UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- The No. 14 Penn State men's volleyball team (13-4, 6-1) is headed to the west coast this weekend for a pair of non-conference clashes at the Active Ankle Classic. The Nittany Lions square off against Cal State Northridge (6-11, 6-10) Friday, March 14 at 8 p.m. ET before taking on tournament host No. 2 Long Beach State (13-4, 12-4) Saturday, March 15 at 10 p.m. ET.
WEEK NINE IN REVIEW The Nittany Lions came up just short in a 3-1 loss on the road at Ohio State. Redshirt junior Nick Goodell and junior Aaron Russell powered the offense with double-digit kills, led by 20 from Russell. Despite the outcome, Penn State closed out its regular-season series with a 2-1 record against the Buckeyes.
NITTANY LIONS IN THE AVCA COACHES POLL - WEEK 10 UPDATE Following a setback on the road last weekend, Penn State moved to No. 14 in the latest AVCA DI-II Top 15 Poll. Last week, Penn State moved back to No. 12 after spending a week at No. 10. Prior to the No. 10 positioning, the Nittany Lions were slated No. 12 for six consecutive weeks. Additionally, Penn State is the only EIVA team to be ranked within the top 15.
PENN STATE VS. CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE The Nittany Lions hold an 8-4 advantage in the all-time series. In the most recent outing between the two teams, Penn State swept Cal State Northridge in straight sets to close out the Penn State Invitational at home in 2011. Since 1993, the team clubs have met five times, with Penn State winning four-of-five matches. Within the span, the Lions lost just one regular-season contest in 2010, but rebounded to defeat the Matadors in straights sets in the 2010 NCAA national semifinals to advance to the national final game.
SCOUTING THE MATADORS CSUN recently dropped a 3-1 decision to then-No. 2 BYU last weekend to move to 6-11 overall and 6-10 in the conference. Sam Holt is at the helm of the Cal State Northridge offense, averaging a team-high 3.54 kills per set, which ranks 20th nationally. Ranking second on the squad with 124 kills, Greg Faulkner's .441 hitting clip ranks fourth in the nation. As a team, the Matadors' 1.17 aces per set ranks 21st nationally and sixth in the Mountain Pacific conference.
PENN STATE VS. LONG BEACH STATE The 49ers own a 6-14 mark in the all-time series against the Nittany Lions. In the most recent tilt, LBSU came away with a 3-1 win on their home court during the 2011 Active Ankle Challenge. Despite a close 3-2 loss to Long Beach State in 2009, the Nittany Lions posted a 3-2 win against LBSU in 2008 to claim the Active Ankle title.
SCOUTING THE 49ERS Long Beach State enters the weekend at home looking to extend a six-match winning streak that dates back to a 3-0 win against defending national champions UC Irvine February 19th. Overall, the 49ers rank within the top five nationally in almost every statistical category. Leading the NCAA and the Mountain Pacific in digs per set, (11.43), LBSU is also ranked second in kills per set (13.81) and assists per set, (13.33) and fifth in blocks per set (2.83) and hitting percentage (.316). Averaging 5.05 kills per set, Taylor Crabb is leading the 49ers offense, while also ranking 16th nationally in digs per set (2.33). In addition to pacing the squad to a .316 clip, setter Connor Olbright's 12.00 assists per set ranks first nationally. Defensively, Jeff Ornee's 1.26 blocks per frame ranks ninth nationally, while Andrew Sato's 2.71 digs per set ranks fourth.
RUSSELL AMONG THE BEST SERVERS IN THE NATION Junior Aaron Russell is continuing his stellar performance from the service line as his 0.54 aces per set ranks second nationally for the second consecutive week. His team-high mark also leads the conference. In 2013, Russell tallied 40 aces on the year, which ranks 10th all-time on the single-season record list. With 32 aces on the year, he's just eight shy of matching his 2013 single-season mark. On the career all-time list, his 97 aces ranks eighth. He needs just two more to tie Jose Quinones (1999-02) for seventh all-time.
A CLEAN SWEEP Penn State has earned nine of its victories in straight sets this season, putting together a perfect 9-0 mark in three-set matches. Penn State swept six consecutive opponents from February 7 to February 22 to add to the mark. In the last five years the Nittany Lions have recorded at least 13 straight-set wins each year, led by 22 3-0 victories in 2009.
IN THE MIDDLE Within the EIVA standings, junior Aaron Russell is the only student-athlete to be ranked within the top 10 in kills, digs and aces. Averaging 3.83 kills per set and 0.54 aces per set, Russell is leading the league in both categories. His 1.97 digs per set ranks ninth overall to round out his all-around presence in the EIVA rankings.
WHAT'S NEXT? Following the Active Ankle Challenge, the Nittany Lions will remain on the road for one more weekend, closing out a seven-match road test with a pair of non-conference matches. Penn State takes on Loyola Friday, March 21 before squaring off against Lewis Saturday, March 22.