No. 12 Penn State took on No. 14 Ohio State on Wednesday night in Rec Hall. In the Penn State’s only midweek match of the season, the Lions defeated the Buckeyes, 3-1 (29-27, 22-25, 31-29, 25-15).
The Buckeyes, fresh off a three set loss to then No. 1 Loyola, came out strong in the first set, jumping out to a 12-11 lead. The Buckeyes would hold their lead for much of the first set, but errors hindered them from putting the set away.
Ohio State totaled 14 errors in the opening frame, and Penn State battled back to take the first set 29-27. Aaron Russell tallied a service ace, and Nick Goodell followed with one of his 20 kills to put the Buckeyes away.
Goodell was quick to credit his team for his individual numbers.
“My success really comes from [my teammates] doing well,” the redshirt junior said.
After an opening set that saw ten tie scores and four lead changes, Ohio State dominated the second frame. The Buckeyes grabbed the lead early and held on for the entirety of the set.
Ohio State (4-5) cleaned up their play in the second set, totaling only four attack errors and one service error. Errors would continue to define the match as Penn State made nine in the second set, allowing the Buckeyes to control the tempo.
Penn State struggled to stay with the Buckeyes, but managed to tie the match at 18. Ohio State went on to take five of the final nine points and the Buckeyes won the second set 25-22.
Ohio State redshirt junior Andrew Lutz was key for the Buckeyes, leading his team with four of his 20 kills in the second set. Redshirt freshman Matt Callaway was one of the Penn State players tasked with defending Lutz.
“Lutz is a kid that can go off,” Callaway said. “He’s extremely athletic, he can take those big swings, and if you don’t get him frustrated early he’s going to keep running them off.”
Heading into the third set, the Lions looked to rebound.
Ohio State took a 4-0 lead as the third set started, but Penn State (6-2) fought back. Back-to-back service aces for Russell gave the Lions an 11-10 lead, their first of the set.
Russell did not have his best night on attack, hitting .250 with 16 kills, but he made up for it with his serving game. The junior middle hitter totaled five service aces.
“I kind of was a little out of it,” Russell said. “I didn’t really have the right rhythm at the beginning… Of course I always try to make with it with other aspects of the game and this one was serving.”
The Buckeyes regained the lead, but the Lions got some momentum and tied the set at 23 thanks to the serving of Russell and the blocking of Matt Callaway.
The redshirt freshman registered three solo blocks on the night with one to tie the score at 23. After failing to stop the Buckeyes attack early on, Callaway found his spot and made them pay.
“It was almost like [Ohio State] refused to have a freshman stand up to them,” coach Mark Pavlik said. “He was in the zone. I think that you can get into a zone, you can get into a team’s tempo and good middle blockers will find that.”
“He’s learning on the fly and I don’t think we’ll cut him tomorrow.”
Ohio State hung on to tie the score six more times following Callaway’s blocks, but senior outside hitter Peter Russell notched a kill to give the Lions a 31-29 victory.
From there, Penn State simply relied on what they know how to do: playing good volleyball.
“The competitive maturing of a team occurs with matches like this,” Pavlik said. “As long as they do the little things and do their job on the court, good things are going to happen.”
The Lions came out in the fourth set and jumped out to a 20-11 lead thanks to their ability to keep plays alive.
“There’s a couple of plays in that match that I don’t think anybody realized what happened that really typified what our team is about, and it’s nice to see those types of plays being made,” Pavlik said.
Penn State went on to lead the rest of the fourth set and notched a 25-15 victory to win the match 3-1.
The Lions will be back in action this weekend with a pair of matches against Erskine on Friday at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall Main Gym, and Pfeiffer on Saturday at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall South Gym.
Garrett Ross can be reached at email@example.com or (814) 865-1828. Follow him on Twitter at @garrett_ross.