2024 First Point Collegiate Challenge

Penn State Men's Volleyball 2024: What To Know

Penn State Men's Volleyball 2024: What To Know

The spiritual home of men’s volleyball may be Southern California, but in central Pennsylvania, there’s a program with a resume any team would love to have.

Jan 4, 2024 by Briar Napier
Penn State Men's Volleyball 2024: What To Know

The spiritual home of men’s volleyball may be in sunny Southern California, but in central Pennsylvania, there’s a program with a resume many college men’s volleyball programs (regardless of location) would love to have.

Penn State men’s volleyball first blazed a trail for teams outside of California in the mid-1990s and still is going strong today, being a frequent attendee at the NCAA Tournament and a routine power under one of the sport’s most successful and winningest coaches.

Happy Valley is a helluva hotspot for college volleyball, with fervent fans and standout players who have shaped the sport and its direction, even on national and international stages. 

The Nittany Lions should be in the hunt as one of the country’s elite teams during the approaching 2024 men’s volleyball season, and after elimination in last season’s national semifinal to Hawaii, PSU is out to try and finish the job once and for all this time around.

Below is a peek at all there is to know about the team many collegiate men’s volleyball fans consider to be the cream of the crop in the sport outside of the West Coast, Penn State:

What Is The History Of Penn State Men’s Volleyball?

With games officially dating back to the 1977 season, Penn State, home to one of the most successful men’s volleyball programs east of the Mississippi River, is a standard-bearer in the sport for multiple reasons. 

First, the Nittany Lions were the first to show that, yes, a non-California team can reign supreme in the sport (something this article will touch more on in a bit). 

And, second, it’s a factory for successful players who go on to have productive careers in the sport in and out of college. As per the PSU record book, 29 former Nittany Lions volleyball players have gone on to play at a professional level.

Has Penn State Men’s Volleyball Won A National Championship?

Penn State has only won two men’s volleyball national championships (1994 and 2008), out of six occasions of making it to the national final. Both of those titles, however, had historic meanings for different reasons. 

NCAA men’s volleyball before 1994 was an all-California affair, as every national title from 1970-1993 was won by a school from The Golden State, most of which were won by UCLA. 

That all changed in 1994, when PSU slayed the Bruins in a five-set thriller for the first national championship won by a school outside of Cali, coming back from a 2-1 deficit in the match for a groundbreaking moment in the sport’s history. 

In 2008, the Nittany Lions went a step further in establishing their dominance; they became the first non-West Coast team to be the Final Four’s top seed and romped to the title, finishing 30-1 overall and earning the claim as arguably the best collegiate men’s volleyball team in history from east of the Mississippi River. 

Who Coaches Penn State Men’s Volleyball?

The 2024 season will be coach Mark Pavlik’s 30th in charge in Happy Valley, and what a career the active wins leader in college men’s volleyball has had. 

A former player under legendary coach Tom Tait, and an assistant under national title-winning coach Tom Peterson, Pavlik didn’t miss a beat when appointed as head coach after Peterson’s departure, winning at least 20 games in 24 of a possible 29 seasons since. 

Named the AVCA National Coach of the Year in 2008 after taking the Nittany Lions to a national championship, more than 30 players have earned over 50 All-America honors in his tenure – including, incredibly, all seven of his starters from the 2023 season. 

The conductor of 23 conference championships, Pavlik’s trophy case often grows yearly, and it would be no surprise to see him expand it a little more in 2024.

Where Does Penn State Men’s Volleyball Play?

Rec Hall on campus, which hosted Penn State’s basketball teams before the opening of the Bryce Jordan Center in 1996, holds just over 6,500 people and is the main venue for the Nittany Lions’ gymnastics, volleyball and wrestling teams. 

The place can get rowdy, too.

PSU women’s volleyball, one of the country’s most decorated volleyball programs, often will sell out Rec Hall for one of the best atmospheres in the sport, while the men also can pack the arena with several thousand fans for big matches. 

The men’s team’s season-best attendance mark in Rec Hall in 2023 was for its four-set win over then-No. 2 UCLA in early February, when 2,405 people watched the Nittany Lions beat the eventual national champions.

In What League Does Penn State Men’s Volleyball Play?

A member of the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, as the Big Ten Conference – Penn State’s main home for league play in other sports – does not sponsor men’s volleyball, the Nittany Lions are members of a six-team conference for volleyball with neighbors Princeton, NJIT, Harvard, George Mason and the University of Charleston (West Virginia). 

PSU largely has run the show in the league since Pavlik took over (and even before, under previous coaches), as it usually takes the EIVA’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, having also been the only EIVA school to have won a national championship. 

The team’s EIVA Tournament win last season over Princeton was the program’s 35th league tourney title since the first event in 1971.

Penn State Men’s Volleyball Notable Alumni

Of the many standout players who have come through the Penn State men’s volleyball program, two stand out above the rest – the program’s only two AVCA Player of the Year winners. 

Outside hitter Ivan Contreras was the first non-West Coast player to win the honor while playing for PSU in 1997. The Mexico native additionally won a national title as a freshman, before going on to have a lengthy and decorated professional career, particularly in Europe. 

Towering 6-foot-10 outside Matt Anderson, the catalyst behind the Nittany Lions’ historic second national-title campaign, then became the second eastern player to win the sport’s top individual honor in 2008. The New Yorker then opted to forgo his senior year that offseason to sign a pro contract in Korea. 

Now 36, Anderson still plays overseas and is a fixture of the United States’ men’s national volleyball team, being named USA Volleyball’s Male Indoor Player of the Year six times, while winning two FIVB World Cups (2015 and 2023) and a bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

First Point Collegiate Challenge Schedule

All Times Central

January 19th

  • 1:30pm – No. 12 USC vs No. 11 Ball State
  • 4;00pm – No. 1 UCLA vs No. 7 Ohio State
  • 6:30pm – No. 9 Stanford vs No. 3 Penn State

January 20th

  • 1:30pm – No. 12 USC vs No. 7 Ohio State
  • 4:00pm – No. 9 Stanford vs No. 11 Ball State
  • 6:30pm – No. 1 UCLA vs No. 3 Penn State

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