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No. 9 Penn State Men’s Volleyball Bounces Back In 3-1 Victory Over No. 16 CSUN 

No. 9 Penn State men’s volleyball (13-4, 4-0 EIVA) defeated No. 16 CSUN (9-8, 0-0 Big West) 3-1 Tuesday night. The win comes after the Nittany Lions fell to No. 2 Long Beach State Friday night. 

Penn State took the first two sets but lost the third set by a sizeably before taking control of the match again in the fourth set. John Kerr and Toby Ezeonu each had double-digit kills as Ezeonu and Owen Rose led Penn State with plus .450 hitting.

How It Happened

Penn State started the match off with a 3-1 lead with four straight errors by both squads. From there, Kyle Hobus notched the first kill of the match for the Matadors, followed by Michael Valenzi notching the first kill for the Nittany Lions. A bad set on CSUN made it 7-3 in favor of Penn State with the Matadors calling the first timeout of the match.

CSUN’s Griffin Walters tallied a kill after the break, but Penn State scored four straight to make it 11-4 and forced Theo Edwards to burn his final timeout of the set. During the run, Penn State scored off of two Matador errors, a Kerr kill, and an Ezeonu ace.

After the break, CSUN went on a 4-1 run with two kills by Donovan Constable, a Penn State service error, and a Hobus block. Kerr ended the run with a kill, but the Matadors scored three more to make it 13-11 Penn State as Mark Pavlik used his first timeout.

This time, Penn State pounced on a 3-1 run out the third pause of this first set. The run consisted of two Valenzi kills and a block by Ezeonu and Valenzi. CSUN struck back with a 3-1 run of its own due to three Penn State errors to make it 18-15 for the Nittany Lions. Ezeonu tallied a block, but Penn State’s lead quickly shrunk to just one after an Ezeonu service error, a Constable block, and a Walters kill.

The teams exchanged the next five scores until a successful Pavlik challenge gave Matt Cosgrove an ace and Penn State the 23-20 lead. A CSUN attack error, a Jalen Phillips kill for the Matadors, and a Constable service error ended the first set in favor of Penn State 25-21.

The second set got underway with a block by Hobus, three straight service errors by both teams, and a kill by Nir Eitan to make it 3-2 CSUN. Both squads alternated the first nine scores of the second set though neither managed to keep a lead until two Matador errors broke the monotony and gave Penn State a 6-5 lead.

The back-and-forth play continued until a Penn State error and a Hobas and Eitan block gave CSUN a 9-8 lead. The Matadors then gave back the lead with two more errors that sparked a 4-1 Penn State run with Ezeonu recording two kills in addition to the errors to make it 12-10 for the Nittany Lions.

An Ezonu kill, a CSUN service error, and Kerr and Rose blocks resulted in a Penn State run and a 15-12 lead. Both teams shared four straight errors then shared the next four scores to result in a 19-16 Penn State lead and a Matador timeout. The lead never escaped the Nittany Lions as Penn State took the second set 25-21 with the help of a block by Kerr and Rose and kills from Ezeonu, Kerr, and Rose.

The first point of the third set was unsuccessfully challenged by Penn State as Constable’s kill and Matteo Salvador’s ace made it 3-0 CSUN. Penn State got on the board off Salvador’s servicer error, but the Matadors maintained a three-point lead. At 6-3, Pavlik successfully challenged a call that cut the lead to two and earned Kerr a kill.

CSUN extended its lead with a 3-1 run that featured two kills by Salvador to make it 8-4 Matadors. Penn State cut the deficit to two with a 3-1 run of its own that consisted of three errors on CSUN. The Matadors then extended their lead to five after a 4-1 run with a Hobus kill, a Kerr service error, and back-to-back aces by Hobus to make it 15-10.

From there, it was all CSUN as the Matadors kept matching scores with Penn State until consecutive kills from Phillips and Salvador made it 18-12 and forced the Nittany Lions to call a timeout. Out of the break, Michal Kowal scored two kills as a Hobus kill and a Salvador service error made it a 3-1 Penn State run.

CSUN kept up the pressure with two more Hobus kills and a block by Constable, Hobus, and Jackson Payne to make it 22-16. The Matadors took the third set 25-17 as kills from Hobus and Phillips and an ace by Hobus closed set three.

Valenzi started the fourth set with a kill, but Hobus did the same for CSUN. Two Matador errors gave Penn State a two-point lead at 5-3 as neither team was able to jump to a lead of more than one point. Salvador had a kill, but Ezeonu and Kerr each added one as well to make it 7-4. The Matadors then registered a 3-1 run to cut the Penn State lead to one at 8-7.

Salvador’s service error and Hobus’ attack error extended the Penn State lead again to three. The lead then shrunk with service errors by Kowal and Eitan, a Hobus kill, and a Phillips block to make it 11-10 Penn State. The next six scores were split between the two squads as a Kerr kill made it 15-13 Penn State at the media timeout.

Will Kuhns and Rose teamed up for a block along with a Kerr kill that forced a CSUN timeout at 17-13. Each team exchanged an error, then a Kerr kill and a Hobus error made it 21-15 Penn State as CSUN burned its final timeout of the set. CSUN came out hot out of the break with six straight scores, three of which were by Hobus, to tie the fourth set at 21-21

During the run, Penn State used both of its timeouts and unsuccessfully challenged a call. Kerr’s kill was then unsuccessfully challenged by CSUN and a bad set put the Nittany Lions within one of the match at 24-22. Valenzi’s service error threatened overtime and a potential fifth set, but Ezeonu rejected Salvador’s kill attempt to end the set 25-23 in favor of Penn State.

Takeaways

  • Penn State’s veteran leadership showed in this match. Penn State let the sweep slip away in the third set, but when the fourth set began to slip away too, veterans like Ezeonu, Kerr, and Valenzi made big plays to secure the win.
  • Coming into the match, both teams were top 10 in the country in hitting percentage, but that didn’t show tonight. Penn State hit .269 and CSUN hit .240.
  • In the loss, Kyle Hobus carried CSUN through most of the match as he had 19 kills, four aces, hit .256, had four total blocks, and accounted for 27 points.

What’s Next?

Penn State will remain in California to face No. 12 USC at 10 p.m. on Wednesday, March 6.  

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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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