Story Courtesy of Penn State
FAIRFAX, Va. – It came down to grit and sheer determination on Saturday (April 7) evening inside the Recreation Athletic Complex, as the Penn State men’s volleyball program captured a 3-2 (25-17, 19-25, 25-21, 21-25, 15-12) decision at EIVA-leading George Mason in front of a sold-out crowd.
Neither team was efficient on the attack as Penn State (14-9, 9-3 EIVA) was limited to just a .069 hitting percentage, but George Mason (15-11, 11-1 EIVA) was not much better at .174. It came down to the service line and net play, as the Nittany Lions held the edge in both categories. Penn State notched 13 aces to just 15 errors, while George Mason had only four aces compared to 24 service missteps. At the net, Penn State held the slight 14.5-13.0 edge in blocking, including three key blocks late in the fifth set.
The blocking assists (21) and total blocks (14.5) numbers each set team highs this season (all matches) and the solo block (four) and service ace tallies both tied team bests on the year (all matches).
The two teams worked their way to easy victories in the opening two sets to sit tied at 1-1, before playing a pair of back-and-forth sets in the third and fourth saw it even through four sets. The fifth set saw seven ties and four lead changes, the final coming on a Kevin Gear (Rochester, N.Y.) kill to make it 9-8 in favor of the Blue and White. A Jalen Penrose (Cambridge, Mass.) kill was squeezed in between three Penn State blocks to push the lead to 13-8. After two points by GMU, Penrose struck again and, following two more Patriot points, the 24th service error of the night for George Mason gave Penn State the win.
Penrose did a little bit of everything for the Nittany Lions, totaling nine kills, seven service aces, five blocks – one solo – and adding three digs. The seven service aces marked the seventh time this season that the redshirt-senior spun four-or-more aces and moved him into No. 5 on the single-season aces chart at Penn State.
In the match, Penrose passed Max Holt (48; 2008) and Will Price (49; 2010 & 51; 2009) to jump into No. 5 all-time in single season aces at Penn State with 54 on the year.
Redshirt-junior Matthew McLaren (Aurora, Colo.) led the Nittany Lions with 11 kills, while redshirt-senior Aidan Albrecht (Old Bridge, N.J.) added nine kills and a season-high 10 digs. Redshirt-sophomore Luke Braswell (Manchester, Pa.) handed out 37 assists to go along with seven dis, three blocks and two kills.
Redshirt-sophomore Jason Donorovich (Lockport, N.Y.) posted a match and career-high 10 blocks – including a career-high-tying two solo – with four kills. He posted two kills and three blocks – including one solo – in the fifth set alone. The double-digit block match was the first for a Penn Stater this season and first since Gear (11) and Albrecht (10) both reached double-figures in blocks on March 3, 2017 at UC Santa Barbara.
George Mason’s Kyle Barnes led all attackers with 12 kills, while Christian Malias (11) and Hayden Wagner (10) joined him in double-digits.
• MB Jalen Penrose – Did a bit of everything with nine kills, seven service aces and five blocks. Added three digs.
• OH Matthew McLaren – Posted 11 kills with five digs, three blocks and two service aces.
• OH Aidan Albrecht – Missed a double-double with nine kills and 10 digs. Added two each of service aces and blocks.
• MB Jason Donorovich – Posted Penn State’s first double-digit block match since March 2017 with 10 blocks. Added four kills.
• S Luke Braswell – Handed out 37 assists, added two kills, three blocks and seven digs.
• Serving Tough – Penn State tied a season-high with 13 aces.
• ROOF – Penn State posted a season-high 14.5 total blocks on a season-high 21 blocking assists and season-high-tying four solo blocks.
• OH Kyle Barnes – Totaled a match-high 12 kills.
• OH Christian Malias – Had 11 kills and three blocks.
• OPP Hayden Wagner – Notched 10 kills, two service aces, six digs and seven blocks in the match.
• Giving Away Points – George Mason committed 26 attacking errors, posted 24 service errors and had two blocking errors to account for 52 Penn State points.
The two teams muddled through the first 15 points, with Penn State owning the one-point edge. A kill from Kevin Gear made it 9-7 in favor of PSU and got the Nittany Lion offense clicking, as that started a string of seven kills for Penn State, but three errors by the Nittany Lions, three kills and two other points for GMU knotted the match at 15. From that point, Penn State scored 10 of the final 12 points to close out an emphatic set one victory, 25-17. The Nittany Lions hit .389 in the opening frame and limited George Mason to a .091 clip.
Penn State 25, at George Mason 17
Penn State leads 1-0
Penn State came out of the gate strong in set two, pushing out to a 5-1 lead thanks to a pair of GMU errors, a service ace and kill from Penrose, and a Donorovich block, but the Patriots righted the ship and eventually knotted things up at 10-all. The two teams traded points all the way to 14-14, before the host Patriots outscored Penn State 11-5 the rest of the way to pull momentum back their side. Penn State hit .000 for the set with eight kills and eight errors, while George Mason boasted a .333 attacking percentage with just three errors and 11 kills.
at George Mason 25, Penn State 19
The attacking percentage didn’t get much better for Penn State in the third set, as it hit .000 for the second-straight frame, but seven service aces by the Nittany Lions coupled with four attacking errors and four service aces for GMU helped the Blue and White come out on top. The Nittany Lions built up a four-point lead, 9-5, before George Mason slowly pulled it back and knotted things at 16-all. After a block, service ace and kill, the Patriots took a 19-17 edge, but Penrose stepped up big down the stretch and scored four of Penn State’s final six points – including three service aces – to help Penn State close out a set-three win.
Penn State 25, at George Mason 21
Penn State leads 2-1
The fourth set saw nine ties and four lead changes, but Penn State couldn’t find a rhythm offensively, posting a negative attacking percentage for the set. The Nittany Lions had six kills and eight attacking errors, while George Mason had eight attacking errors, but notched 13 kills. The Patriots twice built a three-point lead, 10-7 and 15-12, but the Nittany Lions kept at it and eventually grabbed a 17-16 lead on an ace by redshirt-freshman Kyle Mackiewicz (Edison N.J.). However, George Mason would score nine of the final 13 points – including a debated ball handling error at 22-19 – to send the sold-out arena to a fifth set.
at George Mason 25, Penn State 21
The match was tied seven times in the early going, with George Mason building a two-point lead, 6-4, before seeing the Nittany Lions come back to tie it. With the match sitting at 8-8, Gear registered a kill and Penrose combined with Donorovich on a block to make it 10-8 in favor of the Blue and White and force a GMU timeout. The timeout wouldn’t stop the run, as a solo block from Donorovich was followed by a kill from Penrose. After another Donorovich block – this time a combined effort with McLaren – GMU scored two-straight to close the gap to 13-10. After a PSU timeout, Penrose collected a kill, but the Patriots scored two more before a service error – the 24th of the night for GMU – ended the match in Penn State’s favor.
Penn State 15, at George Mason 12
Penn State wins 3-2
Penn State will host the final two matches of the regular season, with Princeton coming to town for a 7 p.m. first server on Friday, April 13 and NJIT scheduled for a 7 p.m. match on Saturday, April 14. Saturday’s match will serve as Senior Night for Penn State, so be sure to arrive early to honor our three seniors.