Men’s Volleyball Drops Final Three Sets at Ball State, Falls to 0-3

The Penn State men’s volleyball team dropped its third consecutive game to start the year Friday evening in Muncie, Indiana.

After taking a two set lead, the No. 10 Nittany Lions (0-3) lost the last three sets to Ball State, falling 3-2 (31-29, 25-22, 24-26, 19-25, 12-15) against the undefeated Cardinals.

How It Happened

Penn State jumped out to a 6-4 lead early in the first set, following a BSU error and a kill from redshirt senior Nick Goodell. The surge forced the Cardinals to take an early timeout. Spencer Sauter then tallied two consecutive points before Ball State used a small run of its own to narrow the first set to a 14-13 deficit. The teams continued to trade points, neither leading by more than four in the set. Incredibly, they tied six times after Penn State’s first set point, deadlocked at 29-29.

Goodell and Matt Seifert finally mustered two straight kills to claim the first set, 31-29.

The second set wasn’t much different, as the two programs — one looking for its first win, the other looking to avoid its first loss — were once again tied at 14-14. A 3-1 Nittany Lion stretch was countered by a 3-1 Cardinal strike to again draw even, this time at 18-18. But after a timeout with the Lions ahead 22-20, a kill, block, and eventual kill from Aaron Russell put Penn State in the match’s driver seat, ahead 2-0 after the 25-22 set victory.

The teams were again tied late into the set in the third set. At 16-16, Russell and Goodell again paired to give Penn State a two-point advantage, forcing the Cardinals to use their final timeout. But trailing 21-19, Ball State used a 5-2 push that eventually led to the set victory, 26-24.

The 5-2 run may have been the match’s defining moment. Penn State had a chance to close the victory, and failed to. It dropped the next two sets to lose its third straight matchup.

The fourth set followed a similar arc of the previous three. Knotted at 11-11, Ball State used an 8-2 run including three straight kills to take its largest advantage of any set, 19-13. After trading three-point runs, Ball State served up two kills, an ace, and a final kill to take the penultimate set, 25-19.

After a 6-6 tie, the Nittany Lions never led in the final set, which is played to 15. A 5-0 run forced Penn State into its final timeout of the match. One last Cardinal kill secured a 15-12 win in the fifth set, and a 3-2 overall victory.

Player of the Game

Senior Aaron Russel posted a career-high and match-leading 32 kills on .439 hitting, with three aces. It was his first 30-kill output of his career.

Tweet of the Game

The first set was truly a marathon. Penn State had set point at 24-23. But the Nittany Lions and Cardinals never drew more than one point apart for the next 11 points.

Notes

  • Penn State men’s volleyball lost its first two games last year and similarly looked like a team struggling to close out matches. But it rallied, finishing with a 25-7 record and a trip to the NCAA tournament semifinals.
  • Goodell’s 15 kills and 14 digs were a the volleyball equivalent of a double-double. Matt Seifert and Spencer Sauter each picked up nine kills.

What’s Next?

It doesn’t get much easier for the slumping Nittany Lions. They travel to No. 13 Indiana Purdue University at Fort Wayne on Jan. 17 for a 7 p.m. start.

Image: GoPSUSports

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Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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