Penn State Men¡¯s Volleyball Advances To NCAA Semifinals
University Park, Pa., May 1, 2004 The seventh-ranked Penn State men¡¯s volleyball team topped Rutgers-Newark in three games (32-30, 30-28, 30-25) in the EIVA Championship Final to advance to the NCAA Semifinal hosted by the University of Hawaii on May 6. The Nittany Lions improve to 23-6 while the Scarlet Raiders end their season at 16-11.
The NCAA Semifinal appearance will be the 19th in school history and the sixth straight for the Nittany Lions.
¡°This was the type of match I expected,¡± said head coach Mark Pavlik. ¡°Rutgers-Newark just wouldn¡¯t go away, they wouldn¡¯t quit. Neither team was able to go on a roll, we just played at a pretty steady level.¡±
Penn State junior Keith Kowal (Reading, Pa.) was named the Most Valuable Player of the EIVA Championship as teammates Ricky Mattei (San Juan, Puerto Rico) and Nate Meerstein (Pittsburgh, Pa.) were also named to the All-Tournament team. Juniata¡¯s Kenny Eiser, who was earlier named the AVCA Division III Player of the Year, and Rutgers-Newark¡¯s Aleks Ondelj and Andrew Pink, rounded out the EIVA All-Tournament team.
Freshman Alex Gutor (Irving, Texas) led the Lions in kills against the Scarlet Raiders, posting 15, while sophomore Kevin Wentzel (Pittsburgh, Pa.) notched 14 kills on 18 attempts to hit a career-high .611. Kowal and sophomore Matt Proper (Guys Mills, Pa.) each posted nine kills while Meerstein added six. Penn State outhit the Scarlet Raiders, .373 to .291, for the match.
Sophomore setter Dan O¡¯Dell (Rochester, N.Y.) directed the offense with 51 assists while Wentzel led the defense with nine digs and Gutor chipped in seven. Senior libero Ricky Mattei (San Juan, Puerto Rico), who posted six digs in the match, became the first Penn State player in Nittany Lion men¡¯s volleyball history to record more than 900 career digs. He now sits at 902.
Penn State won the blocking battle, 7.0 to 6.0, although the Nittany Lions did not record a block in the first game. O¡¯Dell led the squad with four blocks while Proper, Meerstein and Kowal each posted three.
For Rutgers-Newark, Andrew Pink notched a match-high 17 kills as Brian Honsberger and Danny McGowan each chipped in 10. Aleks Ondelj dished out 45 assists and libero Trent Turner recorded a team-high six digs. Henry Richardson tallied four blocks to lead the squad, including two solo efforts.
The winners of each of the three conference championships and an at-large selection advance to the NCAA Semifinals on May 6 hosted by Hawaii at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Hawaii Standard Time (midnight and 2:00 a.m. ET). The National Championship match will be aired live on ESPN2 on Saturday, May 8 at 4:00 p.m. HST (10:00 p.m. ET). The NCAA Semifinal pairings will be decided by the NCAA Committee on Sunday, May 2.
Penn State senior Rhonee Rojas (Mililani, Hawaii) will be returning home to round out his career. Rojas is a four-year letterwinner for the Nittany Lions and one of three seniors on the squad. He has played in 79 of the team¡¯s 107 games as a defensive and serving specialist and he is averaging 0.43 digs per game.
¡°I didn¡¯t realize four years ago when I came to Penn State that I would be returning [to Hawaii] to finish my career,¡± said Rojas. ¡°All of the people who have supported me throughout my entire career will be there and I¡¯m so excited to play in front of my friends and family for the last time.¡±
Please visit www.GoPSUsports.com for more information on the Penn State men¡¯s volleyball team.