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"This was the kind of match where the longer it went, the better we played," said head coach Mark Pavlik. "There were stretches in the match where we played awfully well. All in all, it s a pretty good way to come out of the EIVA semifinals."
Junior Matt Proper (Guys Mills, Pa.), the 2005 EIVA Player of the Year, led all players with 14 kills on .550 hitting. Sophomore Alex Gutor (State College, Pa.) connected on nine of his 13 attempts to hit .615, junior Nate Meerstein (Pittsburgh, Pa.) posted eight kills and hit .583 and senior Keith Kowal (Reading, Pa.) notched seven kills and hit .417. As a team, Penn State recorded 51 kills and hit .544, recording only two unforced hitting errors the entire match (51-8-79). The Scarlet Raiders attacked at a .131 clip (34-23-84).
Junior setter Dan O??Dell (Rochester, N.Y.) directed the Penn State offense with 43 assists, also providing three kills and a team-high six digs. Freshman libero Gary Vogel (Lancaster, Pa.) tallied five digs as Gutor and junior Kevin Wentzel (Pittsburgh, Pa.) each posted three.
Penn State led the blocking battle, 16.0 to 6.0, the 24th time this season the Nittany Lions have led their opponent in the category. Kowal posted a match-high nine blocks, just one shy of his fourth double-digit blocking contest of the season. O??Dell chipped in six blocks, Proper posted five and Wentzel and Meerstein each chipped in four.
Rutgers-Newark was led by Bryon Goff with 13 kills as Brian Honsberger posted seven. Graydon Ainsworth dished out 27 assists and Nick Manghelli tallied a team-high six digs. Both Goff and Henry Richardson topped the squad with three blocks.
Game one remained close early on, with a block from Kowal, O??Dell and Wentzel putting Penn State up 17-16. A Rutgers-Newark kill knotted the game at 17-17 and four ties ensued before consecutive kills from Gutor and Proper gave the Lions the two-point cushion, 23-21. The squads traded service errors and a block from Kowal and O??Dell forced a Scarlet Raiders timeout at 25-22. Out of the break, a Kowal put-away and a Rutgers-Newark attack error put Penn State up 27-22 before a Proper kill ended the game, 30-24. Proper led the Lions with five kills on six attempts and Kowal posted three blocks.
Penn State jumped out to the early 7-3 lead in the second game on three consecutive blocks, one by Kowal and O??Dell, another by Kowal, Proper and Gutor, and the third by Kowal and Proper. Rutgers-Newark answered with three straight kills from Goff to pull it to within one at 7-6, but a Gutor kill halted the run. Another triple block, this one from Proper, Meerstein and Wentzel, gave Penn State the 12-9 advantage but again the Scarlet Raiders responded with two kills and an ace to tie the game at 12-12. After a tie at 13-13, kills from Gutor and Kowal put the Lions up 15-13 and later a Gutor service ace made it 20-16. A block from Meerstein and O??Dell maintained the Penn State lead at 23-19 and a Proper kill off a set from freshman Luke Murray (East Petersburg, Pa.) gave the Lions game point at 29-21 before a Rutgers-Newark attack sailed long to award Penn State the game, 30-21. Proper tallied six kills and four blocks as Kowal produced five stuffs, adding to Penn State??s eight-block second game total.
The Nittany Lions dominated the third stanza from the beginning, going up 11-4 on a Scarlet Raiders ball-handling error. Back to back kills from Meerstein and Proper pushed the score to 13-5 before a Gutor kill and a Proper ace made the advantage 10 at 19-9. A kill from junior Andy Price (Laytonsville, Md.) put Penn State up 23-12 and another kill from sophomore Kyle Masterson (South Barrington, Ill.) made the score 29-16 before a Price kill ended the game, 30-16. Price was perfect on all four of his attempts to lead the team as the Lions attacked at a .625 clip in the game (17-2-24).
In the first EIVA Championship semifinal match, George Mason outlasted Juniata in five games, 30-28, 30-24, 27-30, 27-30, 15-12, to advance to the EIVA Championship final. Patriot junior Shaun Powell pounded a match-high 33 kills on 46 swings to hit .609 as 2005 EIVA Newcomer of the Year Hudson Bates chipped in 14 kills. Dave Egan dished out 66 assists, Matt Steinfurth led the squad with 10 digs and R.J. Goubeaux topped the team with five blocks.
For Juniata, Nathanael Ocasio posted 18 kills and Nick Bernardo tallied 17 as Ricky Ziegler directed the offense with 54 assists. Ziegler and libero Tim Cole each contributed nine digs and Jeremy Barndt recorded a match-high seven blocks.
The EIVA Championship match between Penn State and George Mason on Saturday, April 30 at 7:15 p.m. will be televised live on CSTV. The EIVA Championship winner earns a berth in the NCAA National Collegiate Championship semifinals, hosted by UCLA on Thursday, May 5. The NCAA Championship is slated for Saturday, May 7 at UCLA.
CSTV will feature a triple-header of men??s volleyball conference championships on Saturday, April 30. The Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) Championship match will air live at 5:00 p.m. ET, the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) Championship match will be televised at 7:15 p.m. ET and the Championship match of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) will begin at 9:30 p.m. ET live on CSTV. The winners of each of the three men??s volleyball conferences, as well as an at-large team selected by the NCAA Men??s Volleyball Committee, advance to the NCAA National Collegiate Semifinals at UCLA.
For more information on the Penn State men??s volleyball team, please visit www.GoPSUsports.com.