No. 8 Penn State Men’s Volleyball Bests Harvard 3-1 To Earn Spot In EIVA Championship

No. 8 Penn State men’s volleyball (22-6, 11-0 EIVA) beat Harvard (13-13, 4-8 EIVA) 3-1 Thursday night and clinched a spot in the EIVA Championship.

Harvard started fast but Penn State grabbed the first set in comeback fashion before besting the Crimson in four sets. John Kerr had another career night, ending with 31 kills in the victory.

How It Happened

Harvard took the first point on an attacking error from Kerr before Kowal was blocked at the net, and Penn State quickly was in a 2-0 hole.

The Nittany Lions grabbed the next point before a kill from Harvard’s Ethan McCrary gave the Crimson another point. Penn State struggled with Harvard’s attack through the opening few points before regaining serve on a service error that made the score 5-2 in favor of the Crimson.

After the service error, Ethan Smith recorded two consecutive kills that put the Crimson up 7-2 and forced a Penn State timeout. The Nittany Lions took the first point out of the timeout on a service error but Toby Ezeonu gave the serve right back on another service error.

Harvard continued to shut down the Penn State offense and jumped out to a 10-4 lead before Kerr notched his first kill of the match and got the Nittany Lions back to within five.

The Crimson followed up the point with a 3-1 run that pushed the score to 13-6 after head coach Mark Pavlik flashed the challenge card unsuccessfully. After the challenge, Kowal and Ezeonu combined for a block and stopped the Crimson run but the Nittany Lions still trailed 13-7.

Kowal delivered an ace to follow up the block and got his hand under a kill that couldn’t be put away as Penn State got the Crimson lead back down to five at 15-10. Back-to-back kills from Valenzi made the score 15-12 and forced a Harvard timeout amid a 6-2 run from the blue and white.

Harvard took the first two points out of the timeout before Valenzi grabbed another kill and made it 17-13. The team continued to trade points as Harvard was the first to reach 20 while maintaining a four-point lead.

Neither team was able to put together a run before Pavlik called another timeout after a Harvard kill brought the Crimson within two of the first set.

Kerr missed on a kill on the point after the timeout to give Harvard set point. Harvard gifted Penn State serve again on a service error and Michael Schwob took advantage and delivered an ace. Valenzi and Owen Rose combined for a block on the subsequent point that forced a Harvard timeout with the Nittany Lions trailing 24-22.

Ryan Merk kept the set alive with a dig that set up a Kerr kill to bring the Nittany Lions back to within one at 23-24. Harvard head coach Brian Baise challenged an attack error from Harvard but was unsuccessful as Penn State officially had come back to tie the set at 24-24.

Schwob’s serve was dug by the Crimson who quickly committed a net violation and gave Penn State its first lead of the set and a set point. A service error brought the match back to even before Kerr gave the Nittany Lions another set point.

Another service error evened the match but Kerr once again gave Penn State a set point that was blocked by the Nittany Lion frontline, completing the comeback and taking the first set in a comeback at 28-26.

Harvard couldn’t receive the opening serve of the second set but responded with a kill before a service error gave Penn State a 2-1 lead. Miscommunication on defense handed the Crimson a point to take the lead but Penn State evened it up at 3-3 on the next point.

Both sides traded points until Ezeonu rejected a Harvard kill attempt and followed it up with a kill of his own to kickstart a 3-0 Nittany Lion run. Down 11-8, Harvard called a timeout following Ezeonu’s kill and picked up the next point before Ezeonu recorded another kill.

Rose got involved on offense during the run and recorded his second kill of the night to increase the lead to four at 15-11. From there, the teams traded points again as Penn State was the first to reach 20, leading by six. Harvard called its second timeout of the set after the kill from Kowal with the score at 20-14.

Kerr delivered an ace coming out of the timeout that was followed by an Ezeonu kill that pushed the score to 22-14. An ace from Kowal brought set point for the Nittany Lions but they couldn’t convert. A service error from Harvard gave Penn State the second set at 25-16.

The Nittany Lions took the first two points of the set before a kill from Logan Shepherd put Harvard on the board. Ezeonu added to his kill total during the run and increased the lead to 5-2. Harvard went on a run of its own, though, and brought the score back to within one at 8-7. Kowal ended the Harvard run on a service ace and kicked off a Penn State run that made the score 11-8.

A long rally was capped off by a kill from the Crimson as they tied the set at 12 apiece. A Kerr attacking error gave Harvard the lead, but Penn State tied it back up on a kill from Valenzi. The Crimson then went on a 3-1 run, forcing a Pavlik timeout with the Nittany Lions trailing 16-14.

The Nittany Lions went on a 2-0 run out of the timeout and tied the game at 17 before a kill from McCrary gave Harvard the lead again at 18-17. After briefly thinking about flashing the challenge card, Penn State continued down 19-17. Harvard continued to play stifling defense and stopped a Penn State kill to bring the score to 20-18 in favor of the Crimson.

An Owen Rose block capped off a 3-1 run that tied the game at 21 and forced a Harvard timeout moving into the final stages of the set.

After a kill out of the timeout from Harvard, Kerr recorded two of his own and forced another Harvard timeout with the Nittany Lions up 23-22. A block attempt from Rose didn’t pan out but Kerr gave the Nittany Lions match point with a kill on the next point at 24-23. McCrary brought the match back to even before an attack error gave Penn State another match point.

Harvard took the lead at 27-26 after Ezeonu missed a kill attempt and forced Pavlik to take the final timeout of the set.

The third set ended on a net violation from the Nittany Lions as Harvard stayed alive and forced a fourth set.

Kerr started the fourth set serving but Harvard took the point on a kill from Shepherd. Harvard continued to have offensive success and opened up a 4-2 lead early in the set. The Nittany Lions fought back and tied the game behind an ace from Valenzi to make the score 6-6. The Crimson took the next two points before an attacking error gave the serve back to the Nittany Lions, who tied the game back up at 9-9 on a service error from Harvard.

Penn State took the lead at 11-10 behind back-to-back kills from Kerr before an attacking error from the Crimson tied it up again. Back-and-forth action ensued until the Nittany Lions went on a 3-0 run that put them up 16-13 and forced a Harvard timeout.

Penn State increased its lead out of the timeout but couldn’t retain serve after an error gave the ball back to the Crimson up 17-14. The offense continued to click and Penn State found itself up 20-16 and on the verge of a championship berth.

Ezeonu delivered a massive kill to push the lead to 21-16 and Harvard followed with its final timeout of the set. Rose served out of the timeout but McCrary delivered a kill that started a 4-0 run and forced a Penn State timeout with the score 21-20. Ezeonu gave Penn State a kill out of the timeout and ended the Harvard run.

Harvard stopped the Penn State momentum with a kill of its own before Kerr recorded another kill and put Penn State up 23-21. Kerr set up match point for the Nittany Lions with his 30th kill of the night.

Ezeonu served match point to the Crimson but, after a Penn State dig, Kerr couldn’t put the match away as Penn State got set for its second match point. Kerr was denied again on the next point and Harvard tied the game at 24-24.

The Crimson unsuccessfully challenged a Kerr kill and Penn State once again had match point.

Schwob served for the match but Trevor Schultz delivered a kill before a bad set gave Penn State another match point. This time, Harvard couldn’t find the court and Penn State clinched a berth in the EIVA Tournament championship, winning the fourth set 27-25.


  • EIVA Player of the Year Kerr continued his dominant streak on Thursday, ending the game with 31 kills.
  • Ezeonu had a big night on both offense and defense. The senior ended the night with 11 kills and four blocks.
  • Valenzi was instrumental in Penn State’s first-set comeback recording back-to-back kills on two occasions. The hitter ended the night tied with Ezeonu with 11 kills.

What’s Next?

The Nittany Lions advance to the EIVA Tournament championship against No. 15 George Mason at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 20, inside Rec Hall.

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About the Author

CJ Doebler

CJ is a junior double majoring in broadcast journalism and finance. He is from Northumberland, Pa, just east of State College. CJ is an avid Pittsburgh sports fan, but chooses to ignore the Pirates' existence. For the occasional random retweet and/or bad take, follow @CDoebler on Twitter. All complaints can be sent to [email protected].

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