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No. 9 Penn State Men’s Volleyball Suffers 3-2 Loss To No. 4 UCLA

No. 9 Penn State men’s volleyball (13-6, 4-0 EVIA) fell to No. 4 UCLA (15-4, 5-1 MPSF) 3-2 Friday night. The loss caps a 1-3 road trip for the Nittany Lions as they were swept in the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge.

John Kerr’s 19 kills and two aces, along with the team’s nine aces kept Penn State in the match, but it wasn’t enough to take down the Bruins.

How It Happened

The final match of the West Coast road trip for Penn State started with UCLA matching its first two scores, which led to a 4-0 run for the Bruins to give the home squad an early 5-2 lead. Two straight kills by Kerr and a kill by Michael Valenzi ended the UCLA run and created a 3-0 Penn State run.

Penn State tied the set two times with a Cooper Robinson service error and a Michal Kowal kill until it took an 8-7 lead with an attack error on UCLA’s Grant Sloane. From there, the Bruins went on another 4-0 run with kills by Sloane and Guy Genis and two aces by Andrew Rowan.

Penn State got back on the board with a ball-handling error on Sloane, but UCLA went on another run, this time a 3-1 run, to make it 14-10 Bruins. Another UCLA error rewarded Penn State with a point, but UCLA got it right back with a kill by Robinson to lead into the first media timeout.

After the break, UCLA started to take control of the set. A block by Rowan and Merrick McHenry and an attack error on Toby Ezeonu resulted in Mark Pavlik calling his first timeout. McHenry tallied a kill after the break, but Penn State went on a 3-1 run with two Bruin service errors and an ace by Kerr to make it 19-14 UCLA.

The Bruins held the comfortable lead for the remainder of the set as kills by McHenry, Rowan, and Robinson and blocks by Sloane and Genis extended the lead to seven. Kills by Owen Rose, Valenzi, and Ezeonu helped the Nittany Lions cut the lead to four, but a service error ended the set 25-20.

The second set started with Penn State taking a 5-2 lead, and the Nittany Lions scored four straight at one point. The run consisted of two UCLA errors, a kill by Kerr and a kill and ace by Valenzi. Kerr’s service error ended the run, but Penn State got right back at it by scoring off two more UCLA errors and another Valenzi ace to make it 8-3 as John Speraw used his first timeout of the match.

Kowal continued the momentum after the timeout with a kill, but UCLA came back with a kill by Alex Knight and an ace by McHenry. From there, the Bruins got red hot with two kills from Ethan Champlin, two more from Robinson, and a kill by Sloane. Penn State was only able to score off a service error during the run as UCLA tied the set at 10-10.

Two UCLA errors and an ace by true freshman Michael Schwob earned Penn State three straight scores as UCLA used its final timeout of the set. Penn State kept fighting off the Bruins by matching their next six scores to protect its three-point lead. At 19-16, Sloane’s service error bumped Penn State’s lead to four until Ezeonu’s service error and Kerr’s attack error cut the lead to two at 20-18.

Penn State went on a 3-1 run with kills by Kerr and Valenzi to make it 23-19. Coleman McDonogh’s service error put the Nittany Lions within one of its first set victory as Kerr’s kill closed the set 25-21 for Penn State.

Penn State took the first two points of set three with a kill by Kerr and a block by Rose and Valenzi. Kowal’s service error put the Bruins on the board as Penn State matched UCLA’s next three scores. Four straight kills for both teams, along with multiple errors by both squads, resulted in Penn State keeping its two-score lead until Kerr’s service error and kills by Champlin and McHenry gave UCLA its first lead of the set at 11-10.

Penn State took the lead back with a 3-1 run that included kills from Kerr and Kowal and a Valenzi ace. Both teams continued exchanging blows until the media timeout at 15-14 in favor of Penn State. UCLA’s 3-1 run put the Bruins in front by one until two Sloane errors gave Penn State the lead at 18-17.

A 3-1 UCLA run with a Champlin kill and McHenry ace made it 20-19 Bruins as Pavlik used a timeout. Champlin recorded another kill as Pavlik used his last timeout of the set immediately after. Ezeonu came out of the break and gave Penn State the 22-21 lead with a kill followed by consecutive aces.

UCLA used a timeout and gave up a score following the break as Knight swung at an illegal set. Kerr’s kill and Kowal’s kill then ended the third set 25-22 in favor of the Nittany Lions.

The fourth set started with hints of deja vu as the back-and-forth play continued with both teams sharing the first six scores. A block by Ido David and Genis, an Ezeonu attack error, and a David ace gave the Bruins a 6-3 lead, but Penn State cut the lead to one with kills from Ezeonu and Kowal.

UCLA grew the lead back to three with a 3-1 run that included two Penn State service errors and a David kill. At 11-7 UCLA, Rose’s solo block, Kerr’s kill, and Valenzi’s kill looked to give Penn State some momentum, but the Bruins matched each score to maintain their lead. Kowal’s error and David’s ace made it 15-10 UCLA at the media timeout.

Kerr notched a kill, but Ezeonu’s service error and David’s kill made it 17-11 as Penn State used a timeout. Another Penn State true freshman in Carter Dittman came in and recorded an ace along with two UCLA errors to make it a 3-1 run for the Nittany Lions. Both squads exchanged the next six scores as the Bruins kept a four-point lead at 21-17 and called a timeout.

David’s kill extended the lead to five until Valenzi and Ezeonu’s kills made it 22-19 for UCLA. Zach Rama’s kill and David’s ace forced a Penn State timeout as the Bruins were within one of the set. A Kerr kill and a Rama error made it 24-21, but Ezeonu’s service error forced a fifth set as UCLA took set four 25-21.

UCLA started the final set with a 3-1 lead with Champlin recording two kills. Ezeonu had a solo block to bring it within one, but Rama’s kill and a David and Genis block force Pavlik to use a timeout at 5-2 Bruins. Four straight errors by both teams followed the break until David earned a kill to extend the lead to 8-4.

Both teams then exchanged service errors, but a Kerr kill and Kowal ace cut the UCLA lead to 9-7. Champlin recorded a kill, but three straight UCLA errors tied the final set at 10-10 as the Bruins used a timeout.

Robinson’s kill and Kerr’s attack error gave the lead back to the Bruins at 12-10 as Pavlik used a timeout. A block by Rama and McHenry grew the UCLA lead to three until Champlin’s service error brought it back down to two.

Kerr’s service error put the Bruins within one until Valenzi’s kill, but it was all for naught as Valenzi followed the kill with a service error to give UCLA the final set 15-12.

Takeaways

  • UCLA is now 2-0 this season against Penn State and has an all-time record of 35-8-1.
  • John Kerr was a bright spot for Penn State with 19 kills and two aces.
  • Toby Ezeonu had an off game tonight as the nation’s leader in hitting percentage hit a staggering .077 with only five kills.

What’s Next?

Penn State returns to Pennsylvania and will travel to Loretto to face Saint Francis at 3 p.m. on Saturday, March 16.  

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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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