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No. 8 Penn State Men’s Volleyball Defeats No. 15 George Mason 3-1 To Win Back-To-Back EIVA Championships

No. 8 Penn State men’s volleyball (23-6, 12-0 EIVA) defeated No. 15 George Mason (18-10, 7-5 EIVA) in Rec Hall on Saturday night in a 3-1 set thriller to become the back-to-back EIVA champion.

After losing the first set, the Nittany Lions showed resilience to win three straight sets in a row. Michal Kowal and Michael Schwob combined for nine of 12 service aces for Penn State.

How It Happened

Penn State got on the board first with an attack by George Mason’s Omar Hoyos, but George Mason responded with a kill by Lucas Little to tie the set at one. After both teams exchanged kills, the Nittany Lions won two straight points due to a service error by Little and a service ace by Toby Ezeonu.

The Patriots responded by winning two straight points due to errors by Ezeonu and John Kerr to tie the set at four. After the Nittany Lions took the lead back on a service error by George Mason’s Jack Bolz, George Mason took its first lead of the set by going on a 3-0 run to take a two-point lead. This run ended when George Mason’s Colin Heath recorded a service error to decrease the Nittany Lions’ deficit to one.

Both teams exchanged scores for six straight points before a kill by Ezeonu tied the set at 10. However, George Mason retook the lead with back-to-back kills by Bolz and Omar Hoyos. The Patriots increased their lead to three when Ezeonu committed an attack error. The Nittany Lions showed their resilience by going on a 3-0 run with kills by Kerr and Valenzi along with an attack error by George Mason’s Heath to tie the set once again at 13.

Both teams went blow-for-blow for the next four points and the deadlock was broken when Bolz recorded a kill for the Patriots to take a 16-15 lead. This kill gave momentum to George Mason, as it went on to win the next two points due to an attack error by Kerr and a kill by Little, which forced the Nittany Lions to take a timeout.

Out of the timeout, the Nittany Lions responded by winning the next two points to decrease their deficit to one, but George Mason ended this momentum with a kill by Bolz. Both teams traded blows for the next six points as George Mason’s lead stayed intact. Its lead increased to three as Bolz recorded another kill for the Patriots to get within two points of winning the first set to force Penn State to take another timeout.

Out of the timeout, the Nittany Lions responded with a kill by Valenzi but George Mason got its first set point opportunity with a kill by Sam Peters. Penn State showed its resilience by winning the next two points with kills by Kerr and Valenzi to decrease its deficit to one and force the Patriots to take a timeout to end Penn State’s momentum.

Out of the timeout, this attempt was unsuccessful as Penn State tied the set at 24 with a kill by Michal Kowal. However, the Patriots did not let the Nittany Lions seize their momentum and forced another set opportunity as Peters recorded another kill. After three failed opportunities, the Patriots finally capitalized on their fourth set opportunity when Kerr committed an attack error to give George Mason the set victory 26-24.

The second set began with Ezeonu recording a kill for the Nittany Lions. After Ezeonu recorded another kill, the Patriots got on the board for the first time in the set with an attack error by Kerr. After this error, the Nittany Lions responded by going on a 4-0 run, which was highlighted by kills by Kowal, Schwob, and Valenzi to increase their lead to five. This forced George Mason to take the first timeout of the set.

Out of the timeout, the Patriots responded by recording back-to-back kills by Bolz to decrease their deficit to three. The Nittany Lions ended their momentum by winning the next two points to restore their five-point lead. Both teams exchanged kills, but George Mason trimmed its deficit to three when Hoyos and Bolz recorded kills for the Patriots. After Owen Rose recorded a kill for the Nittany Lions, the Patriots went on a 3-0 run to decrease Penn State’s lead to one.

Even though a kill by Kerr ended George Mason’s run, the Patriots did not let this deter them as they went on yet another 3-0 run to take their first lead in the set at 12-11. After exchanging two straight points, the Nittany Lions retook the lead in the set by going on a 3-0 run, which was highlighted by two attack errors by George Mason and a service ace by Kowal. The lead was short-lived as the Patriots responded by winning two straight points to tie the set at 15. However, the Nittany Lions refused to let George Mason seize on their momentum as Ezeonu recorded a kill. George Mason’s Peters committed an attack error to restore Penn State’s two-point lead, which forced the Patriots to take a timeout.

Out of the timeout, George Mason decreased its deficit to one off an attack by Valenzi but the Nittany Lions responded by going on a 4-0 run. After both teams exchanged points, George Mason decreased its deficit to three when Hoyos recorded a kill and Kerr committed an attack error which forced the Nittany Lions to take a timeout.

Out of the timeout, the Nittany Lions responded with a kill by Rose. After George Mason recorded a kill, Hoyos committed a service error that gave Penn State a set opportunity. The Nittany Lions capitalized on their first set point opportunity with an attack error by Heath to tie the match at one set each.

The third set went underway with a kill by Bolz, which was followed by an error by Kowal. The Nittany Lions got their first point of the set with a kill by Ezeonu. After both teams exchanged kills, the Patriots increased their lead to three with an attack error by Valenzi and a kill by Heath. The Nittany Lions responded by winning four straight points to take their first lead of the set, highlighted by two service aces by Schwob, which forced George Mason to take the first timeout of the set.

Out of the timeout, the Nittany Lions showed some sloppiness by committing back-to-back errors to give George Mason the lead back. However, the Nittany Lions showed resilience by earning back-to-back points to restore their lead. Another error by Penn State tied the set at eight. After both teams exchanged kills, the Nittany Lions recorded back-to-back kills by Ezeonu and Kerr to take a two-point lead. George Mason responded by winning four straight points to take a two-point lead through two kills by Boltz and forced Penn State to take a timeout.

Out of the timeout, the Nittany Lions trimmed their deficit to one with a kill by Valenzi but the Patriots restored their two-point lead due to an attack error by Schwob. The Nittany Lions retook the lead in the set by winning the next two points to tie the set up at 15. After both teams exchanged four straight kills, the Nittany Lions committed back-to-back errors to give George Mason a two-point lead in the set. However, the Nittany Lions refused to let the Patriots run away with the set as they went on to win four straight points with kills by Rose and Kerr to take a 21-19 lead. George Mason took a timeout with the hopes of cooling off Penn State’s momentum.

After the timeout, both teams committed back-to-back service errors as Penn State’s two-point lead stayed intact. Both teams exchanged scores for two straight points before a service ace by Kowal gave Penn State a set-point opportunity. Ezeonu recorded a huge kill for the Nittany Lions to give them a 2-1 set lead going into the fourth set.

The Nittany Lions won the first two points of the set with back-to-back kills by Ezeonu before a service error by Kerr got George Mason on the board. After both teams exchanged scores for two points, the Nittany Lions increased their lead to three with a kill and service ace by Ezeonu. This lead increased to four before an attack error by Kerr trimmed the deficit back to three for the Patriots.

After Valenzi recorded a kill for the Nittany Lions, George Mason showed resilience by going on a 3-0 run with three straight kills from the Patriots to trim their deficit to one. This run ended when Heath committed a service error to give the Nittany Lions a two-point lead in the set. Both teams went blow-for-blow for the next four points as Penn State’s two-point lead stayed intact. However, the Nittany Lions forced Hoyos to commit an attack error and Kowal recorded a kill for Penn State to increase their lead to four. This led George Mason to take a timeout.

Out of the timeout, the Patriots used this timeout to their advantage as they went on to win two straight points to trim their deficit to two. However, the Nittany Lions refused to let the Patriots seize on their momentum as they went on a 3-0 run to increase their lead to five. This run ended when Kowal committed a service error. The Nittany Lions responded to this service error by going on yet another 3-0 run with two attack errors by George Mason and a kill by Kerr. This led to yet another timeout from George Mason as they looked to come back from a seven-point deficit in the set.

The Nittany Lions kept riding their momentum out of the timeout as they recorded back-to-back kills to increase their lead to nine. This momentum ended when Ezeonu committed a service error. Both teams exchanged scores for two points before a kill by Hoyos decreased George Mason’s deficit to seven. Both teams went blow-for-blow for the next six points before a kill by Kowal gave Penn State championship point. On their opportunity, the Nittany Lions capitalized off Kerr’s ace as it finished off the set 25-16 to become EIVA champions.

Takeaways

  • Kerr and Ezeonu were the big catalysts in Penn State’s win as they combined to record 35 kills from the team’s 55 kills.
  • Service aces played a huge factor in determining the outcome of this match. The Nittany Lions recorded 12 service aces compared to George Mason’s three.
  • The Rec Hall winning streak continued for Penn State as it extended its streak to 16 straight home wins. The Nittany Lions used their home-court advantage to persevere in this match after losing the first set against George Mason.

What’s Next?

Penn State will wait to find out who they play in the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday after winning back-to-back EIVA conference championships to clinch a spot in the tournament.

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About the Author

Fernando Martinez

Fernando is a sophomore who is 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 fan of pretty much every sport. His favorite teams are FC Barcelona, the Cowboys, and the Phillies which involves a lot of suffering for him. You can follow him on Instagram at fernando9015 or email him at [email protected] if you have questions on why he is a Cowboys and Phillies fan.

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