Eight Nittany Lions Pick Up EIVA Men¡¯s Volleyball Honors
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa., April 25, 2005 ¨C Junior men¡¯s volleyball player Matt Proper (Guys Mills, Pa.) was named the Uvaldo Acosta Memorial EIVA Player of the Year as seven other Nittany Lions earned postseason honors from the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association. Proper¡¯s selection as the Player of the Year marks the ninth time in as many seasons that the league¡¯s top player has come from Penn State.
Head coach Mark Pavlik was tabbed as the EIVA Coach of the Year, his fourth such honor in his 11 years at the helm of the Nittany Lion program.
Penn State placed seven student-athletes on the All-EIVA teams, including five first-team selections. In addition to Proper, senior middle hitter Keith Kowal (Reading, Pa.), junior middle hitter Nate Meerstein (Pittsburgh, Pa.), junior setter Dan O¡¯Dell (Rochester, N.Y.) and freshman libero Gary Vogel (Lancaster, Pa.) all earned First Team All-EIVA honors. Sophomore outside hitters Aaron Smith (Richmond, Va.) and Alex Gutor (State College, Pa.) were awarded Second Team All-EIVA accolades.
It is the first Player of the Year honor for Proper and his second First Team All-EIVA accolade. The junior opposite leads the Penn State squad with 3.94 kills per game and 414 kills for the season. The AVCA/Sports Imports National Player of the Week on Feb. 8, Proper has led the team in kills on 16 occasions, including a career-high 22 on back to back nights (vs. Rutgers-Newark, Jan. 28; vs. Ohio State, Jan. 29). He has recorded double-digit kills in 24 matches, has tallied 15 or more kills 15 times and ranks third on the team with 134 total blocks, good for 11th on the all-time single-season total blocking chart. Proper has posted two or more blocks in 28 matches and has 12 matches with five or more blocks. He set a career-high with 11 blocks against George Mason on April 3 and he also leads the team in service aces with 31. An all-around player, Proper ranks third on the squad with 116 digs (1.10 dpg), including a season-high five versus Ball State on March 19.
Kowal, last year¡¯s EIVA Player of the Year, picks up his third First Team All-EIVA honor. A first team AVCA All-American and first team CoSIDA Academic All-American a year ago, Kowal tops the Penn State squad in blocking with a single-season record 178 total blocks. He became the all-time Nittany Lion career-blocking leader and is the only Penn State player to ever record more than 500 career blocks. A two-time AVCA/Sports Imports National Player of the Week this season, Kowal is averaging 2.52 kills per game on .479 hitting with 1.73 blocks per game.
Meerstein earns his second First Team All-EIVA honor, leading the team in hitting percentage (.522) and ranking third with 2.99 kills per game. The junior sits sixth on the all-time career blocks list with 330 and has 17 double-digit kill matches, including the first six contests of the season and five of the last six matches. Meerstein recorded a career-high 19 kills in back to back matches (vs. Lewis, Jan. 7; at Ball State, Jan. 21) and has posted at least one block in every match of the year, including tallying at least five blocks on 17 occasions.
O¡¯Dell picks up his third All-EIVA honor, earning second team accolades his freshman year and first team honors last season. The junior setter ranks fourth all-time on Penn State¡¯s career assist list (3,939) and leads the team with 12.50 assists per game this season (1,250). O¡¯Dell has recorded double-digit assists in all 31 matches of the year and ranks fifth on the team with 89 blocks, and average of 0.89 bpg. He recorded his sixth career double-double at Hawaii on Jan. 5 with 64 assists and 11 digs and has posted 21 matches with two or more blocks, including a season-high seven on two occasions. O¡¯Dell sits at fourth on the team in digs (105) and has tallied at least one kill in 28 of 31 contests, with a season-high five versus UC Irvine on March 5.
Vogel earns his first career All-EIVA honor after leading the Penn State squad with 253 digs, just 45 shy of setting a new all-time single-season record. In his second collegiate match ever, Vogel tied the Penn State rally-scoring-era record for digs in a match with 17 against Brigham Young on Jan. 6. At IPFW on Feb. 18, he then set the record with 18 digs in a three-game match. Vogel has produced nine double-digit dig matches for the year and has posted five or more digs on 26 occasions. He has a reception percentage of .958 with only 30 reception errors in a team-high 722 attempts, and his reception percentage is a team-high among primary passers.
It is the first All-EIVA honor for Smith, who is averaging 1.59 kills per game, 1.31 digs per game and 0.95 blocks per game. He has posted at least five kills in 18 contests, including a season-high 13 at George Mason on April 16, which came on a career-high .688 hitting percentage. Smith ranks second on the team in digs with 136 and has tallied at least one dig in 30 of 31 matches of the year, including a career-high 10 against Rutgers-Newark on Jan. 28. He also sits at fourth on the squad in blocking with 99 total blocks and has produced at least one block in 29 matches of the year. Smith ranks second on the team with 29 service aces.
Gutor earns his second career All-EIVA honor, as he was a second team selection a year ago. He is averaging 3.03 kills per game, good for second on the team, and has produced 13 double-digit kill matches this year. He pounded a career-high 23 against Ohio State on Jan. 29, which came one night after breaking his previous career-high with 20 kills against Rutgers-Newark. Gutor has 21 service aces for the year and sits at fifth with 102 digs for the year.
The third-ranked and No. 1 seed Nittany Lions will take on No. 4 seed Rutgers-Newark in the second EIVA semifinal match on Thursday at 8:00 p.m. ET. Third-seed Juniata will face second-seed and No. 14 George Mason in the first EIVA semifinal match at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday. The winners of each of the semifinal matches will advance to the EIVA Championship on Saturday, April 30 at 7:15 p.m. ET at Rec Hall in a contest that will be televised live on CSTV.
The winner of the EIVA Championship earns a berth in the NCAA National Collegiate semifinals, hosted by UCLA on Thursday, May 5. The EIVA winner joins the winners of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) and the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) as well as an at-large team in the NCAA Semifinals. The winners of each of the two NCAA Semifinal matches advance to the NCAA National Collegiate Championship on Saturday, May 7 at UCLA.
Admission to the EIVA semifinals and championship is $4 for adults and $2 for youth and senior citizens each day. Penn State students are free with Penn State ID. Groups of 10 or more are just $1 per person. Rec Hall ticket office doors open at 4:00 p.m. on April 28 at 5:45 p.m. on April 30.
The MIVA Championship will be hosted by Loyola-Chicago on Friday and Saturday, April 29 and 30. In the first semifinal match, second-seed and No. 11 Ohio State takes on third-seed and No. 15 Ball State before the top-seeded and No. 9 Ramblers face fourth-seeded IPFW.
The MPSF Championship will be hosted by Pepperdine on Thursday and Saturday, April 28 and 30. In the first semifinal match, the top-ranked and top-seeded Waves face seventh-seeded and No. 8 Cal State Northridge before fifth-seed and No. 4 Long Beach State takes on sixth-seed and No. 7 UC Santa Barbara.
Please visit www.GoPSUsports.com for more information on the Penn State men¡¯s volleyball team and the 2005 EIVA Championship.