No. 3 Penn State Men’s Volleyball Defeats No. 9 Ohio State 3-1 In NCAA Tournament Quarterfinals
Penn State men’s volleyball (27-3, 10-0 EIVA) bested Ohio State (23-10, 11-3 MIVA) 3-1 during the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals Tuesday night in Fairfax, Virginia.
Toby Ezeonu returned to action for the Nittany Lions at the beginning of the third set, showing no signs of any lingering injuries, and instantly made an impact. Cal Fisher delivered another impressive performance, recording 18 kills and three service aces.
How It Happened
Michal Kowal scored the first point for the Nittany Lions in what turned out to be a very evenly matched first few points of the game. Cal Fisher recorded his first kill of the match to tie the game up right before a Brett Wildman, Owen Rose, and Fisher block gave Penn State the lead at 6-7.
Wildman delivered two straight kills before a Fisher service error gave the serve back to Ohio State. Wildman delivered a 68 mph serve that resulted in a service ace and pushed the Nittany Lions’ lead to 8-10.
Penn State’s front line gave Ohio State all kinds of trouble up front as they took control of the game and jumped out to a four-point lead after an uneventful first few points. Ohio State immediately took back momentum after a Penn State ball-handling error that led to a 4-1 run and forced head coach Mark Pavlik to take his first timeout of the set up 15-14.
Penn State came out of the timeout with a service error that Ohio State handed right back after a service error of its own. After getting serve back, Fisher delivered a kill and followed up with an assist to Wildman which led to an Ohio State timeout with the Nittany Lions leading 18-16.
Ohio State managed to pull back within one until a one-handed dig by Ryan Merk set up another Fisher kill that was unsuccessfully challenged by Ohio State pushing the game back to a two-point Nittany Lion lead at 23-21.
Fisher finished off the set with a laser serve that dropped inside the lines and gave the first set to the Nittany Lions 25-22.
After Ohio State got through the Nittany Lions’ defense on the first point of the new set, Wildman, Rose, and Bogner gave the Buckeye hitters no room on the subsequent point and sent back a scorching Ohio State hit that dropped to the hardwood and left the game tied after the first two points.
Pavlik unsuccessfully used his first challenge of the set on an Ohio State service ace that put the Buckeyes up 6-4. Serves were fast and heavy for the majority of the second set with both teams trading blistering serves that defenses struggled to dig.
Ohio State pushed the lead out to 11-7 on the heels of a 5-3 run as the Nittany Lions slowly watched momentum fade away. Before things got out of hand, Penn State mounted a 7-2 run of its own that gave the Nittany Lions their first lead of the set at 14-13.
Ohio State brought the game back to even after a fake set stealth attack got through the Penn State defense. The attack led to another lead change after the Buckeyes’ Samuel Clark delivered an ace that brought the score to 18-17 in Ohio State’s favor.
The Nittany Lions took the next two points and snatched the lead on the heels of a Rose kill that led to an Ohio State timeout. After the timeout, the longest rally of the match tied the game back up at 19-19.
Ohio State followed up with a 4-2 run that forced the Nittany Lions to try and gain the momentum back with time running out. Pavlik called a timeout after an Ohio State kill gave the Buckeyes their first set point of the match.
Penn State successfully defended the first two set points and gave itself a break for a point with the set tied at 24-24. Ohio State took the next two points and delivered a kill that sealed the second set for the Buckeyes 26-24.
Toby Ezeonu made his return to the court to start the third set after sustaining an injury in the semifinals of the conference tournament and immediately made an impact, assisting on a block in the second point of the set that ended up being overturned to give Ohio State a 2-0 lead.
Penn State bounced back and took the next two points to tie the game before a service error that was followed up by a flashy Wildman kill tied it at 3-3.
After trading points with Ohio State, Penn State went on a 7-3 run that featured kills from Fisher and a block from Ezeonu and gave the Nittany Lions a 10-6 lead as Ohio State called a timeout. Penn State maintained a four-point lead throughout much of the middle portion of the third set. Ohio State struggled to mount any sort of counter, and Penn State eventually extended its lead to six after an Ohio State error made the score 17-11.
Penn State continued its run and secured its largest lead of the match at 20-12. Things went from bad to worse for the Buckeyes as a bad set after some miscommunication pushed the lead to 10 and all but wrapped up the third set at 22-12.
Penn State ended the set on a 12-4 run, taking the third set 25-13.
Ohio State controlled the first few points of the fourth set but couldn’t keep the Nittany Lions at bay for very long after a Cole Bogner kill brought the score to 4-3 in favor of the Buckeyes.
After a 3-1 run, Penn State brought itself back to within two points with the score at 9-7. The momentum faded fast, and Ohio State took advantage of a Penn State service error, extending its lead to four.
Kowal spearheaded a 4-0 service run that consisted of two service aces and tied the game up at 14-14. Ohio State clung to what little momentum it had left and ended the Kowal run, but Penn State immediately responded with a block from Rose and Fisher, regained the lead, and forced an Ohio State timeout.
Neither team was able to mount a run late in the fourth set, and the teams entered the final stages of the set tied at 20-20. The final points were no different than their predecessors as both teams continued to trade points until the score was 23-23.
Ohio State took the next point, and after trailing for most of the set, the Buckeyes suddenly found themselves serving for the set. Ohio State couldn’t close the deal on a service error that sent serve back to Penn State tied 24-24.
Fisher came out of an Ohio State timeout and delivered a service ace that gave Penn State its first match point. The opposite hitter served for the match, and the Ohio State kill attempt was sent into the stands, winning the match for the Nittany Lions.
- Ezeonu’s return was a bright spot for the Nittany Lions and will continue to be a welcome addition to the lineup for the rest of the tournament. Ezeonu saw limited action in both the third and fourth sets but got involved quickly and recorded two kills and two block assists along with a service ace.
- Fisher continued to be star Tuesday night, which is something that will have to continue during the Nittany Lions’ next game. Fisher recorded 18 kills on a .533 hitting percentage and was crucial during the Nittany Lions’ run in the third set.
- Penn State’s blockers came up big early but faltered later in the second set. While they regained their regular ability, they never returned to the force that they were early on in the match. Penn State ended with 26 total blocks on the night.
Penn State men’s volleyball will move on to the NCAA Tournament semifinals to take on No. 1 Hawaii at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 4, in Fairfax, Virginia.
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