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No. 10 Penn State Men’s Volleyball Reverse Sweeps Saint Francis 3-2

No. 10 Penn State men’s volleyball (14-6, 4-0 EIVA) avoided the upset in a 3-2 reverse sweep victory over Saint Francis (12-7, 4-0 NEC) on the road Saturday evening. The Nittany Lions bounced back in a much-needed win after a 1-3 road trip in California last week. 

With an abysmal start to the match, the Nittany Lions got it together in the third and fourth sets to force a fifth set in which they protected a small lead throughout the set. Freshman Michael Schwob came up clutch with three aces, and John Kerr led the way offensively with 18 kills, a block, an ace, and hit .314.

How It Happened

In its first game in over a week, Penn State jumped out to a 2-0 lead off of two Saint Francis errors, but the Red Flash got the points back with kills by Nicholas Lynch and Nathan Zini. Owen Rose tallied the first kill for Penn State then an attack error on Penn State and a kill by Andrew Deardorff gave Saint Francis its first lead at 4-3.

Three straight service errors by both teams tied the set at 5-5. Saint Francis then surged to a 13-6 lead off of a massive 8-1 run that included four Penn State errors, two Zini kills, a Sam Lane kill, and a Deardorff ace. John Kerr ended the run with a kill, followed by a Saint Francis error to shave the lead to five.

The Red Flash came back with three of their own with kills from Brady Stump and Lynch and a block by both Stump and Lynch. Kerr ended the run again with a kill, followed by a block by Will Kuhns, Kerr, and Rose, and another block by Kerr and Rose. Penn State’s 3-0 run was then matched by the Red Flash’s 3-0 run.

Saint Francis went on another 3-1 run to extend its massive lead to 22-13. It was all Saint Francis the rest of the way as it dominated the Nittany Lions in set one 25-16.

The Nittany Lions got back on track in the second set with an early 3-1 lead with two Saint Francis errors and a Kuhns kill. Four straight errors on both teams led to another 3-1 Penn State run with two kills by Kerr and a kill by Toby Ezeonu to make it 7-4 Penn State. Two Zini kills and two Nittany Lion errors made it a 4-1 run and tied the set for the Red Flash.

Penn State captured the lead once again after a 4-1 run of its own with kills by Michal Kowal, Rose, and Kerr, and the first ace of the match for Penn State by Kowal. A slew of errors by Saint Francis, a kill by Lynch, and a block by Kowal and Ezeonu made it 17-13 Penn State.

A couple of scores later, Saint Francis tied the set at 19-19 after two kills by Lynch, a kill by Stump, and an ace by Zini as Mark Pavlik used his first timeout of the set. Both teams split the next three scores to keep the set tied at 22-22. Lane and Deardorff’s kill then put the Red Flash within one of the set as Pavlik used his final timeout.

A service error on Ryan Parker kept the set alive for the Nittany Lions until Ezeonu’s service error gave Saint Francis set two at 25-23.

With its back against the wall, Penn State started the sudden death set with a kill by Kowal. The first six scores of the set were split between both teams to make it 3-3. Kills by Kerr and Ezeonu and a Saint Francis error gave the Nittany Lions a much-needed three-point lead.

Penn State matched Saint Francis’ next three scores to maintain its three-point lead. Back-to-back Zini kills cut the lead to one, but Kowal scored three straight for Penn State with two kills and an ace. Saint Francis scored off of kills by Zini, Stump, and Parker, but they were in null of the three service errors that followed each kill as Penn State led 15-12 at the media timeout.

Penn State continued to hold its small lead until Kuhns’ kill and Kowal’s ace extended the lead to four at 19-15. Like in the second set, Saint Francis started to gather momentum toward the end of this set with kills by Zini and Stump to force a Penn State timeout.

Stump’s kill after the break was matched by Kuhns’ kill, but Saint Francis tied the set at 20-20 with two more kills by Lynch and Deardorff. Two Saint Francis errors, a Kerr ace, and a Deardorff error put Penn State within one of the third set at 24-20. A Deardorff ace and a Michael Mosbacher made it 24-22 and forced another Penn State timeout.

Lane and Parker’s block put the Red Flash within one of forcing overtime, but Kerr capped the set with a kill at 25-23.

The fourth set started with the squads sharing the first eight scores to make it 4-4. Two Saint Francis errors gave Penn State a two-score lead as the back-and-forth play continued with two Deardorff kills, followed by kills by Kerr and Kuhns. Michael Schwob’s ace and Kowal and Rose’s block forced Saint Francis’s head coach Mike Rumbaugh to use his first timeout of the set at 10-6 Penn State.

The Red Flash came out of the timeout with a 4-1 run that included two Stump kills, a Zini kill, and a Penn State attack error. Kerr ended the run with a kill as a service error on each team and an Ezeonu kill made it 14-11 Penn State.

From that point, the Nittany Lions took over. A long review gave Penn State a breather as it went on a 7-1 run with three Red Flash errors and kills by Kerr, Ezeonu, and Schwob, and an ace by Michael Valenzi to make it 21-12 Penn State. Saint Francis went on a 3-1 run, but Penn State scored off a Red Flash error, a Schwob ace, and a Kerr kill to make it 25-15 and force a fifth set.

The final set of the match started with a 5-1 lead for Penn State after four Saint Francis errors and an Ezeonu ace. Five-straight errors on both teams and a Parker ace cut the lead to 7-5. Penn State matched the Red Flash’s next two scores to keep its lead until a Stump kill and a Zini kill tied the set at 9-9 and forced Pavlik to use a timeout.

The back-and-forth play continued as both teams split the next six scores to tie the set at 12-12 until Schwob notched another ace to force a Red Flash timeout. A Saint Francis attack error put Penn State within one match point as a block by Mosbacher and Lane put the Red Flash within one of forcing overtime. Kerr’s kill then ended the final set 15-13 in favor of Penn State.

Takeaways

  • Gritty not pretty has been the theme of this Penn State team this year. The Nittany Lions seem to always stay in the game and fight to the very end, and this match was a prime example. Saint Francis had 16 more kills and 10 more assists, but Penn State still came out on top.
  • Penn State continues its dominance over Saint Francis. Since 1994, the Nittany Lions hold a 53-3 record over the Red Flash.
  • Freshman Michael Schwob has deservingly seen an increase in playing time recently as he had 33 assists and three aces tonight.

What’s Next?

Penn State will aim to sweep the Red Flash at 3 p.m. on Sunday, March 17, in Rec Hall. The game will air on BTN+. 

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About the Author

Mitchell 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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