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No. 9 Penn State Men’s Volleyball Handles NJIT In Four Sets 

No. 9 Penn State men’s volleyball (11-3, 3-0 EIVA) defeated NJIT (7-7, 0-2 EIVA) 3-1 in Rec Hall on Friday evening. 

After a slow first set, Penn State kicked it into high gear and held off the Highlanders in the remaining sets. Toby Ezeonu and John Kerr had double-digit kills and Luke Snyder occupied multiple roles in the conference win.

How It Happened

The first set started off with an NJIT service error on Griffin Fieseler followed by a kill by Alessandro Negri. Michal Kowal struck back to make it 2-1 Penn State as Ezeonu made himself known early with a block that was followed by an attack error to extend the lead to 4-1.

A back-and-forth run that featured two kills by Ezeonu and a big swing by Kowal that resulted in the ball hitting the ceiling made it 7-6 Nittany Lions. Penn State maintained a consistent two point lead until Kerr and Owen Rose met for a block to extend the lead to 11-8.

The lead did not last for long, and NJIT came back with a 3-0 run that consisted of a kill by Andrew Fedmasu, an attack error on Rose, and an error on Kowal. Both teams alternated scores until the Highlanders gained a two point lead off Kerr’s service error and Carson Williams’s kill.

Penn State struck back with back-to-back kills by Ezeonu to tie the set at 15-15. Both teams went blow-for-blow for the next six scores until Kowal’s service error and Negri’s kill forced head coach Mark Pavlik to use his first timeout with the score 20-18 for NJIT. After the break, Penn State scored off an Antonio Feliciano service error but Negri and Fedmasu teamed up for a block.

Ezeonu’s kill and Rose’s block tied the set at 21-21 for the Nittany Lions. At 22-22, a call that resulted in a Penn State score was reversed, but Kerr tallied a kill off a floater over the net. However, a block by Feliciano, Williams, and Fieseler and another block by Fedmasu and Fieseler ended the first set 25-23 in favor of the Highlanders.

The second set began with a service error on NJIT’s Will Migdal that was then challenged and overturned to a kill for Migdal. Penn State got on the board off Fieseler’s service error, but the Highlander scored two more off a service error and a Feliciano ace. Kerr tallied a kill, but NJIT maintained its two score lead with a kill by Negri.

The Nittany Lions then went on a 3-0 run that featured a rare kill by Luke Snyder, a kill by Rose, and an attack error on Negri to make it 6-5 Penn State. Williams tied the set for the Highlanders but Kowal took back the lead with a kill.

Penn State then went on a 4-0 run with kills by Kowal and Kerr, an ace by Kowal, and an error on Fieseler to make it 11-8 Penn State and forced NJIT head coach Danny Goncalves to use his first timeout. Kowal committed a service error out of the break but Penn State returned with two more with a kill by Rose and a block by Ezeonu.

Migdal earned a kill for NJIT but the Nittany Lions scored two more in return again with a kill by Kerr and another rare unassisted kill by Snyder. NJIT called another timeout as Penn State led 15-9. Penn State continued to handle the lead as a Rose kill and a Snyder ace grew the lead to 19-12.

From there, it was all Penn State. The Nittany Lions took the second set 25-15 with a Rose ace to cap the set.

The third got under way with a long rally with three consecutive blocks by the Highlanders until Kerr’s kill broke through the defense. NJIT struck back with a Feliciano kill but Kerr returned the favor with a kill of his own to make it 2-1 Penn State.

The Nittany Lions then jumped out to a 4-1 run off of three Highlander errors and a Kerr ace. Migdal struck back for NJIT, but Michael Valenzi’s ace and Snyder’s and Ezeonu’s block made it 8-3. However, the Highlanders cut the lead to three with kills by Feliciano and Migdal, and an error on Ezeonu.

Penn State continued to maintain its lead, as it scored off a Williams service error to make it 10-6. NJIT then went on a 4-0 run with a kill by Fedmasu and three kills by Migdal to tie the set at 10-10 and forced Penn State to call a timeout.

Out of the break, NJIT continued its run with a block by Migdal and Fedmasu until the run was ended by a Kowal kill. The kill was the beginning of a 3-0 run for Penn State as it was followed by a Rose kill and a Kerr and Rose block to make it 13-11 Penn State as the Highlanders used another timeout.

Like NJIT moments ago, Penn State continued its run with a Kerr kill out of the break to extend the lead to three. Feliciano stuck back for the Highlander’s, but Valenzi did the same for the Nittany Lions. Kowal’s kill grew the lead to four for Penn State until some miscommunication resulted in no one setting the ball after the dig and earned Migdal another kill.

Once again, Penn State was able to maintain its lead as it led by five at 20-15. The Nittany Lions closed out the third set 25-17 with a kill by Ezenou, a block by Rose, an ace by Kowal, and multiple NJIT errors.

Penn State started the fourth set with a service error by Kowal after he ended the previous set with an ace. Rose got the point back with a kill for the Nittany Lions, but NJIT followed the kill with one of its own by Feliciano. Multiple Penn State errors resulted in an early 7-4 lead for the Highlanders.

Penn State shortened the lead off a Migdal service error but a collision between Ryan Merk and Valenzi ended in another NJIT score. Penn State scored two more times off a Migdal attack error and a Kerr kill. Williams’s kill was unsuccessfully challenged by Pavlik to make it 9-7 NJIT.

Penn State cut the deficit to one with a triple team block by Valezni, Rose, and Kerr. Rose’s service error and Valenzi’s attack error extended NJIT’s lead to 11-8. Ezeonu recorded a kill then teamed up with Valenzi for a block to the make it a one point game.

Kerr’s kill and Valenzi’s ace tied the set at 12-12. An attack error on Kowal gave the Highlanders the lead again, but NJIT gave it right back with a service error on Fedmasu. Both teams then went on to exchange the lead multiple times.

At 17-16 NJIT, the Highlanders unsuccessfully challenged an attack error on Fieseler, then a Kowal ace tied the set again at 17-17. The back-and-forth play continued once again until NJIT unsuccessfully challenged another call that gave Penn Sate a 20-19 lead off a Migdal attack error.

Ezeonu swung big and only got a piece of the ball, but it was enough to get through for the kill to extend Penn State’s lead to two. Ezeonu then came back with a block that was followed by an attack error by Migdal to force an NJIT timeout and the 23-19 lead.

Penn State closed out the final set 25-20 off a Snyder kill and Ezeonu ace.

Takeaways

  • The streak continues. Penn State has won 31 consecutive regular season matches against conference opponents. 
  • Snyder did a little bit of everything tonight. Snyder, know for his setting, only had three kills and four aces all season coming into the match. Tonight, along with his 38 assists, he recorded 3 kills on six attacks, an ace, and a block.
  • Ezeonu continued his dominance against NJIT. In his last four matches against the Highlanders, he has averaged 3.00 kills, 1.36 blocks and hit .597. Tonight, Ezeonu had 12 kills, an ace, four blocks, and hit .800.

What’s Next?

Penn State will look to sweep NJIT at 4 p.m. on Saturday, February 24, in Rec Hall. The game will be steamed on BTN+.

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About the Author

Mitch Corcoran

Mitch is a junior broadcast journalism major from Johnstown, PA. He is a big Pittsburgh sports fan and in his free time he likes to listen to music, play video games, and rewatch old football games. He also loves Seinfeld, Star Wars, bucket hats, and Dua Lipa. If you want Justin Herbert propaganda or random sports content, follow him on Twitter/X @MitchCorc18 or email [email protected]

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