What appeared to be another easy victory, nearly turned into a disastrous defeat for the Penn State men’s volleyball team.
The No. 6 Nittany Lions won a thrilling five-set match over the No. 9 Buckeyes 3-2 (25-17, 25-19, 27-29, 22-25, 15-13). It was the first time this year the Lions have played a five set match and with the win, they move to 13-1 on the season.
“I thought that this was one of the best matches that we’ve had and I’d say that whether we won or lost,” Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said.
After cruising to another 2-0 lead at halftime, the Lions appeared well on their way to another sweep. But the Buckeyes had other plans.
The Buckeyes came out and controlled most of the play for the entire third. They made a key lineup change, replacing junior Grayson Overman with redshirt freshman Shawn Herron who made a big difference in the Buckeyes’ offense with two kills on .667 hitting.
The Lions scratched and clawed their way back to even the set at 24, but after they forced five set points, Ohio State eventually won the set on a kill by junior Anthony Hock.
Ohio State head coach Pete Hanson said he challenged his team at halftime.
“I was really proud of the kids, the way they battled back,” Hanson said. “We could’ve easily just packed it up and rolled out of there at the end of game three and said ‘it wasn’t our night.’”
Penn State hit just .273 for the match and had 26 attacking errors. Part of the offensive struggles came because of the Buckeyes’ block as they totaled 13 blocks.
The fifth set went back and forth and at one point, Ohio State lead 13-12, appearing poised to complete the huge comeback.
However, the largest crowd at Rec Hall this season, which was quiet for a lot of the match, woke up and provided energy to the Lions.
Sophomore Peter Russell said the atmosphere inside Rec Hall reminded him of last year’s Final Four and said that they couldn’t let the game slip away with a raucous atmosphere like that.
The Lions were also noticeably calm and collected despite nearly losing the match.
Redshirt freshman Nick Goodell said during the final set, he looked around at his teammates and everyone was smiling and confident despite being down by one.
After a kill by redshirt senior Joe Sunder tied the set at 13, an attack error by Ohio State’s Shawn Sangrey put the Lions up 14-13. Then junior Tom Comfort scored the decisive kill for his only kill of the match to give Penn State the victory.
Goodell continues to enjoy his breakout season as he notched 20 kills on .262 hitting.
He had a huge second set with seven kills and was engaged in a battle for the match lead in kills with Sangrey. Yet he said he didn’t feel like he was in a competition with Ohio State’s All-American opposite who finished with 24 kills to lead all players.
“He’s a great player, he’s gonna get his kills,” Goodell said. “It’s hard for us to stop him no matter who we put on him, so I don’t really compare myself to him.”
With two games next week against No. 10 Pepperdine and No. 4 USC, the match was a good test for the team.
“It was definitely a great match,” freshman Aaron Russell said. “We’ve been playing teams not really on the level of the California teams and before we leave, this is a good [way] to get us back in the rhythm of playing a good team.”