At Merrimack’s first men’s volleyball game ever, many were anxious to see how the matchup against Penn State was going to pan out.
Mark Pavlik, the head coach for the Nittany Lions, was happy to be the first team that Merrimack played.
“This was their first real match that counted ever. And we’re kinda honored to be part of that legacy for them,” Pavlik said. “I think the growth of men’s volleyball seen countrywide is going to be reflected by more and more matches that are gonna take place between teams that have never played before.”
In the first set, Penn State started out strong. The Warriors were delivering service errors and didn’t appear to be on par with the skills of the Nittany Lions. The rallies were relatively short throughout the game as a result of this.
By the first timeout, the blue and white had a 4-0 scoring run and a six-point lead.
The back half of the first set showed a valiant effort from the Merrimack rookies, consistently getting at least one point to Penn State’s three.
Throughout the course of this set, both teams suffered from attack and service errors. While the Warriors may have experienced more, the amount of service errors that the Nittany Lions racked up was still significant. The blue and white also only dealt with an impressive four attack errors.
Senior opposite side hitter, John Kerr, offset this trend by serving three aces in a row. As the highest point scorer on the team, his tallying of points for the team came as no surprise.
However, Merrimack finished out the set with a great deal of power that the audience hadn’t really seen up until that point.
The final score of the first set was 25-16, leaving the blue and white feeling confident as it entered the second set of the match.
Coming off of the momentum of the first set, the Warriors started to tie things up with the Nittany Lions, keeping in pace with the No. 4 ranked team in the AVCA.
Once Merrimack hit nine points, however, their strength began to decrease as they were stuck at 12 points while Penn State reached 19. As they slowed down, the Nittany Lions began to pick up the pace in order to finish up the second set.
It looked to be a short match, as the blue and white won the second set convincingly. It seemed unlikely that Merrimack was going to rise from the ashes in efforts to win the next set. The Warriors had also lowered their final score of the set comparatively by two.
A powerful block assist made by three Merrimack players started off the third set. Outside hitter Logan Whitaker and middle blockers Matthew Motes and Xander Thesz all brought their strength to the table hoping to make a comeback in their first collegiate matchup.
In response to this, though, junior outside hitter Will Kuhns fought back with three service aces out of four serves.
Senior outside hitter Jack Shampine also packed a punch throughout the course of the matchup, adding three kills to the team’s total of 10 by the halfway point of the set. In addition to that, he contributed to a third of the team’s overall points.
Pavlik stated in reference to the strong player, “We all know Shamp has a great arm, you know, I thought he played with a great balance of aggressiveness and control. He got us some points with his serving, it’s what we see everyday in the gym with him.”
The Warriors continued to keep up a valiant effort against the Nittany Lions throughout the course of the final set. Their point intake was consistent during the game in reaction to the strength of the blue and white.
In the second and third sets, it was prevalent that the two teams would go hand-in-hand with scoring, but by about their tenth point, Merrimack would lose its steam and Penn State continued to dominate.
Senior outside hitter Tim Herget said that being in Rec Hall definitely aided in the team’s overall experience during their journey to victory.
“Being here in Rec, I mean we play in here everyday, so it feels like home. It’s just awesome to be here everyday.”
Coming off of these two wins this past weekend, the Nittany Lions will be competing in their first tournament next weekend against Pepperdine and Stanford at the First Point Collegiate Challenge.
The First Point organization has a history of supporting men’s volleyball at the collegiate level through fundraising, so the players are looking forward to attending for that reason as well as the matches.
Kuhns stated, “I think we’re excited to play those top teams and see where our level is compared to them. Me, personally, I’m looking forward to some really good competition out there.”
The upcoming tournament will be held in Austin, Texas, as it was last year.
MORE VOLLEYBALL COVERAGE