Belmont Abbey’s time in the NCAA Tournament was a brief one due to Penn State’s outstanding play.
The Nittany Lions ended the Crusaders’ season with a straight set victory Monday night in their first round matchup, winning 25-22, 25-13 and 25-19.
Fresh off an EIVA Tournament championship, the blue and white proved too much for Belmont Abbey to overcome.
With back-to-back-to-back wins in each of the match’s three sets, Penn State left nothing up to chance.
Sitting at No. 2 in the AVCA for aces per set (2.06) and fourth in win-loss percentage (.875), the Nittany Lions showcased a strong presence on the court despite facing significant opposition from the Crusaders’ defense.
Penn State’s season-long preparation for the postseason, as well as its prioritization of focus and vigilance, was just what it needed to take home yet another win on the season.
With the win, the blue and white improved its record to 22-3. Now, Penn State must ready itself to take on Lewis in a second round matchup Tuesday.
Here’s a look into how the Nittany Lions won their opening match.
Nerves takes a toll
Nerves took hold of the Crusaders in their sole NCAA Tournament match, prohibiting them from finding success against the Nittany Lions.
With 18 attack errors and 12 service errors, Belmont Abbey struggled to maintain a clean style of play and allowed the blue and white to collect several easy points.
MORE SPORTS COVERAGE
Two of Penn State's star players are racking up awards.
Belmont Abbey lost all momentum in set two and allowed Penn State to put itself in a position to take the win with an eight-point advantage over the Crusaders.
Of the 25 total points scored by Penn State in the second set, nine were handed to the blue and white in the form of a silver platter of errors.
Strength at libero
Junior libero Will Bantle was one of the strongest players in Monday night’s match and played a key role in taking control away from Belmont Abbey.
Penn State broke down the Crusaders’ defense early on, and especially so after a point-by-point matchup between the two squads resulted in a first set win for the Nittany Lions.
Bantle proved he is the heart and soul of Penn State’s defense and cemented its progression into the second round of the NCAA Tournament with several impressive serve receptions.
Coming into Monday night’s match with 146 digs on the season, Bantle threw the Crusaders off their game by refusing to give up any easy points.
Failure to match aggression
Penn State took control of the court early on and did not give Belmont Abbey any space to operate or turn the match in its favor.
With 11 total aces compared to the Crusaders’ five, Penn State came out swinging and did not stop until it saw 25’s across the Nittany Lions’ side of the scoreboard.
The blue and white maintained an eight-point lead in set two and six-point advantage in set three, exhausting Belmont Abbey’s defense in the process.
MORE SPORTS COVERAGE