Penn State will play in the Final Four that the school is hosting next week.
Penn State swept Springfield College 25-17, 25-14, 26-24 in the EIVA Tournament championship on Saturday in University Park, Pa., to receive the conference’s automatic bid to the men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament for the 13th consecutive season.
Penn State’s All-American libero Dennis Del Valle was named the EIVA Tournament Most Valuable Player after having a match-high 24 digs in the championship match.
“This is my last year so I’m trying to enjoy it and be a good leader and keep the energy going. I guess I just got lucky getting plays,” Del Valle said. “It was fun being out there playing with them and I wasn’t really expecting it. It was a good team effort.
Despite leading the conference in attack percentage throughout the regular season, Springfield was out-hit .309 to .211. The Pride hit above .300 in first and third game but were held to a match-worst .028 attack percentage and seven attack errors in the second game.
Springfield outside attacker Alberto Bravo, who had a match-high 26 kills in the team’s upset semifinals victory against George Mason in the semifinals, was held to nine kills in the championship match.
“We just wanted to have hands in front of him. We wanted to make him know that he wasn’t going to get clean kills. We’ve played him twice, we’ve seen him on video,” Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said.
“Alberto’s the type of hitter that if he starts bouncing balls clean and nobody touches him he becomes Superman. We wanted him to keep those Clark Kent glasses on.”
Three Nittany Lions players had at least 10 kills in the sweep. Outside attacker Joe Sunder had a match-high 13 kills, while Ryan Wolf and Tom Comfort each had 11 kills.
Both Sunder and Wolf were named to the EIVA All-Tournament Team.
The championship loss was the final conference match for Springfield in the EIVA. The Pride announced earlier this school year they will leave the EIVA next season to compete for the inaugural NCAA Division III championship.
This is the second consecutive season the host school will play in the Final Four. Stanford hosted the 2010 Final Four and won its second championship in program history, defeating Penn State in the championship match.
The men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament is comprised of Four teams — the three conference champions and one at-large team.
Penn State will likely be the No. 3 or No. 4 seed for the NCAA Tournament depending on the winners of the MIVA and MPSF championship matches, which will be decided later tonight. The at-large bid and seeding for the Final Four will be announced Sunday afternoon.
Both NCAA semifinals will be Thursday and winners will advance to the national championship match Saturday.
EIVA All-Tournament Team
EIVA Tournament MVP: Dennis Del Valle, Penn State
Opposite: Alberto Bravo, Springfield
Outside attacker: Ryan Wolf, Penn State
Outside attacker: Joe Sunder, Penn State
Setter: Jeff Zornig, Rutgers-Newark
Middle attacker: Cal Palumbo, Springfield
Libero: Dave Lucas, George Mason