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Penn State Men’s Volleyball’s John Kerr Ties Career-Best Kills In EIVA Semifinal Victory

The opening serve of Thursday’s EIVA Semifinal was taken by Penn State men’s volleyball’s Michael Valenzi, passed to Michael Schwob, and set toward the right side of the court to a waiting John Kerr. The EIVA Player of the Year took a step, started his leap, and made contact with the ball high above the waiting wall of Harvard defenders.

The ball sailed past the baseline and into the backcourt as Harvard took the first point of the match.

It was a rare miss from Kerr, who’s posted double-digit kills in 21 of his last 27 matches, including an active streak of 15 straight.

It was also a sign of what was to come. Penn State’s offense struggled early while Harvard seemingly couldn’t miss. In the first nine points of the match, Penn State took two, both on Harvard errors. The Harvard lead persisted until the Crimson reached 20 points. After that, the Penn State offense woke up.

“It wasn’t the first time we’ve been down early in the first set,” Valenzi said postgame Thursday night. “So it’s just staying together and trusting in the guys and knowing that even if we didn’t get that one, we’re moving in the right direction.”

After back-to-back kills on two separate occasions from both Valenzi and Kerr, the Nittany Lions narrowed the gap. Harvard had four chances to put set one away, but the Nittany Lions rattled off four straight points before taking their first lead of the match at 26-25. Kerr delivered the final two kills before assisting Michal Kowal and Toby Ezeonu on a block to take the first set in a momentum-building comeback.

Penn State took the momentum and cruised to a 25-16 set two victory before Kerr took over in set three with nine kills. It wasn’t enough, though, and Harvard forced a fourth set.

That fourth set, though, belonged to Kerr. The senior recorded 12 more kills during the 27-25 match-ending victory, bringing his total to 31, tied for the most in his career. Even in a dominant performance, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the second match of the season when he also posted 31 kills, Kerr wouldn’t take the credit for his feat.

“It helps when you’re getting good sets and good passes from the guys,” Kerr said. “I have to give it to my teammates because they do so much to help me out.”

According to Harvard head coach Brian Baise, Kerr’s the type of player that can’t be stopped. The EIVA is well aware of the talent that the hitter possesses, but nearly every team the Nittany Lions have faced struggles to shut him down. As Kerr was the first to point out, though, it’s a testament to the entire team.

“He’s the kind of player that you can set up your entire defense around him and he’s still going to find a way to score,” Baise said. “But they’re a really balanced team so you can’t just put three guys in front of him the whole time.”

Throughout the night, the EIVA regular-season awards were shown on the big screen in Rec Hall. Penn State had six players named to All-EIVA teams along with head coach Mark Pavlik taking home EIVA Coach of the Year and Kerr taking home EIVA Player of the Year.

Despite all of the weekly awards Kerr has taken home, capped off by the Player of the Year honor, there’s a bigger prize yet to come. There’s still another game to win, and two-seeded George Mason stands in the way of Penn State’s hopes for a second consecutive EIVA Championship. Right now, that’s the only thing on Kerr’s mind.

“As of right now, [the awards] don’t mean too much,” Kerr said. “I’d rather have the EIVA Championship.”

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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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