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Penn State falls in 4 sets to Ohio State in season opener

Photo courtesy Penn State Athletics
Photo courtesy Penn State Athletics

Courtesy Penn State Athletics

COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Penn State men's volleyball team rebounded after a rough first set to push Ohio State to nearly push No. 8 Ohio State to a final fifth set, but the Buckeyes held on to defeat the Nittany Lions 3-1 (13-25, 25-20, 21-25, 24-26 in the Nittany Lions' 2019 season opener Saturday night at St. John Arena.
 
The match marked the sixth time the Nittany Lions (0-1) had played the Buckeyes (2-0) to begin the season. Penn State is now 4-2 in those matches. This match also could also mark the final time Penn State will face Ohio State in St. John Arena in the regular season, as the Buckeyes' men's volleyball will move to the new Covelli Center a season from now.
 
A sluggish start for the Nittany Lions put Ohio State in control of a first set which it ended winning convincingly 25-13, but Penn State settled in and round its rhythm to put the Buckeyes back on their heels in the second set when the Blue & White came out on top 25-20.
 
Penn State rallied from a six-point deficit in the third set to take an 18-17 lead, but Ohio State dug in to finish on an 8-3 run to take set three 25-21.
 
In the fourth set, Penn State was on the cusp of forcing a fifth set but a combination of a few clutch plays from Ohio State and mishaps from the Nittany Lions enabled OSU to win the frame 26-24 to take the home victory.
 
Redshirt junior Calvin Mende picked up right where he left off after back-to-back All-EIVA First Team seasons to lead the Nittany Lions with 18 kills on 37 attacks and a team high 20.0 points. Mende also had a pair of blocks
 
Redshirt senior Matt McLaren did a little bit of everything for Penn State, finishing with 11 kills, eight digs, an ace, and one block assists.
 
Despite not getting the start, redshirt Lee Smith made his impact known throughout the game with eight kills and just one error on 19 attacks (.368).
 
Redshirt juniors Luke Braswell and Jason Donorovich also filled the stat sheet for the Nittany Lions. Braswell had 35 assists and nine digs, both team highs. Donorovich had seven kills on 12 swings with just one error (.500) to go with three blocks.
 
True freshman Canyon Tuman was in the starting lineup for his Nittany Lion debut. He had a kill, a pair of digs, and three blocks to his name.
 
Ohio State's Jake Hanes led all players with 24 kills for the match on 46 attacks with 5 errors (.413) while also leading the Buckeyes with nine digs. Setter Sanil Thomas tallied 46 assists while Reese Devilbliss and Blake Leeson combined for 21 kills and eight blocks.
 
HEAR IT FROM HIM
Coach Pavlik
"I really liked how we battled. Obviously, we did not come out of the gate well and Ohio State had some familiarity with game action having played yesterday so they kind of took it to us in set one. After that, I thought we did a good job of taking a deep breath and turning the page.
 
"In the end, we battled really well against a very good program and fell a bit short in our first road test. We had a chance to come up with key points in certain spots, but we just didn't convert the plays we needed. It's obviously disappointing to lose and we have several things to work on, but there are positives we can take from this."
 
HOW IT HAPPENED
First Set
Ohio State rushed out to a 5-2 advantage and essentially went 2-for-1 on points for the rest of the set. The Nittany Lions struggled offensively hitting. -.042 as a team in the frame. After a Mende kill made the score 15-9 Ohio State, the Buckeyes rallied to score four straight points behind a pair of aces by Hanes to put the set well out of reach for Penn State.
Ohio State 25, Penn State 13
Ohio State leads 1-0
 
Second Set
Penn State's offensive attack found its groove in the second set as the Nittany Lions hit .500 with just three errors. With the score 7-5, PSU scored four straight points after a Mende kill, Donorovich ace, and a couple of Ohio State mishaps. The teams continued to trade points, enabling Penn State to maintain a comfortable cushion. The Buckeyes did pull within two at 22-20, but an ensuing ace from McLaren and kills from Smith and Mended led Penn State to closing the set.
Penn State 25, Ohio State 20
Score tied 1-1 
 
Third Set
Ohio State took a 3-0 lead early and steadily built its lead to as high as six at 13-7, but then Penn State flipped the script with an impressive run. The Nittany Lions scored nine of the next 13 points to take its first lead of the set 18-17. Both teams were able to convert well offensively for the rest of the set as there was only one attacking error for the remainder of the stanza. The Buckeyes did just a little bit more and scored four of the last five points to retake the lead in the match.
Ohio State 25, Penn State 21
Ohio State leads 2-1
 
Fourth Set
Much like the second set, Penn State regained its footing after dropping the latest set to take a 5-3 lead off kills from Mende and Donorovich. The Buckeyes managed to steadily creep its way back to even the score and both teams traded points until true freshman Cal Fisher provided a spark for Penn State with a kill to give Penn State its largest lead of the set 16-13. The point-trading continued until Penn State was just a point away from taking the set at 24-22. The Nittany Lions failed to come up with the clinching point as the Buckeyes continued to hang around and eventually completed another four-point spurt after two kills and an ace to clinch the match.
Ohio State 26, Penn State 24
Ohio State wins 3-1
 
NEXT UP
Penn State returns to University Park for its 2019 home opener at Rec Hall Saturday, Jan. 12 against North Greenville. First serve is set for 7 p.m.