Q&A with Penn State at the men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament

Penn State coach Mark Pavlik along with outside attacker Joe Sunder, setter Edgardo Goas and libero Dennis Del Valle conducted a news conference Wednesday heading into their NCAA Tournament match.

The No. 2 seed Penn State will play the No. 3 seed Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament semifinals at 9 p.m. Thursday. The Final Four is this year is also being held on the Nittany Lions’ home year.

View an abridged version of the news conference below. For a complete transcript of the news conference check out the men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament central or The Daily Collegian volleyball blog.

[Editor’s note: Transcript courtesy of the Penn State athletics department]

Mark Pavlik, coach: From our team to all of you guys, welcome to Happy Valley. We’re excited to host and even more excited to be a participant here. I think that you’re going to see a National Championship with some of the best players in the country in just about every position. I know we’re excited to be here and it’s going to be fun to take on Big Ten brethren, the Buckeyes. It’s going to be our Big Ten Championship leading right into the National Championship and you really can’t ask for much more than that.

Q: Usually in the semifinal, you don’t play a team that you’re this familiar with, can you talk about your level of familiarity with the Buckeyes?

Pavlik: In 2008 we did also. There is so much video available to us and to them on each other that there really isn’t any secrets right now. We know what they do, they know what we do and I think that’s the fun part. Now it’s just wait for the whistle, serve the ball up and let the best team compete hard. I think that’s what excites me most about his semifinal. The preparation has been done twice already so we’re pretty comfortable with them and I guess the flipside of that is they are with us too.

Q: With the other events you have going on this weekend with USA volleyball, what impact will the next few days have on the future of NCAA tournaments?

Pavlik: I think when Jeff Mosher and I started to discuss possibilities for this week, my intention was to raise the bar for future NCAA men’s volleyballs championship weeks. It’s turning into a celebration of men’s and boys’ volleyball. Let’s get the people of our sport together at the sam place where the stage is the biggest that our sport has. So with USA Volleyball being here and the tryouts for the Pan-Am and the World University games, and the State College tournament, which has always been run when we’ve hosted. The State College Tournament has always run a tournament during the NCAA Championship. In the years that we don’t have it, that tournament is run during the EIVA Championships. That was just a natural extension of wanting to open it up and get more people in here. Then, USA Volleyball with the Blue-Red Scrimmage, this court historically has sat empty between Thursday and Saturday night, it’s going to create more of a buzz and then hopefully with the clinic the next day, it’s just the best men’s volleyball has to offer. Hopefully next year at SC, they take this and run with it and do the “Hollywood” thing to it and see what that does.


Q: How has the Pennsylvania volleyball community responded to what you’re doing over the next few days?

Pavlik: Not only over the next few days, but in the last 30 years the Pennsylvania volleyball community just — supported is probably an understatement – we hosted in ’82, ’86, ’02 and ’06 and we’ve had great turnouts and great crowds for all of those and I don’t expect this weekend to be much different. I think Pennsylvania volleyball, East Coast volleyball waits for these types of events and they don’t see them. We don’t get the National team regularly. They don’t come down the East Coast anymore just because of the change in the international calendar so anytime we get the chance to see them play at this level, they’re going to turn out for it. I’m just happy we can bring it to them.

Q: In your experience how do you think games are won in the finals and semifinals?

Pavlik: It’s ball control. Here it’s maybe only three or four points. A team that gets a three or four point run makes it real difficult to close that gap Thursday night and Saturday night. You really want to focus every ounce of your competitive being on the next contact. You can’t get caught up in one point, we just lost a point, they just bounced a ball, we just stuffed the ball – it’s over, it has no bearing on the next point, let’s get on with it. I think the teams that do that well and that also roll with the punches here because in the men’s game, you guys will find out in talking with the Coaches and the players, there’s more of a neighborhood feel to our game and we go someplace and you walk on the court to play somebody and if you need five more minutes here to work on something there, typically it’s not a problem. Now, you get into this setting, and you’ve got to practice for 85 minutes here and be in the press conference, and you have to be with ESPN and the headshots and the itinerary is something else that nobody else ever does during the year, I think the teams that handle that the best also have an advantage coming in.

Q: Do you think it’s an advantage that you guys are playing them here as opposed to there? You guys beat them here and lost to them on the road this season. Do you guys feel the same about the familiarity?

Joe Sunder, outside attacker: I think we know what our blocking assignments are. Dennis (Del Valle) knows where to be on the court. We’re kind of familiar with the hitter shots, their tendencies, so it definitely helps that we’ve played them a couple of times.

Q: After losing to Stanford in the final match, how much more motivated are you going into this match?

Sunder: Stanford was pretty much lights out last year playing in front of their home crowd, they took advantage of it. We’re pretty much going to learn from them and do what they did.

Q: How are you guys handling this week with finals and the tournament?

Sunder: I’m pretty much done. I had two finals on Monday night and practice Tuesday morning, but one more on Friday morning and I’m done.

Q: What’s it like having you’re old teammates in town?

Edgardo Goas, setter: It’s always good to see your old friends back in town. We were with Luke (Murray) and Will (Price) the other day. It’s always fun to be back with them and remember old times.

Q: Did they give you any advice for the tournament?

Goas: We’ve been here a few years so I don’t know if there’s much advice they can give us at this point, but they are just here to support us and cheer for us.

Q: Is it difficult for you guys to have a slightly different floor out there?

Goas: We’re familiar with the ceiling and everything around the court and the lighting, so we felt fine.

Q: After losing to Stanford in the final match, how much more motivated are you going into this match?

Goas: We just want to redeem ourselves. The Championship game, we were just excited to make it there. We thought we had it, then Stanford stepped up their game and won it. No better way than to do it here with our home crowd and our family and friends. We just want to have a good performance here this weekend and hope for the best.

Q: Dennis, you had a strong EIVA tournament, can you just talk about how you can carry that performance into
this tournament?

Dennis Del Valle, libero: Like Pavlik said about Ohio State, the match is going to come down to who is more consistent and who can control the ball better on their side of the net. That’s the team that is going to be successful tomorrow night because we already played them twice. They know what we do and we know what they do. Whoever controls the ball on their side of the court is going to be successful.