its 27th overall and 17th consecutive EIVA Championship title. A trio of Nittany Lions led the offense with double figure kills. Senior EIVA Player of the Year Aaron Russell led the group with 15 kills on .619 hitting, adding six digs and two aces to earn EIVA Championship Most Outstanding Player honors. Sophomore Chris Nugent and senior Connor Curry also earned EIVA All-Tournament team honors.
PENN STATE TOTALS FIVE ALL-EIVA POSTSEASON HONORS
Four Nittany Lions earned EIVA postseason honors. Senior Aaron Russell highlights the group with his third consecutive Uvaldo Acosta Memorial Player of the Year honor, making him just the second Nittany Lion in program history to earn the award three times. Additionally, head coach Mark Pavlik earned Bob Sweeney EIVA Coach of the Year honors. Redshirt senior Connor Curry and Russell each earned First Team All-EIVA honors, while redshirt senior Nick Goodell and redshirt junior Taylor Hammond earned second team accolades.
The four All-EIVA honors brings Penn State’s all-time number of conference selections to 198 since 1972. Pavlik’s Coach of the Year laurel marks the fifth time he’s been selected for the award, as was previously honored in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2013.
A CLOSER LOOK AT HAWAII
Penn State trails Hawaii 8-14 in the all-time series, having met the non-conference Rainbow Warriors fairly frequently during the regular season. While the two teams have never met in a post season play-in match, both Hawaii and PSU squared off in the 1995, 1996 and 2002 NCAA tournament. At 1-2 in tournament outings, the Nittany Lions claimed a 3-2 win in the 1995 matchup, but fell to the `Bows in three sets in 1996. PSU also lost to eventual national champion Hawaii in four sets in 2002, but the UH wins and the championship in the 2002 season were later vacated.
The Nittany Lions and the Rainbow Warriors met earlier this season in the 21st annual Outrigger Resorts Invitational, where Hawaii captured a 3-0 (26-24, 25-19, 25-18) win against Penn State. In the last five years, PSU and Hawaii have met in the Outrigger Invitational four times, with both team claiming wins in two outings apiece.
Hawaii’s 2015 season came to a close with a 3-1 loss to Pepperdine in the MPSF Championship semifinals. The Rainbow Warriors finished the season with a 24-6 overall record and an 18-4 mark in MPSF play before earning one of two NCAA at-large bids to make this year’s six-team tournament.
ALL ABOUT THE ACE
With 196 career aces, senior Aaron Russell leads all active NCAA players with the most aces. On the Penn State record list, he’s ranked second all-time and needs nine more aces to match Max Holt (2006-09). On the year, Russell is averaging 0.57 aces per set, which ranks second nationally and second in the EIVA standings.
The winner of the Penn State-Hawaii matchup will move on to meet top-ranked Lewis in the NCAA national semifinals, Thursday, May 7. The first play-in match features No. 3 seed Loyola and No. 6 seed Pfeiffer with the winner advancing to the NCAA national semifinals to play No. 2 seed UC Irvine (28-4). The winners of both semifinal matches will advance to the NCAA national semifinals Saturday, May 9 at 9:30 p.m. ET in Maples Pavilion. The matchup will broadcast live on ESPNU.