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No. 3 Penn State Men’s Volleyball Upsets No. 1 Hawaii 3-1

Penn State men’s volleyball (16-2, 4-0 EIVA) shocked undefeated Hawaii (16-1, 0-0 Big West) 3-1 in a battle of two top-ranked teams in the country.

After the previous night’s comeback fell just short against No. 2 UCLA, the Nittany Lions responded in impressive fashion to dethrone the number-one-ranked Rainbow Warriors.

Twelve kills from Cal Fisher and Michal Kowal helped pull off the upset for the Nittany Lions. Toby Ezeonu hit an astounding .533 on the night, too. Coach Mark Pavlik got a complete performance from his squad en route to knocking off Hawaii on its home court.

How It Happened

The first set from Honolulu started perfectly for Penn State, which jumped out to an early 4-1 lead. Cal Fisher recorded the first ace of the match, making the score 6-3. Toby Ezeonu tallied his first ace to extend the lead to 10-4 in favor of the Nittany Lions.

Cole Bogner was called for a ball-handling violation, and Hawaii cut the lead to three at 11-8. An Ezeonu kill brought the score to 15-13 at the media timeout. Back-to-back attacking errors by Brett Wildman gave the Rainbow Warriors a 20-19 advantage. Spyros Chakas dialed up two kills and secured the opening 25-21 win for Hawaii.

Pavlik’s team started the second set hot just like the first, leading 4-2 after the first few points. Each team traded service errors, and the score was 7-5 in favor of the Nittany Lions. Hawaii tied the score at 10 after Owen Rose committed a service error.

Hawaii once again came out strong after the media timeout and went up 17-16 after a Chakas kill. The second set was all tied at 22 late. Chaz Galloway started to get hot for the Rainbow Warriors with multiple kills. However, Penn State prevailed with Owen Rose wrapping up set No. 2 and winning it 25-23 for the Nittany Lions with another kill.

Penn State rode the hot hand of Fisher to start the third set up 5-3. Cole Hogland recorded an ace, which he followed up with a service error for Hawaii, and the score was 9-7 in favor of the Nittany Lions. Two points from Wildman forced a Hawaii timeout with Penn State leading 11-7.

The Rainbow Warriors continued to make mistakes, costing them and giving the Nittany Lions a 14-9 advantage. Ezeonu joined in on the third set party for Penn State. His kill extended the lead to 19-11 over the No. 1-ranked team in the nation.

Hawaii started a comeback led by Dimitrios Mouchlias, cutting the lead to only four at 22-18. Pavlik called a timeout to settle down his squad. Rose snapped the scoring run for the Nittany Lions, and Ezeonu wrapped up the third set with a huge kill, winning it by a score of 25-21 for Penn State.

Set number four started fast and the Nittany Lions took it to the Rainbow Warriors early. Ezeonu dialed up another kill, and Penn State had an 8-5 lead. Michal Kowal’s kill gave Penn State a two-point lead after a few consecutive Rainbow Warrior points.

Another Fisher kill extended the lead, and it stood at 15-11 at the media timeout. Hawaii went on a run and cut the lead to within one. The score was 17-16 after a Kowal attacking error. Kowal then came up with a massive kill and made it a 20-18 advantage for the Nittany Lions.

It had been Fisher’s night all match, and his kill made it a 23-20. Hawaii proceeded to respond with a three-point run, tying it up at 23. A Kowal kill on the very next play gave Penn State match point over the Rainbow Warriors. Ezeonu’s kill sealed it, and Penn State won the set 25-23 and the match 3-1, beating the best team in the country.

Takeaways

  • The Nittany Lions started each set much better than they had been in recent matches. Strong starts establish the tone for each set, and it proved to be beneficial for Penn State to be playing with a lead. Without the early momentum, Penn State probably doesn’t come out on top in the match.
  • Hawaii had not dropped two sets all year until its match with Penn State, let alone lose a match. Penn State is the real deal and a legit title contender this year.
  • Ryan Merk doesn’t always get the recognition that some of the more flashy players receive. However, the sophomore libero always does the little things for coach Pavlik and was crucial tonight with seven digs. You also have to credit Cal Fisher for a bounce-back performance, helping his team pull off the upset.

What’s Next

The Nittany Lions square off with Purdue Fort Wayne in the final match of the Outrigger Challenge at 9 p.m. on Saturday, March 11.

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About the Author

CJ Gill

CJ is a sophomore from McVeytown, Pennsylvania majoring in broadcast journalism and an associate editor at Onward State. He's a huge Phillies fan, which has its pro and cons come October. You can send all disagreements to [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @CJGill14.

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