Penn State falls to Ohio State in NCAA Semifinals
The Penn State men’s volleyball team could not turn home-court advantage into a win, losing to Ohio State in the NCAA Semifinals 3-1 (18-25, 26-24, 22-25, 23-25) on Thursday night. With the loss, the Nittany Lions lose the chance to play for their third NCAA Championship. The Buckeyes used a strong block and effective attack to put the Nittany Lions out of rhythm the entire match.
“We just had a real good [blocking] scheme these last few weeks,” Ohio State coach Pete Hanson said. “Our student manager studies film, puts together a game plan, and the guys buy in to what we are doing. I think we’ve spent some time on that skill, and it shows.”
Penn State and Ohio State are no strangers, having played each other twice this season. In Columbus, the Buckeyes won 3-0, but the Nittany Lions returned the favor in University Park, playing one of their best matches of the season in a 3-1 victory. As the only two Big Ten programs with men’s volleyball teams, they have become each other’s fiercest rivals. With plenty of Ohio State fans in attendance, it was sure to be a special night of volleyball.
Ohio State dominated set one with six blocks, holding Penn State to a -.129 hitting percentage. Joe Sunder was the only Nittany Lions to have any success in the set, registering four. The Buckeyes, on the other hand, hit at a .350 clip. Ohio State started out on a 4-0 run and never looked back. With the score 13-11 in favor of Ohio State, the Buckeyes won six straight points to take an insurmountable 19-11 lead. They went on to win the set 25-18.
Set two was a much closer affair, with many lead changes and little separation. Penn State used a 3-0 run midway through the set to get the crowd going, but Ohio State rebounded out of a time out to take a 17-16 lead. The Nittany Lions took the first 3-point lead of the set at 23-20, but two Buckeye kills and a block leveled the score. Penn State finally eked out a 26-24 win after Ohio State made two errors to finish the set.
In set three, Ohio State regained its hitting prowess, with a .333 percentage compared to just .148 for Penn State. The Buckeyes shot out to an early 4-1 lead, but the Nittany Lions were able to come back. Penn State eventually took its first lead of the set at 18-17, but Ohio State won the next two points. Down 18-19, the Nittany Lions thought they had a kill, but the referees determined the ball hit the net instead of the Buckeye block. Penn State could not recover, and Ohio State won the set 25-22.
Ohio State was just too much for Penn State in set four. The set remained close until the Buckeyes took a 19-16 lead. After a time out, Penn State scrambled back into the set, going on a 5-1 run to take a 21-20 lead. The joy in the crowd was short-lived, however, as Ohio State finished the set on a 5-2 run to win 25-23. Sunder finished the night with a team-high 18 kills. John Klanac led Ohio State’s balanced attack with 16 kills.
“This group has been so much fun to be in the gym with,” Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said. “This is a pretty special group. We just weren’t good enough tonight.”
Ohio State will play No. 4 UC Santa Barbara, which won in impressive fashion over No.1 USC, 3-1 (29-27, 24-26, 25-15, 25-18). The teams will face of on Saturday at 7:30 in Rec Hall. For Penn State, Dennis Del Valle and Edgardo Goas had their college careers end with a play-off loss.
Del Valle said, “It’s frustrating but I know we played hard and tried our best. I couldn’t have asked for anything better than to end my career here.”