No. 8 Penn State Men’s Volleyball Swept By No. 4 UC Irvine In NCAA Tournament Quarterfinal

No. 8 Penn State men’s volleyball (23-7, 12-0 EIVA) was swept 3-0 by No. 4 UC Irvine (20-10, 7-3 Big West) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Tuesday night in Long Beach, California.

The Nittany Lion offense was stifled by the Irvine defense and was held to just a .188 hitting percentage in the loss.

How It Happened

The Nittany Lions took the first point of the match on an attacking error from Hilir Henno. An Irvine kill and service error gave Penn State the 3-2 edge before Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik successfully challenged a touch to make it 4-2.

John Kerr recorded his first kill of the night to make the game 5-4 and kicked off a 3-0 run that stretched the Nittany Lions’ lead to 7-4.

Irvine pulled back within one on a Michal Kowal attacking error but the Nittany Lions got the lead back to three after errors from the Anteaters.

A Henno kill followed by an attack error from Kerr brought the score back to 13-13. Ezeonu ended the Anteater run with a kill that put the Nittany Lions back up 14-13.

After trading points, a kick save kept the ball alive, but Irvine put it away and tied the game at 16-16. An attack error from Owen Rose gave Irvine its first lead of the match and forced a timeout from Pavlik.

The Anteaters took the point out of the timeout before a Kerr kill brought Penn State back within one. Irvine managed to keep a slim lead and was the first to reach 20 leading 20-18.

A kill from Kerr and a block from Michael Schwob evened the score, but Irvine took the next two points and led 22-20. The Anteaters maintained the two-point lead and had their first set point at 24-22. A service error followed by an attacking error from the Anteaters sent the game into extra points tied at 24-24.

Akhil Tangutur, however, put together two kills in a row that gave the first set to Irvine 26-24.

Toby Ezeonu and Kerr assisted on a block that gave Penn State the first point of the set before Maxim Grigoriev recorded a kill and grabbed a point for the Anteaters.

Three Henno kills and an ace capped off a 4-0 run from Irvine that pushed the lead to 6-2 and forced a timeout from Penn State. It didn’t stop the run, though, and the lead grew to 8-2.

The teams went back and forth until the Nittany Lions strung together two points that brought the lead down to five at 11-6. Ezeonu recorded a kill after the challenge, but Irvine took the next two points and pushed the lead back out to 13-7.

Kowal slammed home a kill before Schwob and Ezeonu combined for a block that brought the Anteater lead down to four.

Irvine didn’t give up any ground through the next few rallies and grew its lead to seven at 19-12. Penn State’s offense couldn’t get going and a block put the Nittany Lions down even further at 21-13.

After trading service errors, Irvine went on a 3-0 run and faced the first set point at 24-14. Penn State took the first two set points before Henno put the frame away with a kill that ended it at 25-16.

Schwob was replaced by Luke Snyder as the setter for the third set after Schwob struggled in the first two sets.

Irvine continued the momentum into the third set and took the first three points before Ezeonu recorded a kill and got the Nittany Lions on the board trailing 3-1. Irvine continued to roll and jumped out to a 9-4 lead early in the third set.

Penn State took the first two points after the media timeout and brought the lead down to 7-10. Two more errors from the Anteaters brought Penn State to within one at 9-10 and forced an Irvine timeout. Kerr tied the game up with a kill after the timeout and put the score at 10-10.

The Anteaters responded with a run of their own, though, and pushed the lead to 13-10 on the heels of attacking errors from the Nittany Lions. Penn State got to within one with the first ace of the night coming from Kowal and bringing the game to 12-13.

A 5-1 Anteater run put the game back in Irvine’s control with the score at 13-18. An Irvine service error followed by a Snyder service ace gave the Nittany Lions the next two points and made it 15-18. The run ended on a service error with the score at 16-19.

Irvine maintained the lead and got its first set point at 24-19. The Anteaters converted on a Nittany Lion error and won the game with a sweep at 25-19.


  • Kerr matched Henno for most kills of the match with 14 after combining for 50 kills in his two EIVA Tournament games
  • Irvine’s offense was clicking and there wasn’t much Penn State’s front row could do to stop it. Henno led the Anteaters and finished the game with 14 kills for the Anteaters against Penn State’s defense.
  • Penn State’s offense could never get going. After a dominant serving performance during the EIVA Championship, the Nittany Lions only had two service aces and hit .188.

What’s Next?

Penn State’s season came to an end with the loss to UC Irvine. The Nittany Lions were both the EIVA regular season and tournament champions this season.

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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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