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University Park, Pa., Jan. 12, 2006 - The sixth-ranked Penn State men??s volleyball team opened the 2006 slate on the right foot, defeating Saint Francis in four games (30-21, 28-30, 30-19, 30-24).
??There were times tonight when we were passive, and that??s disappointing,?? said head coach Mark Pavlik. ??But I got chased out of the locker room after the second game and the guys took care of the rest. I like the way we played in the third and fourth games. Saint Francis is as good a team as they were in the mid-90s, they have a nice future.??
Junior outside hitter Alex Gutor (Kiev, Ukraine) led all players with 21 kills, two shy of his career high, while attacking at a .515 clip (21-4-33). Seniors Matt Proper (Guys Mills, Pa.) and Nate Meerstein (Pittsburgh, Pa.) each chipped in 15 kills as freshman outside hitter Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.) tallied seven kills in his collegiate debut. As a team, Penn State hit .371 for the match, including .485 in the third game.
Senior setter Dan O??Dell (Rochester, N.Y.) dished out 46 assists and junior libero Aaron Smith (Richmond, Va.) set a new career high with 12 digs, surpassing his previous high of 10 set against Rutgers-Newark last season. Seven other players also recorded at least one dig in the match, led by O??Dell with five, Gutor with four and Anderson with three.
Penn State racked up eight service aces while holding Saint Francis to two. Proper, Gutor and Anderson each provided two winners as O??Dell and Meerstein chipped in one apiece.
The Nittany Lions also won the blocking battle, 10.5 to 8.0. Freshman middle hitter Max Holt (Cincinnati, Ohio) led all players with seven blocks in his first collegiate match, also adding five kills and two digs. Meerstein and Gutor both posted three blocks in the contest and O??Dell, Proper and Anderson all notched two.
Saint Francis was led by Cory Spencer with 13 kills as Jim Fazzini and Jonathan Sherrick recorded 11 and 10 kills, respectively.
Game one remained fairly even until kills from Meerstein and Gutor put Penn State up 14-10. Another Gutor kill made the score 18-13 and after several service errors, kills from Anderson, Gutor and Meerstein pushed the Lion lead to 24-16. A block from Meerstein and O??Dell made it 26-17 before a Proper kill ended the game, 30-21. Gutor led all players with five kills on seven attempts (.571) as Anderson posted four kills on five attempts (.600) and Meerstein recorded two blocks.
Saint Francis took the 14-12 lead in the second game behind a Penn State attack error and a kill from Shane Conley. Back to back Red Flash kills from Fazzini and Sherrick pushed their lead to 19-15 before Penn State fought back to within two at 21-19 on a Proper kill. But Saint Francis remained on top, going ahead 25-21 on a kill from Marc Honore. Back to back Penn State blocks, one from Proper and Holt and another one from Gutor and Holt trimmed the Red Flash lead to two at 28-26 but Saint Francis held on to win the game, 30-28, on a kill from Travis Fox. Gutor racked up eight kills on an errorless nine swings to hit .889 in the stanza while Holt collected three blocks.
In the third game, Penn State went up 15-10 on back to back Gutor aces and consecutive kills from Proper, Meerstein and Anderson pushed the score to 19-11. Two Meerstein kills made it 22-13 and back to back Gutor put-aways extended the lead to 24-15. A block from Holt, Anderson and senior outside hitter Andrew Price (Laytonsville, Md.) made the score 29-17 before a Saint Francis service error ended the game, 30-19. Gutor and Meerstein each posted six kills in the game as Smith recorded five digs.
The Nittany Lions started where they left off in the fourth game, taking the 10-5 lead on an Anderson service ace. Saint Francis pulled to within three at 14-11 on an Honore kill but a Meerstein kill and Proper service ace pushed the lead to five at 16-11. The teams traded kills twice and a Proper kill and Meerstein ace extended the score to 20-13. A kill from redshirt freshman outside hitter Ryan Sweitzer (Lancaster, Pa.) made it 24-18 and a block from O??Dell and Meerstein pushed the score to 28-21 before a Holt kill ended the game, 30-24. Proper tallied seven kills on .636 hitting in the set to lead the Lions.
Penn State remains at home, hosting No. 14 Ball State on Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in the South Gym of Rec Hall, due to a conflict with women??s gymnastics. Admission to volleyball is free for all fans.
For more information on the Penn State men??s volleyball team, please visit www.GoPSUsports.com.