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No. 10 Penn State Men’s Volleyball Completes Sweep Against Harvard In 3-1 Thriller

No. 10 Penn State men’s volleyball (17-6, 6-0 EIVA) defeated Harvard (11-8, 3-3 EIVA) 3-1 in Rec Hall Saturday afternoon.

After sweeping Harvard on Friday night, the Nittany Lions fought hard to get the victory. Harvard avoided the sweep by winning the third set and had an early lead in the fourth set, but it wasn’t enough as Penn State went on to win the fourth set to give it a 3-1 set victory.

How It Happened

Penn State got off to a slow start by committing two straight attack errors before John Kerr’s kill put the Nittany Lions on the board. However, Harvard went on to win two straight points to extend its lead to three. After both teams exchanged two straight service errors, Penn State went on a 4-0 run to take the lead at 6-5. The run consisted of four straight kills by Michael Valenzi, Toby Ezeonu, and Kerr.

The run ended when Harvard’s Logan Shepherd committed a kill to tie the game at six. Both teams went blow-for-blow for the next six points until a kill by Kerr and attack error by Harvard’s Owen Fanning gave the Nittany Lions an 11-9 lead. After Michael Schwob committed a service error to decrease Penn State’s lead to one, the Nittany Lions went on an impressive 4-0 run that consisted of kills by Owen Rose and Valenzi which forced the Crimson to take a timeout.

After the timeout, Penn State increased its run to five after a service ace by Michal Kowal. The run ended when Fanning recorded a kill for Harvard to decrease the Nittany Lions’ lead to five. Both teams exchanged scores off kills and errors before Harvard went on a 3-1 run to make it 19-15 in favor of the Nittany Lions. Neither team went on any run as they exchanged scores for six straight points, which consisted of five kills and an attack error before two errors by Harvard made it set point in favor of the Nittany Lions.

However, the resilient Crimson wouldn’t let the Nittany Lions take advantage of the set point as they went on to win three straight points to decrease Penn State’s lead to three. This forced the Nittany Lions to take a timeout. After the timeout, the Nittany Lions finally capitalized of its fourth set opportunity as Ezeonu recorded a kill and Penn State went on to win the first set 25-21.

Two Harvard attack errors and Rose’s kill started the second set 3-0 for Penn State. Harvard got on the board when Ethan Smith recorded a kill for the Crimson. After both teams committed a service error, Penn State extended its lead to four when Harvard committed two straight errors. Harvard responded by going on a 3-1 run to make it 7-5 for the Nittany Lions. Its momentum ended when Harvard’s Ethan McCrary committed a service error and Ezeonu registered an ace to restore Penn State’s four-score lead.

After Harvard managed to decrease Penn State’s lead to three, the Nittany Lions went on to score the next three points from kills by Kerr and Rose along with an attack error by Fanning to increase Penn State’s lead to six which forced Harvard to take a timeout.

Coming out of the timeout, Harvard ended Penn State’s run when Kowal committed a service error. Despite Kowal’s error, the Nittany Lions responded back by going on a 4-0 run which consisted of three errors and a kill by Ezeonu to make it 17-8 in favor of the Nittany Lions. Harvard then went on a 3-0 run off two service aces by Fanning and a kill by McCrary to decrease Penn State’s lead to six. Harvard’s momentum was short-lived as Penn State scored the next two points due to errors committed by Harvard.

Both teams exchanged the next four points which consisted of three kills and an attack error. Harvard then went on a 3-0 run to decrease Penn State’s lead to six before a service error by McCrary ended the run. After both teams committed errors, Kowal’s kill made it 24-16 in favor of Penn State to give the Nittany Lions their first set point. The Nittany Lions took advantage of this set point when Matt Cosgrove recorded an ace to give Penn State a two-set lead.

The third set got underway with a service error by Zach Berty to give the Nittany Lions the first point of the set. Both teams exchanged scores for four straight points, which consisted of four kills to give the Nittany Lions a 3-2 lead. The Nittany Lions increased their lead to two when Harvard’s Andrew Lobo committed an attack error. After Kerr committed a service error, the Nittany Lions scored three of the next four points, which increased Penn State’s lead to three. However, Penn State got sloppy and committed three straight errors which allowed Harvard to tie the set at eight.

The set stayed tight as neither team pulled away. However, after Harvard tied the set at 10, the Crimson took their first lead of the third set when Ezeonu committed an attack error. Harvard then went on to increase its lead to two when Shepherd recorded a kill. After Harvard’s lead stayed intact for the next two points, the Nittany Lions showed their resilience by winning two straight points due to Kerr’s kills to tie the set at 13.

Both teams went back and forth for four straight points, but Penn State regained the lead of the set when Schwob recorded a service ace. After Kerr’s kill increased Penn State’s lead to two, Harvard responded back by winning two straight points to tie the set at 17.

Both teams went blow for blow for eight straight points until a kill by Harvard’s Berty gave the lead back to Harvard, but Ezeonu tied up the set once again for the Nittany Lions at 22. After both teams exchanged the next two points, Harvard earned its first set point when Harvard’s Trevor Schultz recorded a huge kill for the team. The Crimson capitalized on this opportunity when Berty’s kill gave Harvard the set victory 25-23.

The fourth set started with Harvard getting off to a fast start. It scored three of the first four points to take a 3-1 lead in the fourth set. However, Penn State showed a lot of resilience as it scored six straight points due to three errors, two kills by Valenzi, and a kill by Ezeonu to give the Nittany Lions a 7-3 lead. The run ended when Harvard’s Berty earned a kill for the Crimson.

After both teams exchanged kills, Harvard decreased Penn State’s lead to two when Valenzi committed an attack error. The Nittany Lions responded back by winning three of the next four points to increase their lead to four. This was highlighted with three kills by the Nittany Lions. However, Harvard would not go away as it went on to win three straight points to make it a one-score game, but Kerr ended Harvard’s momentum.

After Harvard decreased Penn State’s lead to one, the Nittany Lions responded back in a huge way as they went on to win six straight points which consisted of four kills and two errors. The Nittany Lions’ momentum ended when Rose committed a service error to decrease Penn State’s lead to six. After Kerr recorded a kill, Harvard managed to trim Penn State’s lead to five by recording two consecutive kills. The Nittany Lions responded back by recording two straight kills which forced Harvard to take a timeout.

Coming out of the timeout, Valenzi committed a service error for the Nittany Lions, but they responded quickly by winning the next two points. After Berty recorded a kill for Harvard, Penn State got its first match point due to Rose’s kill and capitalized on it off Cosgrove’s ace as it finished off the set 25-16.

Takeaways

  • Penn State’s hitting percentage was a huge difference in determining the outcome of the match. It had a team hitting percentage of .342 compared to Harvard’s .127.
  • The win guarantees the Nittany Lions a first-round bye in the EIVA Tournament in April. Penn State is now 6-0 in conference play as it is on the verge of clinching the EIVA Conference.
  • Kills and blocks played a huge factor in this game as Penn State recorded 55 kills compared to Harvard’s 38 kills. Also, Penn State had 11 blocks compared to Harvard’s two.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions will aim to build off their momentum when they go on the road to take on Charleston at 7 p.m. on Friday, April 5, in an attempt to clinch the EIVA conference.

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About the Author

Fernando Martinez

Fernando is a sophomore. He's majoring in broadcast journalism with the intention of minoring in Spanish and Sports Studies. Born in Mexico City, and now lives in Paoli, PA. He is a big soccer, football, and basketball fan. His favorite teams are FC Barcelona, the Cowboys, and the Lakers. He suffers a lot from watching the Cowboys choke in the playoffs that he has been diagnosed with 49ers PTSD. You can follow him on Instagram at fernando9015 or email him at [email protected].

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