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Penn State Men’s Volleyball Trying To Keep Momentum Rolling In March

Penn State men’s volleyball is on a quest to win its first NCAA Championship since 2008. The team has lived up to the expectations so far, with key players repeating last year’s performances and others gaining experience and rising to the occasion.

The Nittany Lions swept NJIT twice this past weekend to improve to 13-1 and are showing no signs of slowing down.

Toby Ezeonu led the way last week, hitting .765 with 14 kills and four blocks. He earned his second EIVA National Middle Attacker of the Week award this season for his efforts.

Ezeonu and sophomore Owen Rose combined for 30 attacks of the team’s 64 total against NJIT. The pair took advantage of the absence of NJIT’s 6’7″ middle blocker, Martin de Chavarria, a three-time All-EIVA honoree, and owned the middle of the floor.

Penn State is riding a seven-game win streak and enters this weekend seeking to sustain its momentum. The Nittany Lions are navigating away from conference play for now and have an opportunity to prove themselves as a national powerhouse with their upcoming matches.

Penn State has a lower-pressure matchup on Friday against an unranked Concordia squad before meeting with No. 6 UC Irvine in California on Saturday. It’s a much lighter weekend than the upcoming Outrigger Challenge with Hawaii and UCLA, the top two teams in the nation, looming.

Penn State can’t get caught looking ahead, though, and needs to take care of business against this weekend’s opponents. The Nittany Lions have had no trouble putting inferior opponents to bed early so far this season, winning 24 sets and dropping just three. Concordia shouldn’t expect anything different.

The Golden Eagles sit at a paltry 5-9 on the season, with a single win against a ranked opponent — Loyola Chicago.

Uriel Batista is Concordia’s catalyst, leading the team in kills by over 100. The senior hitter is among the top three in kills per set in the country, posting 4.38, and is just outside the top three with 5.07 points per set.

UC Irvine is ranked No. 6 but is only 9-5. The Anteaters are reeling after staring their season 8-0, going 1-1 against BYU and suffering sweeps against Grand Canyon and UCLA.

UC Irvine doesn’t have as much size as Penn State but still presents a similar challenge as Long Beach St., the only team to take down the Nittany Lions. Long Beach St. leads the nation in blocks per set with 2.971, and the Anteaters aren’t too far behind with 2.345. Doug Dahm, UC Irvine’s primary weapon, is a 6’5″ redshirt junior who posts 1.085 blocks per set by himself.

Penn State seemingly has the advantage on the defensive end, however, as the Nittany Lions’ opponent hitting percentage sits at .188 compared to UC Irvine’s .270. Penn State also has firepower all over the court that can exploit that, with three players posting over 100 kills on the season — Ezeonu, John Kerr, and Michal Kowal.

Penn State faces off against Concordia at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 4, and UC Irvine at 8 p.m. on Sunday, March 5.

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About the Author

Zach Donaldson

Zach is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. He is a writer for Onward State and serves as an editor for Penn State’s CommRadio. He hails from Downingtown, Pa., or in other words "just outside of Philly." When he's not watching or ranting about Philly sports, you can probably find him at the gym. If you like sports tweets, follow him on Twitter @zachdonaldson_ and all inquiries can go to [email protected].

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