Posts tagged ‘men’s volleyball’

From the Magazine: Aaron Russell


The men’s volleyball team’s season ended last Thursday with a five-set loss to top-seeded (and eventual champ) Loyola Chicago in the national semifinals. It was the 16th straight Final Four trip for the Nittany Lions, who fell two wins short of the program’s third NCAA championship. For junior outside hitter Aaron Russell, it marked the end of one of the finest individual seasons in Penn State history.

Russell is the featured athlete in our May/June issue, which most Alumni Association members should have received in the past few days. We chose Russell because, even before he earned first-team All-America honors this spring, it was clear he was the guy who made the Nittany Lions go. He was named EIVA Player of the Year as a sophomore (an honor he repeated this season), thanks to team highs of 366 kills and 40 service aces. As a junior this spring, he eclipsed both of those totals, leading the Lions with 421 kills and 69 aces.

Having arrived on campus as a middle blocker—at 6-foot-9, that seems at a glance his most logical position—Russell succeeded not in spite of the switch to outside hitter, but largely because of it. Longtime Penn State coach Mark Pavlik deserves some credit for that. “I was a middle blocker ever since I started playing, but Pav told me that even when he recruited me, he saw me as an outside hitter because of my athletic ability and how I can move,” Russell says. “Switching to another position, I kind of had to learn the game all over again. It kept it interesting for me, kind of helped me from getting burned out.”

Burn out might’ve been a real issue for a kid who’s been playing virtually his whole life. Volleyball very much runs in the Russell family genes: Aaron’s father, Stewart Russell ’86, played for the Lions, and Aaron’s brother Peter, a 6-foot-5 senior outside hitter, just wrapped up his Penn State career. Stew got both boys playing the sport at an early age, and once Peter signed with the Lions out of high school, it figured Aaron would follow suit. But after growing up in Maryland and always following the family path, Aaron thought hard about trying something new. “I kind of wanted to do my own thing,” he says. He boiled his college choices down to Penn State and UC-Irvine, another national power, but an official visit to Happy Valley sealed the decision: “I loved it here.”

He’ll be back for one final season next year, without his brother but with international experience (he played with the U.S. junior national team in Turkey last summer) and the lessons learned by almost reaching his ultimate goal this spring. The 2015 national championship will be played at Stanford, meaning the guy who almost played his college ball in California will get one last chance to show those guys on the West Coast what they’re missing.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

May 5, 2014 at 4:13 pm Leave a comment

Matt Anderson Eyes Olympic Gold

Matt Anderson led the U.S. men’s volleyball team back to the Olympics this year, four years after the Americans won Olympic gold in Beijing, and about as long since Anderson earned Most Outstanding Player honors in leading Penn State to the 2008 NCAA championship. Anderson left Penn State after his junior to play professionally overseas, and in the meantime he’s become one of the stars of the national team. He’s among the current and former Nittany Lions turned Olympians featured in our July/August issue.

The upstate New York native was profiled a few days ago in the Buffalo News, and it makes for compelling reading. Among other things, it turns out Anderson is the youngest player on the U.S. men’s volleyball roster—and arguably also its best hitter. Part of Anderson’s motivation comes from the loss of his father and role model, who died of a heart attack in 2010. You can find that story here, and you can keep an eye out for Anderson — at 6-foot-10, he’s hard to miss — when the Olympics begin a little over a month from today.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

June 26, 2012 at 8:35 pm 1 comment

Battle’s Back, and Volleyball Finishes Second Best

First the good news: Talor Battle made it official over the weekend, announcing he’ll be back for his senior season with the Nittany Lion basketball team. The all-Big Ten point guard and three-time team MVP spent the past few weeks testing the NBA draft waters, but he notified the athletic department over the weekend that he’ll be back for his final year. It’s the decision most people expected, but it’s still great to hear it confirmed by the man himself.

Now, the disappointment: The men’s volleyball fell to top-ranked Stanford in the national title match on Saturday night, dropping a 30-25, 30-20, 30-18 decision to the Cardinal. The Lions were aiming for their third NCAA championship but couldn’t overcome a terrific Stanford squad playing on its home court. It was an unhappy end to an otherwise typically terrific season for the Lions, who finished with a 24-8 record and won their 12th straight EIVA conference championship.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

May 10, 2010 at 8:46 am Leave a comment

Two Big Wins For PSU, On and Off the Court

The men’s volleyball team last night swept Cal State Northridge 30-21, 30-23, 30-28 in the NCAA semifinals to earn a berth in the national title match. The third-seeded Nittany Lions will face top-ranked Stanford on Saturday night for the championship. You can watch the match live at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

The Stanford connection is a familiar one for Penn State teams in big games: The Nittany Lion women beat the Cardinal in 2007 and 2008 for the first two of their three straight NCAA titles, and the women’s rugby team has beaten Stanford in each of the past two national title matches.

And in hardwood news of a slightly different configuration, the Daily Collegian today is confirming a report by an Albany, N.Y. TV station that Talor Battle will return for his senior season. Battle had thrown his name into the hat for the 2010 NBA draft, but it was widely expected that he was only trying to get a sense of his chances of being picked and would be back in Happy Valley for a final season. The Collegian report cites Battle’s mother confirming his decision to return.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

May 7, 2010 at 8:55 am 1 comment

Title Town, USA

University Park welcomes title-seekers of all sorts over the next few days, as the campus hosts three separate conference championships.

Tonight at Rec Hall, the men’s volleyball team opens defense of its EIVA title when it faces George Mason in the conference semifinals at 7:30 pm. The winner will meet either Juniata or St. Francis on Saturday for the EIVA title and a trip to the NCAA Final Four.

The women’s lacrosse team hosts the American Lacrosse Conference tournament, which starts today with the quarterfinal round; Penn State has a bye until Friday’s semifinals, where the second-seeded Lions face third-seeded Ohio State at 5:30 pm. The ALC title game will be played on Saturday afternoon.

And the Big Ten Men’s Golf Championship will tee off Friday morning at the Penn State Blue Course, with the final round set for Sunday.

Ryan Jones, senior editor

April 30, 2009 at 1:11 pm Leave a comment

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