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Men's Volleyball Eyes EIVA Throne, Meets No. 14 Penn State in Title Bout

The Crimson will make its first appearance in the conference championship on Saturday night (Gil Talbot).

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Hours removed from pulling off a thrilling, five-set upset in the EIVA Tournament semifinal, the Harvard men's volleyball team turns its attention to the title match where it will face host university, No. 14 Penn State. The Crimson (18-8) topped George Mason, 3-2, to advance to its first-ever EIVA Championship match where it will play the Nittany Lions (22-7), who swept Princeton. The sides split the regular-season series, with Harvard falling in five sets on the road and ending Penn State's 51-match conference win-streak with a sweep at home. The third showdown this season has an NCAA Tournament bid on the line and is scheduled for Saturday, April 27 at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall.

Follow the Action
Click EIVA Tournament Central to access links for live-streaming and stats. Tickets are also available at the Rec Hall ticket office, through GoPSUsports.com or via phone at 1-800-NITTANY.

Last Time Out
The third-seed Harvard men's volleyball team emerged victorious from a dramatic five-set thriller against second-seed George Mason, 25-23, 26-28, 17-25, 25-22, 19-17, to advance to the 2013 EIVA Tournament Championship. Sophomore Caleb Zimmick torched the Patriots (15-12) with a season-high 19.5 points behind a stellar hitting night. The middle blocker paced the Crimson (18-8) with a .579 attack, totaling 13 kills in 19 attempts with just two errors, a pair of aces and seven total blocks. Junior Nick Madden turned in phenomenal efforts on both sides of the ball to help Harvard top George Mason for just the second time in school history. The outside hitter secured 17 points by delivering a team-best 16 kills and two block assists. Madden added 10 digs to register his fourth career double-double.

Related Link: Men's Volleyball Knocks-Off George Mason, 3-2, to Claim Spot in EIVA Championship Match

EIVA Honors
The Harvard men's volleyball team established a new benchmark for the program when four of its student-athletes named to the 2013 All-EIVA teams in a conference announcement on Friday. Sophomore DJ White nabbed his second first-team honor and senior Rob Lothman, junior Kyle Rehkemper and second-year Caleb Zimmick were voted to the second team giving the Crimson its most all-conference selections since the 1993 squad had four All-Ivy honorees. The All-EIVA accolades are the second such awards for Lothman and White, who each were named to their respective teams following the 2012 season, while Rehkemper and Zimmick have been recognized for the first time in their collegiate careers.

Related Link: Men's Volleyball Receives Four All-EIVA Selections in Wake of Conference Tournament

Around the League
Harvard earned the third seed for the EIVA Tournament with a 10-4 conference mark and a 17-8 overall record. At the conclusion of the regular season, the Crimson ranks third in the conference in hitting percentage (.261), second in aces (1.19), fourth in assists (11.28), kills (12.02) and blocks (2.44), and ranks fifth in digs (8.72).

Caleb Zimmick and DJ White rank second and third in the league with hitting percentages of .352 and .314, respectively. White also ranks sixth in the EIVA for kills per set at 3.21 and is joined by Nick Madden with 2.28 kps for ninth in the same stat column. Chris Gibbons comes in fifth among liberos with 2.34 dps, while Rob Lothman is third among EIVA setters with 10.16 aps. Zimmick also boasts the third best blocking average at 1.25 bps with Kyle Rehkemper chipping in 0.90 bps, eighth in the conference. At the service line, Rehkemper and Michael Owens ended the regular season eighth (0.26) and ninth (0.24) in the EIVA for aces per set.

National Scene
Men's volleyball national ranking summary through games played April 21.

 
 

Scouting Penn State
The Nittany Lions are 8-1 since March 23. Penn State earned the top-seed for the conference tournament with a 13-1 EIVA mark and 21-7 regular-season record.

The Nittany Lions have swept four of their last six opponents and lead the EIVA in every offensive stat category. Penn State's kills per set average (12.73) is eighth in the NCAA, as is its assists per set (11.86). The Nittany Lions also carry the 10th best hitting percentage in the nation (.283) and fifth highest aces per set average (1.4).

Aaron Russell charges the lineup with 3.46 kill per set, 4.08 points per set and 0.37 aces per set. Taylor Hammond's 10.91 assists per set is third best in the country, while Connor Curry's 2.33 digs per set is 15th.

After splitting the regular-season meetings, Harvard trails the all-time series with Penn State, 6-1.

Previous Meetings This Year
Game 1 – Men's Volleyball Forces No. 6 Penn State to Five Sets But Falls Short
Game 2 – Men's Volleyball Ends No. 9 Penn State's 51-Match EIVA Win Streak, 3-0

One Player, Two EIVA Weekly Awards
Junior Kyle Rehkemper was named the EIVA Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week on Monday, April 15, becoming the first Crimson to sweep the awards. In leading the Crimson to a 2-0 record on the weekend, Rehkemper averaged 2.62 kps, 1.50 bps and 3.62 points per set while hitting .424 for the weekend. He recorded a season-high 13 kills to go with a .348 hitting percentage on Friday against NJIT, and also added a season-high eight blocks and three digs. On Saturday against Rutgers-Newark, Rehkemper tallied eight kills, a .600 hitting percentage and four blocks, including two solo.

The awards are the first of Rehkemper's career and the third and fourth EIVA honors taken home by the Crimson this season.

Dishing 'Em Out
Senior setter Rob Lothman's registered the 10th match of his career with 50 or more assists, and third of the year, when he produced 51 in the EIVA Semifinal against George Mason on April 25. The captain's 57 assists against NJIT on April 12, were the third most ever in a single match for the Crimson. Lothman, the school's all-time leading setter, also holds the fourth and fifth highest single-match assist marks of 54 and 53.

Records are Meant to be Broken
Two Harvard men's volleyball records were broken within four days of each other. Junior Chris Gibbons produced 30 digs against UC Santa Barbara on March 15 to surpass Matt Jones '12 452 career digs. With 558 scoops, Gibbons is the only player in program history to surpass the 500-dig plateau.

At Concordia on March 19, senior Rob Lothman dished out 27 assists to overtake Mike Bookman '03 in career assists. Bookman amassed 2,765 assists while playing for the Crimson. Lothman, whose freshman and junior single-season totals rate among the best in program history, has tallied 3,018 assists at Harvard.

Keep on Blockin'
Middle blocker Caleb Zimmick has twice registered a career-high nine blocks so far this season. The sophomore first did so against Sacred Heart on March 13 and then repeated the performance against NJIT on April 12. Zimmick has recorded seven or more blocks six times this season and logged 17 matches with at least five blocks in his collegiate career.

MAC Attack
Harvard is 25-7 in the friendly confines of the Malkin Athletic Center since the start of 2011 including a 9-1 mark this year.  The Crimson won 12 straight matches at home dating back to last season, before having that streak snapped against George Mason on April 6. Harvard has also captured each of its last three home openers.

Block Party
The Crimson used a season-high 18.5 blocks to rally to victory from a two-set deficit against NJIT on April 12. Caleb Zimmick topped all players with nine total blocks as Kyle Rehkemper posted eight and Rob Lothman, Michael Owen and Alec Schlossman each added five. Harvard had previously established a three-season high earlier in the year when it used 17.5 blocks to top No. 6 Penn State on the road.

Harvard's season high for blocks in 2012 was 17 at Rutgers-Newark.

Winning Ways
Harvard won six straight matches from Feb. 2 to Feb. 23, it longest streak since winning 13 in a row in 2005. During that span, the Crimson won four matches in straight sets, also matching the 2005 team's streak of four consecutive sweeps.

National News
Harvard fell from the AVCA Division I-II Poll after being ranked in consecutive weeks from Feb. 25 to March 4. The Crimson reached as high as No. 14, the highest ranking in program history.

Taking Home the Hardware
Sophomore DJ White earned a pair of honors in 2013, being named both the AVCA Division I-II National Player of the Week and EIVA Offensive Player of the Week. The praise came after White averaged 4.17 kills per set and hit .477 as the Crimson knocked off No. 9 Penn State and St. Francis (Pa.) in straight sets.

White is the first member of the Crimson to earn the national recognition. He has been named the conference's offensive player of the week twice this season and has earned the distinction three times in his career.

Slump Busters
The Crimson ended a 51-match drought for conference opponents versus Penn State when it upset the ninth-ranked Nittany Lions Feb. 15, 3-0. Penn State's last loss to an EIVA conference foe came on March 7, 2008 to George Mason, 3-1.

Ranked Wins
Harvard's 3-0 victory over then ninth-ranked Penn State marked the team's second win over a ranked opponent in as many years. Last season, the Crimson knocked off No. 12 Cal State Northridge, 3-1, to record the program's first victory against a ranked team under head coach Brian Baise.

Quick Start
Harvard swept Stevens, NYU and St. Francis (Pa.) to open the year, marking the third straight season that the Crimson has started the year with at least two victories. Harvard's three straight-set victories, meanwhile, had not been accomplished since 1993 when the squad posted four sweeps in its first four matches.

Catch the Crimson in 2012
Harvard will host 11 home matches at the Malkin Athletic Center this season and each will be streamed live online through GoCrimson.com. Fans can also watch each match On Demand approximately two hours after completion. One-year subscriptions are available for $49.95 and allow access to every home event streamed by the Crimson, including football, men's and women's basketball, men's and women's hockey and men's soccer. For more information or to sign up today, click here.

Captaining the Ship
Rob Lothman and Nick Madden will serve as the team's captains for the 2013 season. Lothman was named to the All-EIVA second team in 2012 after setting a career-high with 888 assists, the fifth-best single-season total in program history. Lothman directed the Crimson attack to a .298 hitting percentage, which ranked seventh in the NCAA, while his 10.1 assists per set were good for 18th in the nation. Madden, meanwhile, started all 24 matches last year for the Crimson and ranked second on the squad in kills (3.01) and points (3.6). His 268 kills in 2012 were good for eighth in program history while his 147 career blocks rank his sixth all-time.

Banner Year
Harvard is coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history, as the Crimson earned its first-ever national ranking in 2012 and finished the year at No. 15 in the AVCA Coaches Poll. Harvard posted an 18-6 overall record and took second in the EIVA with a 10-4 conference mark, with the team's 18 wins representing the third-highest total ever.

Head coach Brian Baise was tabbed as the EIVA Coach of the Year as a result of the squad's success while Matt Jones, DJ White and Rob Lothman all earned all-conference accolades.