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No. 1 Penn State Men’s Volleyball Trying To Keep Momentum Going Against No. 15 Ohio State

Following a sweep of Saint Francis at home, Penn State men’s volleyball broke through and earned the top spot in the latest AVCA rankings. The Nittany Lions boast an 18-2 record and are winners of three straight matches, showing no signs of slowing down.

The former No. 1-ranked team, Hawaii, suffered its second loss of the season in a 3-0 beatdown by Long Beach State. The blue and white beat the Rainbow Warriors 3-1 at their place back in early March for their first loss of the season.

Hawaii bounce back and beat the Beach 3-0 in the second of the two-match series. But the course of events resulted in Penn State sitting at No. 1 in the AVCA for the first time since 2009 — the year following its last NCAA Championship.

Head coach Mark Pavlik and Co. have their eyes set on another successful run, as their schedule resumes on Tuesday to take on No. 15 Ohio State.

Penn State took care of business against the Buckeyes 3-1 back in January when these two teams squared off for the first time this season. Then, Ohio State was ranked No. 13 in the nation, and Brett Wildman, Cal Fisher, and Sam Marsh had yet to suit up in uniform. But it hardly mattered.

John Kerr led the way with 21 kills — a career-high mark — and was an unstoppable force for the Nittany Lions. Kerr also had five blocks, second on the team to sophomore Owen Rose’s seven in just his second career match. 

Rose has built off that and is currently top 10 in the nation in blocks per set with 1.129. Cole Young and Justin Howard are the closest on the Buckeyes, recording .763 and .757, respectively.

Overall, the middle was superb for Penn State and has been all season, propelled by the presence of junior Toby Ezeonu, who is second in the nation in hitting percentage (.496). Ezeonu had seven kills and three blocks while helping hold the Buckeyes to a .213 hitting percentage as a team.

The Nittany Lions didn’t need them the first time around, but just in case, they have the previously mentioned reinforcements. Wildman, Fisher, and Marsh will man their usual starting roles with the goal of beating the Buckeyes for one final time in blue and white and for the fifth straight time.

For Ohio State, the same squad will likely be suiting up. The only main difference is the insertion of freshman Shane Wetzel, who didn’t play last time around, into the lineup. Wetzel is top five on the team in kills and kill percentage, and is second in service aces with 21.

Jacob Pasteur stood atop the scoresheet with 13 kills last time against Penn State, while Ben Braun had six on seven swings. Pasteur is ranked 19th in the nation in kills per set (3.71) and sits just outside the top five in total kills (282), hitting .299, so the Nittany Lions will need to place some extra emphasis on slowing him down.

The Buckeyes are reeling right now, losers of five of their last six while going 0-2 against No. 8 BYU, 1-1 against No. 12 Ball State, 0-1 against No. 13 Charleston, and 0-1 against Lindenwood.

The competition’s not been light by any means, but neither will this matchup with Penn State. With the Nittany Lions only getting better and the Buckeyes seemingly regressing, a remedy might be hard to come by for the scarlet and gray looking for a different result than earlier in the season.

The first serve is slated for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 21, at Rec Hall.

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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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