Penn State’s Men’s Volleyball Team recently took on three of the top ten team in the AVCA Coaches poll, coming away with a 1-2 record. Even though the Lions did not win all of their matches, they did show some guts in some hard fought matches, and have a clear vision on what needs to be improved as they move forward towards another National Title.
The Lions started their stretch with a hard fought home contest against No. 9 Ohio State. The Lions hosted the Buckeyes in Rec. Hall on March 3rd to a split crowd. Ohio State was well represented in Rec. Hall which helped the Buckeyes force a 5 set match, which eventually was won by Penn State. This was the first 5 set match that Penn State had to play in a long time, and will hopefully inspire them moving forward, knowing that they can fight back and complete a 5 set match. The Lions stormed out to a strong 2-0 lead in the match (25-17, 25-19) but the Buckeyes would fight their way back into the match. Since this was the first match shown on TV, through BTN, I actually got to see how the lions were performing this season. One of the main reasons that the Buckeyes were allowed to get back into the game, taking the next two sets (27-29, 22-25) was that the Lions couldn’t put the Buckeyes away. One of the main problems that the Lions faced throughout this match was their service errors. On the match the Lions had 21 service errors compared to 17 for the Buckeyes. To compound the service errors, the Lions committed 26 hitting errors to Ohio States 21, because of these errors the Lions battled into a fourth and eventual fifth set to claim the match. However, even with all their errors (even a few less in the third set specifically the Lions could have swept the Buckeyes) the Lions fought their way to a win, the second of the season against the Buckeyes. On the match the Lions hit .273 against the Buckeyes and totaled 67 kills, six aces, 44 digs and 8.5 total team blocks. Ohio State registered a .262 hitting percentage and had 53 kills, three aces, 47 digs and 13.0 team blocks.
This was a total team effort to battle back and win the match. Three Nittany Lions posted double-digit kills with redshirt freshman Nick Goodell leading the way with a career-high 20. Redshirt senior Joe Sunder posted 15 and sophomore Peter Russell tallied 11. Redshirt senior Edgardo Goas dished out 54 assists and had eight digs, while junior Nick Turko had a career-best five aces. Unfortunately this would be the Nittany Lions only victory during this three match run.
After their victory over Ohio State, the Lions would travel to the west coast to take on no. 10 Pepperdine and No. 4 USC. The Nittany Lions would start their West Coast trip by visiting No. 10 Pepperdine. The Lions would suffer a 3-2 setback (26-24, 20-25, 21-25, 25-20, 10-15) losing only their second match of the season. Pepperdine held Penn State to .273 hitting. The Nittany Lions totaled 65 kills, seven aces, 26 digs and 6.0 total team blocks. Whereas Pepperdine hit .367 with 46 kills, four aces, 28 digs and 18.5 team blocks. Similar to the Ohio State game, the Lions committed too many errors to win the match. For the match, the Lions had 28 Service errors, and 30 hitting errors, as opposed to Pepperdine’s 16 service errors and 13 hitting errors. Even if the Lions cut back on their service errors (enough to give Pepperdine one entire set) they could not overcome Pepperdine’s 18.5 blocks on the match. On the match, Sunder led the Lions with 21 kills on .469 hitting. Freshman Aaron Russell and Nick Turko were second on the team with eight kills apiece, while Goodell and junior Tom Comfort had eight kills each. Goas dished out 56 assists and Sunder led the squad with nine digs. Turko had a team-high five total blocks.
The final match in the Lions West Coast trip was against powerhouse No. 4 USC. The Lions would be dominated by USC, sweeping the Lions 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-20). The Trojans held the Nittany Lions to .069 hitting. Penn State totaled 32 kills, two aces, 38 digs and 5.0 team blocks. USC hit .295 and had 40 kills, four aces, 37 digs and 14.0 team blocks. Unlike the pervious two matches the Lions only committed 6 service errors but unfortunately had 25 hitting errors. Whereas USC had 8 service errors with 12 hitting errors, also similar to the Pepperdine match, the Lions were horribly out blocked by USC, 5-14. Redshirt freshman Connor Curry led the lions with 10 digs, while Sunder, who was second on the team with seven kills, had nine digs. Comfort posted a team-best nine kills. Goas dished out 29 assists and recorded six digs. Freshman Aaron Russell led the team with two aces and two blocks.
The Lions return to action against conference foe Saint Francis on Saturday, March 17th, which continues a seven game road stretch. The Lions should easily win their next 5 matches, all against conference opponents before returning home on April 6th against Sacred Heart. Looking at the Nittany Lions schedule for the rest of the season, the Lions should win all their matches and be 20-3 when they go back west for two matches against current No. 4 BYU (April 13th-14th).
Looking at the national landscape for Men’s Volleyball, the Lions are currently ranked No. 8 in the AVCA Division I-II Coaches Poll. Again the West Coast bias is very evident in the poll, as Pepperdine moved up to No. 7 with a 9-9 record on the season, it does help that they beat PSU, but they are only a .500 club. The overall No. 1 is UC Irvine with a season record of 16-3 followed by UCLA, USC, BYU and Stanford for the top five; and rounding out the top ten at No. 10 is Ohio State with a season record to date of 13-6.
Just a reminder the Nittany Lions will be in action on April 21st (B/W Weekend) for senior day at 7 pm against conference foe Saint Francis. I am definitely going to be there for the match. If you going to Blue White game try and stop by Rec. Hall to support the Nittany Lions and the outgoing seniors, they certainly earned it.
For the Glory.
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