UNIVERSITY PARK — The Penn State men’s volleyball team will be opening its season in Hawaii in a few days, and it certainly looks to be the right week to head to paradise.
The hard part is getting there.
The Nittany Lions have already had to change their flights and have their fingers crossed they will be able to get in the air Tuesday morning.
No. 11 Penn State opens its season at the Outrigger Invitational in Honolulu on Thursday night against No. 7 UCLA, and later face host No. 14 Hawaii and No. 12 Ohio State at this weekend’s tournament.
While few in central Pennsylvania would want to hear any complaints about spending most of the week in Hawaii, the Arctic blast of winter weather that reached the eastern U.S. on Monday provided some obstacles to the trip. In a quick meeting with his team before practice Monday afternoon, coach Mark Pavlik joked about the team getting its own version of the movie “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” as he laid out the new travel itinerary.
Assistant coach Colin McMillan later joked about the team may get there two hours before the first match.
Instead of flying out of Harrisburg on a commercial jet Tuesday, the team flight was already canceled by Monday morning, and a new flight had to be found for the traveling party of 17. Now they leave very early Tuesday morning from Washington’s Reagan National to connect with their original leg from Chicago to Honolulu.
Pavlik gave all the credit to the athletic department’s business staff in handling the reworked logistics.
“All those people do a wonderful job of trying to make things easy on us,” Pavlik said. “The good thing is I’ve just been down here with these guys. I’m not the one calling the airlines and trying to do things. That’s all being done for us.”
The coach was wondering if the rocky start to the year’s travel was a harbinger of the season ahead, recalling several recent problems with bus trips, including having the bus break down on a trip to Boston last season.
“I wonder what that bodes for the year?” Pavlik wondered. “Are we going to spend another eight hours at a rest stop going up to Harvard?”
Pavlik also expects all the travel obstacles to toughen his team mentally.
“It gives them an idea of the toughness factor,” Pavlik said. “You’ve got to be a little bit tough. You don’t have the perfect situation of sleeping in your own bed, waking up on your own time. You’re flying, you’re five time zones away.”
The Nittany Lions players will not be complaining about getting to start the season with a few days of warmth.