Men’s Volleyball Thwarts Hawaii, Punches Ticket To NCAA Semifinals
It’s Penn State Volleyball in the NCAA Tournament — we should have known what was coming.
Penn State traveled to Stanford, California this week for a postseason matchup with the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. The Nittany Lions earned the EIVA‘s auto-bid to the national tournament and the NCAA’s fifth seed, while Hawaii was given the fourth. With a trip to the semifinals on the line, the Lions punched their ticket with a 25-22, 25-20, 17-25, 27-25 win.
Though Hawaii held the 14-8 edge all-time against Penn State, the underdog came out on top in this one. Penn States’ 20-9 record this season is bolstered by a 12-0 run through EIVA play, but the Nittany Lions broke even in non-conference play with this win.
It’s already been a successful season for the Nittany Lions, with head coach Mark Pavlik earning his 500th career win and outside hitter Aaron Russell being named an All-American for the second-straight season. More accolades will be on the line Thursday night as Penn State will try to beat the top-seeded Lewis Flyers to make it to the finals.
How It Happened
Penn State didn’t sweep its way through the EIVA Tournament just to roll over in the NCAA. The first set went just as planned, and after a 5-5 tie, Penn State pulled away and led for the rest of the frame. Hawaii made a run when the score was 21-13 and scored eight points out of the next 12, but a service error gift-wrapped the set for Penn State.
Set two was more of the same. The Lions never trailed but never pulled away from the Rainbow Warriors, as their longest run was four and the largest lead was five. Eventually, Penn State saw victory within reach, and Aaron Russell tallied his team’s final three kills to claim the set, 25-20.
Just when it looked like Penn State was going to do what it does best, the Rainbow Warriors made a statement in the third. Penn State won the set’s first and fourth points and then got outplayed, plain and simple. Hawaii showed why it deserved to be in the tournament with consistent defense and relentless offense, and though Penn State kept the score close thanks to individual efforts, it couldn’t mount a run to bury the Rainbow Warriors. Hawaii won 25-17 to force the fourth set as Penn State had its twelve-set win streak snapped.
The first 20 points of the fourth set were as close as possible. There weren’t many errors and most points came by way of perfectly-executed offense, and it wasn’t until Hawaii led 11-9 that either team could take a two-point lead. Seriously, check out the dead-even match flow:
The parity continued into overtime, as neither team could break the other until the score was 24-24. A Goodell kill followed by a Penn State error brought the score to 25-25. A Russell kill set up Penn State’s third match point of the night, and a Hawaii error mercifully ended the match at 1:09 a.m. Eastern Time.
Player Of The Game
Aaron Russell and Nick Goodell. The pair lead the Lions offensively (as they have all season), as they had 20 and 19 kills, respectively. Big-time players show up in big games, and Russell and Goodell proved that in this one.
Penn State moves on to play the top-seeded Lewis University Flyers at 11 p.m. ET on Thursday night in the NCAA semifinals.