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No. 15 Men’s Volleyball Upsets No. 7 USC In Straight Sets

After a season facing some of the toughest competition in the sport — including two back-t0-backs against the No. 1 and No. 2 ranked teams in the nation — Penn State men’s volleyball finally broke through against one of the country’s elite.

The Nittany Lions (7-9) dominated No. 7 USC in straight sets (25-18, 25-19, 25-21) on Tuesday in Los Angeles to earn the season’s first win over a ranked opponent in seven tries.

How It Happened

Penn State jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the opening set before the Trojans cut off the run with a kill. After a 3-1 run by the Lions was met by two USC kills, Penn State responded with kills from Nick Goodell and Aaron Russell and a block from Matt Seifert to build the advantage to five, 12-7. A 3-2 Trojans run was countered with kills by Chris Nugent and Russell to put Penn State up by six, 16-10. USC put together a 5-3 streak to keep within four, 19-15, but the Lions pulled away with a 6-3 strike to take the first set, 25-18.

Following an early 3-2 USC lead in set two, a 3-0 strike lifted the Nittany Lions up by two, 5-3. The Trojans responded with five unanswered points to take over a one-point lead, 7-6, but Penn State came roaring back with two kills from Goodell to open up a 7-2 run that lifted Penn State ahead by six, 14-8. The teams traded points as Penn State maintained a five-point lead, 20-14, before the Trojans tallied three in a row to trim the advantage to three, 20-17. The Lions would withstand the late push, earning a 25-19 win to capture the second set.

After USC built a 7-5 lead in the third set, Russell notched a pair of kills to tie the frame, 7-7. After trading points on the next four to possessions to maintain a tie, the Trojans pulled away with a 5-2 run to take a three-point lead, 14-11. Two more kills from Russell and one from Goodell tied the score 14-14, and after a lone USC point, the Nittany Lions scored four unanswered to go up by three, 18-15. Penn State widened the gap to five, 20-15, but the Trojans battled back to pull within two, 22-20. A USC service error followed by a kill from Matt Callaway gave Penn State match point, 24-20. A Trojans kill stopped the bleeding, but a block by Taylor Hammond and Callaway sealed a 25-21 win in the third set to complete the sweep.

Player of the Match

Aaron Russell. The star senior paced the Lions attack with a game-high 20 kills on .720 hitting with only two attack errors on 25 swings.

Tweet of the Match

Seifert added three blocks in Penn State’s first game in two weeks after winning two in a row at the end of February against Sacred Heart and Harvard. The Lions will take a three-game winning streak into the Asics Tournament at Long Beach State.

Match Notes

  • Along with Russell, redshirt senior Nick Goodell also posted double figures with 12 kills, adding five digs and two blocks.
  • Redshirt junior Taylor Hammond dished out 39 assists to go along with four digs, two blocks and one ace.
  • Penn State’s blocking unit outplayed USC’s, totaling 6.5 blocks to the Trojans’ 2.
  • The Lions .422 attack percentage was more than twice as effective as the Trojans’ woeful .198.

What’s Next?

Penn State will compete in the Asics Tournament hosted by Long Beach State, beginning with a matchup against Cal State Northridge on Friday, March 13 at 8 p.m. before taking on the tournament host 49ers on Saturday, March 14 at 10 p.m.

Photo: Mark Selders/

About the Author

CJ Doon

CJ is a senior journalism major from Long Island and Onward State's Sports Editor. He is a third-generation Penn Stater, and his grandfather wrestled for the university back in the 1930s under coach Charlie “Doc” Speidel. Besides writing, one of his favorite activities is making sea puns. You can follow him on Twitter @CJDoon, and send your best puns to [email protected], just for the halibut.


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