No. 6 Men¡¯s Volleyball Falls To No. 2 UC Irvine, 3-1
COLUMBUS, Ohio, May 3, 2007 ¨C The sixth-ranked Penn State men¡¯s volleyball team fell to second-ranked UC Irvine in four games (25-30, 22-30, 30-26, 23-30) Thursday night in the semifinals of the National Collegiate Championship in Columbus, Ohio. The Nittany Lions end their season with a 22-8 record while the Anteaters improve to 28-5 and advance to the National Championship match against IPFW on Saturday night. The Mastodons defeated top-ranked Pepperdine in four games in the first semifinal match.
¡°I¡¯d like to congratulate the Anteaters and Coach Speraw on the win,¡± said head coach Mark Pavlik. ¡°Any time you give a team a game and a half on your own errors, those odds aren¡¯t in your favor. I wish we had a better showing, error-wise, but Irvine did a good job on us. At times I think that it was some of the best volleyball I have seen all season. At other times both teams played the kind of volleyball that you wouldn¡¯t put on an instructional video. We just played that way longer.¡±
Sophomore opposite Matt Anderson (West Seneca, N.Y.) led the Nittany Lions with 16 kills as senior outside hitter Alex Gutor (Kiev, Ukraine) posted 13 kills and sophomore middle hitter Max Holt (Cincinnati, Ohio) collected 12 kills on .556 hitting. Freshman middle hitter Max Lipsitz (Williamsville, N.Y.) provided eight kills on .500 hitting as senior outside hitter Aaron Smith (Forest, Va.) notched six kills. As a team, Penn State attacked at a .230 clip as UC Irvine hit .313 for the match.
Junior setter Luke Murray (East Petersburg, Pa.) directed the Penn State offense with 50 assists and added nine digs and a career-high-tying seven blocks. Senior libero Ryan Walthall (Irvine, Calif.) led all players with 12 digs, his 11th double-dig match of the season. Anderson posted five digs in the match as Smith chipped in four.
Penn State recorded four service aces in the match, with Smith, Holt, Anderson and Murray all providing one. UC Irvine tallied seven aces in their win.
The Nittany Lions captured the blocking battle, racking up 14.5 blocks to the Anteaters¡¯ 11.5. In addition to Murray¡¯s seven, Holt provided eight stuffs, one shy of his career high, as Smith tallied four, one off his season best. Lipsitz notched three stuffs, Gutor posted two and Anderson recorded one.
Matt Webber led UC Irvine with 19 kills as last season¡¯s AVCA National Player of the Year Jayson Jablonsky recorded 14 kills, David Smith posted 11 kills and Taylor Wilson recorded 10. Setter Brian Thornton dished out 51 assists and posted a team-high nine digs as Smith led the Anteaters with five blocks.
A UC Irvine kill and three consecutive Penn State attack errors forced a Nittany Lion timeout at 7-4 in the first game. A Holt kill pulled Penn State to within two but the Anteaters remained on top, going up 14-8 aided by an ace and two blocks. Two more Penn State attack errors gave UC Irvine the 16-8 lead and the Anteaters went ahead 19-1 on a block and a kill. An Anderson put-away pulled Penn State within seven at 19-12 and following an Anteater block to put them up 20-12, the Nittany Lions rattled off the next six points, including back to back Holt and Smith blocks and an Anderson service ace, to pull within two at 20-18. The squads traded points twice, with a Holt and Murray block again narrowing the gap to two points, 22-20. After exchanging points two more times, kills from Lipsitz and Anderson and a block from Gutor and Lipsitz capped a 12-4 Penn State run to even the game at 24-24. But the Anteaters responded with three consecutive kills to take the 27-24 lead, and the teams traded kills before a UC Irvine block and overpass kill ended the game, 30-25. Gutor and Anderson each added four kills in the game as Penn State tallied 5.0 team blocks to UC Irvine¡¯s 5.5.
Game two remained even early on, with Penn State going up 4-2 aided by a Murray and Holt block and a Murray solo stuff. The Nittany Lions remained ahead with the slight lead, taking the 10-8 advantage on an Anderson kill out of the back row before two UC Irvine kills and two Penn State attack errors gave the Anteaters the 16-14 lead. A quick Smith kill to the outside pulled the Nittany Lions to within one at 16-15 but the Anteaters went on a six-point run encompassing four kills to take the 22-15 lead and force Penn State to take its second timeout of the game. UC Irvine claimed two of the next three points out of the break to go up 24-16 before an Anteater service error, an Anderson kill and a Smith service ace pulled Penn State within five at 24-19 and caused a UC Irvine timeout. An Anteater kill out of the break followed by a service ace off the tape gave them the 26-19 lead. A Gutor kill pulled Penn State to within six at 26-20 but UC Irvine retained the momentum, taking the game 30-22 aided by kills from Smith and Webber. Holt provided four kills for the Nittany Lions in the stanza.
Back to back Smith kills and consecutive blocks, one from Holt and Murray and another one from Holt and Smith, gave Penn State the 10-9 lead to start the third game. Kills from Lipsitz and Gutor put the Nittany Lions up 16-14 and kills from Anderson and Holt kept Penn State in front, 19-17. A Murray solo block maintained the two-point advantage at 21-19 and a Smith put-away made it 23-21. Consecutive UC Irvine kills knotted the game at 23-23 and the squads traded kills before an Anteater service ace and a Murray solo block ¨C his third solo of the match ¨C gave Penn State the 26-24 lead and forced an Anteater timeout. A Gutor shot off the block put the Lions up 27-24 but it was quickly followed by a Penn State attack error. Murray then took matters into his own hands, putting away the second ball and finishing out the game with a service ace, 30-26. As a team, Penn State attacked at a .630 clip in the stanza, committing only one error while putting away 18 of 27 attempts. Gutor and Anderson each posted five kills in the set.
UC Irvine started the fourth game off on fire, going up 6-3 on an ace and 10-4 on a block. An Anderson kill pulled the Lions within six at 12-6 and the teams traded errors three times, with a Gutor kill pulling Penn State within five at 15-10. But the Anteaters claimed two of the next three points to go ahead 18-11 and maintained the 21-14 lead on a block. After the teams traded points twice, a Nittany Lion triple block from Murray, Smith and Holt pulled Penn State to within 23-17 and following an Anteater kill, Penn State claimed the next four points, including a Holt ace, a Gutor and Lipsitz block, and an Anderson kill, to pull within three at 24-21 and force an Anteater timeout. Out of the break, UCI claimed the next three points before a Lipsitz kill pulled Penn State within five at 27-22. But UC Irvine claimed three of the next four points to take the game, 30-23.
For more information on the Penn State men¡¯s volleyball team, please visit www.GoPSUsports.com.