Men’s Volleyball: Penn State Drops Weekend Series versus California Foes

Story posted March 6, 2016 in Sports, CommRadio by Jonathan Gross

The No. 6 Penn State Nittany Lions (12-4; 7-0) were swept this weekend, losing 3-1 in both matches of the pre-spring break Tournament against the No. 12 Cal State Northridge Matadors (12-7; 5-7) and the No. 1 Long Beach State 49ers (17-2; 12-2).

Penn State won the first set 25-20 behind a .483 hitting percentage. The frame went back and forth early on, but the Nittany Lions put together a late six-point lead and did not look back.

The Matadors used both timeouts allotted in the set, to no avail. They struggled to account for Penn State’s Chris Nugent, who registered six kills with a .556 hitting percentage and a service ace in the frame.

In the second set, Cal. State Northridge jumped out to a 4-3 lead, but would not be on top again until they went up 22-21.

At that mark, Penn State coach Mark Pavlik called a timeout. His team responded and forced nine set points. Nonetheless, the Matadors responded and took the frame 39-37 on their seventh set point.

“I think [losing the second set] took a lot out of us in the third and fourth set,” said Penn State outside hitter Aidan Albrecht. “But we have got to be more competitive because it’s only one set,” he added.

The visitors totaled 25 kills in the set; eight by outside hitter Jakub Ciesla, on 51 attacks and stuffed six blocks.

Set three resembled the first one, with eight ties and three lead changes between both sides. Cal. State Northridge overcame a 20-17 deficit and took the frame 25-23 to go up two sets to one.

 The fourth frame was controlled by the Matadors from the get-go, as the visitors led by as many as six, winning the set 25-21 to finish off the match.

“I feel very fortunate to have pulled out this match,” said Cal. State Northridge coach Jeff Campbell. His team registered 64 kills and eight service aces.

Pavlik believes that the match offered his team a preview of what they will face in the NCAA Tournament, which will be played in Rec Hall.

The Lions outhit their opponents .290 to .265 and were paced by Nugent (18 kills and an ace) and Matt Seifert (10 kills on 14 attacks). Setter Taylor Hammond contributed 49 assists as well.

Ciesla, who finished with 19 kills, and Sam Porter, who had 58 assists, led Cal. State Northridge.

Saturday night’s matchup had a slightly bigger crowd on hand to watch the Nittany Lions face the top-ranked team in the country.

Early on, the teams were evenly matched. The first set was tied nine times, but the 49ers pulled out the victory 25-20.

Freshman outside hitter TJ DeFalco put away six of his 21 total kills in the first frame for the visitors.

Long Beach State controlled the first half of set two, but the Nittany Lions did not quit. Overcoming a 13-9 deficit, Penn State took the set 25-23.

Aidan Albrecht had seven kills in the set, hitting at a .417 clip. Lee Smith also contributed to the set victory, with four kills on six attacks.

Heading into the intermission, the home side had momentum. Nonetheless, the 49ers dominated the third frame.

Eight hitting errors haunted the Nittany Lions in the set. As a team, they posted a .036 hitting percentage.

Long Beach State took advantage of those mistakes and cruised to a 25-15 victory.

Coach Pavlik did not put too much stock in his team’s third set performance. “If you look at game by game, you’re going to see just about everybody in the country will have a match where they get blown out 25 to 14, 15, 16,” he said.

Penn State bounced back and took control of the fourth set, possessing a 22-20 lead late in the frame. After a Long Beach State timeout, the 49ers rattled off 5-1 run to cap of a 3-1-match victory.

“It was important for us to come out on the road and play this match,” said 49ers coach Alan Knipe. “It was great to have to battle through adversity, losing a tight second set.”

Long Beach State’s Taylor Gregory, who posted a team-high .571 hitting percentage with eight kills, attributed his success to seeing the block and being able to hit around it.

The visitors out-hit the hosts, .355 to .206. Nugent and Albrecht continued their strong seasons for Penn State, putting away 16 and 15 kills respectively.

The 49ers also out-blocked their opponent, 10-6 in addition to registered seven service aces to Penn State’s zero.

After dropping both matches, Penn State is on their first two-game losing streak since early January. The Lions face St. Francis (PA) on March 18 at 7 p.m. in Rec Hall.

Jonathan Gross is a freshman double-majoring in broadcast journalism and international politics (national security). He can be reached at jwg5468@psu.edu.