Penn State Men's Volleyball Outlasts Ball State, 3-2
University Park, Pa., March 20, 2004 - The 11th-ranked Penn State men's volleyball team outlasted ninth-ranked Ball State in five games (27-30, 30-24, 30-28, 27-30, 15-13) Saturday night. The Nittany Lions improve to 12-5 for the season while the Cardinals fall to 14-6.
"This was a typical Penn State-Ball State match" said head coach Mark Pavlik. "We came out big in game five offensively. We forced Ball State to try to commit on our middles and that opened things up for us. It was a great match."
Junior Keith Kowal (Reading, Pa.) led the Nittany Lions with a career-high 28 kills while sophomore Kevin Wentzel (Pittsburgh, Pa.) tied a career-best with 18 kills. Sophomore Matt Proper (Guys Mills, Pa.) also posted 18 kills and a career-high 15 digs while sophomore Nate Meerstein (Pittsburgh, Pa.) notched a career-high 15 kills. The Nittany Lion middle hitters (Kowal and Meerstein) combined for 43 of Penn State's 88 kills while attacking at a .569 clip with only six errors. As a team, Penn State hit .416 to Ball State's .375.
Sophomore setter Dan O'Dell (Rochester, N.Y.) directed the offense with 71 assists and senior libero Ricky Mattei (San Juan, Puerto Rico) tallied a match-high 14 digs. Mattei is now only six digs away from breaking the all-time career dig mark held currently by Ramon Hernandez (1991-1994) with 820.
The Nittany Lions outblocked the Cardinals, 13.5 to 11.0 for the match, including 5.0 to 2.0 in the fifth game. Meerstein led the squad with eight blocks, four of which came in the decisive stanza.
Ball State was led by Jary Delgado with 31 kills while Amitai Sasson posted 20. Keith Schunzel directed the offense with 69 assists, also adding seven kills and nine digs. Delgado led the squad with 10 digs, Sasson posted nine digs and libero Evan Berg chipped in seven digs. Zoran Grabovac tallied eight kills and eight blocks to lead the Cardinals.
The fifth game featured four ties before Ball State took the 7-5 lead on an ace from Grabovac. Consecutive kills from Kowal knotted the score at 7-7 but a Delgado kill put the Cardinals on top, 8-7, at the side change. A Proper kill tied the game at 8-8 and back to back Ball State attack errors put Penn State up, 10-8. Out of a Cardinal timeout, Ball State reeled off two points to tie the score at 10-10 and again at 12-12. A kill from Wentzel and a block from Wentzel and Meerstein put the Lions up, 14-12, before another Wentzel kill ended the game, 15-13.
Seventeen ties ensued at the beginning of the first game before a Ball State kill from Delgado and a Schunzel ace put the Cardinals up 25-23 and forced a Penn State timeout. Out of the break, Proper responded with a kill to trim the deficit to one. The teams exchanged points twice and back to back kills from Wentzel tied the game at 27-27. Two Ball State kills and a Penn State error ended the game, 30-27, in favor of the Cardinals. Kowal posted five kills on six attempts to lead the Lions.
The second game was much of the same early on before Penn State went on a 3-0 run to break the 14-14 tie. The Nittany Lions retained the advantage, going up 24-20 on a Wentzel kill. A kill from Kowal made the score 26-21 and forced a Ball State timeout before a Wentzel put-away ended the game, 30-24. Kowal racked up nine kills on 11 attempts and Proper and Meerstein both tallied five kills to aid Penn State.
Penn State jumped out to the 13-7 lead on a Ball State hitting error before the Cardinals fought back to tie the score at 20-20 on a Penn State attacking error. The teams traded points and a Kowal kill and a block from Kowal and O'Dell put the Lions back on top, 23-21. A Penn State blocking error was quickly followed by consecutive Proper kills and a put-away from Kowal to put the Lions up, 26-22 and a Wentzel kill ended the game, 30-28. Kowal recorded six kills in the set.
The Nittany Lions took the 10-8 lead to begin the fourth game before Ball State went on a 3-0 run to go up, 11-10. The game remained event before the Cardinals reeled off four consecutive points to take the 22-18 advantage. The teams traded points and a block from O'Dell and Kowal pulled the Lions to within two at 27-25 but a Delgado kill ended the game, 30-27 in favor of the Cardinals.
Penn State travels to Juniata on March 23 for a 7:00 p.m. match against the Eagles. The Nittany Lions return home on March 30 to face Big Ten-foe Ohio State at 7:00 p.m. at Rec Hall.
Please visit www.GoPSUsports.com for more information on the Penn State men's volleyball team.