By Larry Hamel for VolleyballMag.com
Third-ranked Penn State survived a massive error-plagued scare on the road against an unheralded opponent, and Hawaii’s steamroller rumbled to its 18th consecutive victory on a busy Saturday of NCAA Division I-II men’s indoor volleyball.
Also, BYU topped UC Santa Barbara in a match of nationally ranked teams, Ohio State and Loyola Chicago each improved to 2-0 in MIVA play, and King University rose to 3-0 in Conference Carolinas with a rollercoaster five-set victory.
Despite resume-building victories over national powers UCLA, Pepperdine, Stanford, USC and Ohio State, No. 3 Penn State (9-1) of the EIVA found itself in the ignominious position of trailing two sets to zero against NEC member Saint Francis (PA), which came into the match 2-7.
But the Nittany Lions rallied to pull off the proverbial reverse sweep (22-25, 23-25, 25-22, 25-23, 15-10) and limp out of Loretto, Pennsylvania, with a skin-of-their-teeth victory. They managed to win with 50 – count ‘em 50 – errors (22 attacking and 28 serving). Jon Kerr played in just three sets, but led Penn State with 15 kills. The host Red Flash couldn’t withstand error issues of their own, also giving away 50 points, 24 attacking and 26 from the service line. Blake Liprando’s 12 kills were high for Saint Francis.
No. 1 Hawaii (9-0) of the Big West handed No. 8 Stanford (7-4) of the MPSF its second home-court whitewash (27-25, 25-19, 25-19) in as many nights, this one coming before a packed house of 1,336 at the cozy Burnham Pavilion. The Rainbow Warriors punctuated their nation’s-leading 18th “W” in a row with a rejection by Dimitrios Mouchlias and Guilherme Voss, the team’s 12th block of the match.
Mouchlias, a 6-6 junior opposite from Greece, carried the load for Hawaii with 17 kills, a .517 hitting percentage and four block assists. The Rainbow Warriors kept the error count low with 19 in running their streak of winning sets to 24. Stanford standout Will Rottman rang up 13 kills before leaving the court late in the third set with an apparent injured leg.
The second verse at No. 10 BYU (8-2) was pretty much the same as the first for No. 14 UC Santa Barbara (2-9. The Gauchos out of the Big West dropped back-to-back matches in Provo, Utah, both in four sets, this time 25-19, 25-20, 19-25, 25-17. The Cougars of the MPSF got an eye-catching slash line from sophomore Miks Ramanis: 19 kills/.486 hitting/five digs/two aces/two block assists. Setter Heath Hughes dished 46 assists and made 15 digs. Ryan Wilcox led the Gauchos with 12 kills.
In the MIVA, Noah Platfoot (38 assists and nine digs) set an efficient offense that propelled No. 11 Ohio State (9-3, 2-0) to a 25-23, 25-22, 25-19 victory in Columbus over Lewis (7-6, 1-1), which had taken down preseason conference favorite Ball State in five sets earlier in the week. Platfoot spread the wealth among Samuel Clark (14 kills), Jack Stevens (11 kills, two aces) and Jacob Pasteur (10 kills) as the Buckeyes hit .378. The Flyers’ Max Roquet posted 16 kills.
No. 13 Loyola Chicago (9-2, 2-0 MIVA) had far tougher sledding during a five-set barnburner (25-22, 25-23, 17-25, 28-30, 15-12) against Lindenwood (3-6, 1-1). The visiting Ramblers served for match point three times in the marathon fourth, but were denied, and eventually dropped the set on an attacking error by Parker Van Buren. But Van Buren (23 kills on 50 swings, .340 hitting) made amends by recording the match-winning kill in the fifth. Cole Schlothauer contributed 19 kills, and setter Dan Mangum posted 44 assists, four kills and nine digs. Ian Schuller (17 kills) helped the Lions extend the match after they fell behind by two sets.
Also, No. 9 Ball State (6-4, 1-1 MIVA) bounced back with a victory (25-21, 25-23 23-25, 25-20) over visiting McKendree (5-4, 0-2). Dyer Ball filled up the stat sheet for the Cardinals, with 18 kills, .500 hitting, 10 digs and two aces. Purdue Fort Wayne (10-2, 1-1 MIVA) rolled over Quincy (4-6, 0-2) 25-15, 25-17, 25-18, holding the outgunned hosts to .164 hitting.
No. 15 CSUN (8-5) of the Big West culminated a productive three-match East Coast swing with a 25-11, 25-16, 25-23 cakewalk over the NEC’s Fairleigh Dickinson (3-4) in New Jersey. The host Knights had more attack errors (25) than kills (24) while the Matadors banged out a .411 hitting percentage. Highly decorated outside hitter Kyle Hobus, a 6-foot-8 redshirt junior, logged eight kills on an errorless nine swings over two sets and chipped in three block assists for Northridge, which beat Princeton and NJIT (both in five sets) earlier in the week and has won four in a row.
“These were our first true road matches and I could not be more proud of the way [the guys] handled themselves,” coach Theo Edwards said. “All three will give us the confidence we will need later in Big West road matches.”
In Conference Carolinas, host King University (8-8, 3-0) weathered Erskine (4-7, 1-2) in a five-set nail-biter in Bristol, Tennessee, that featured wild swings of momentum. Just when it looked as if the Tornado might have run out of steam, they rallied in the deciding set after dropping the third and fourth to win 27-25, 25-19, 24-26, 22-25, 15-8 and remain unbeaten in league play. Undersized outside hitter Warren Davis, a 6-0 junior, pounded 21 kills and made six digs for King, complemented by 14 kills from Kellan Kennedy and 13 from Jackson Carroll. The Tornado hit .611 in the fifth set and gained separation early with a 5-1 start. Kacper Rybarczyk’s 20 kills and seven digs were important for Erskine.
Elsewhere on a full slate in Conference Carolinas: North Greenville (7-3, 2-1) prevailed on its home court over Mount Olive (4-5, 1-2) 25-16, 25-21, 25-21, with Michael de la Cruz getting 13 kills and three aces; host Belmont Abbey (3-7, 2-1) bounced free-falling Barton (0-9, 0-2) 25-18, 22-25, 25-17, 25-22 behind Ethan Rehmann’s .615 hitting, nine kills and three aces; and Lees-McRae (5-3, 2-0) topped visiting Emmanuel (3-6, 0-2) 25-21, 20-25, 25-18, 25-20. Michael Marsans logged 11 kills and three blocks (two solo) for the victors.
In other action, Princeton (4-6) of the EIVA took care of business at home with a 25-19,25-16, 25-22 triumph over the NEC’s St. Francis Brooklyn (3-5). The Tigers’ Ben Harrington dialed up seven aces to go along with eight kills. Host Lincoln Memorial (9-4) hit .422 in bouncing Limestone (6-4) in a match between independents. And Kentucky State (1-10) of the SIAC lost twice in Walesa, Georgia, falling to St. Andrews (4-2) 25-23, 25-20, 25-19 and to host Reinhardt (6-2) 25-13, 25-20, 25-12.
The Arch City Classic concluded in St. Louis: Maryville (4-7) of the IVA swept Alderson Broaddus 25-20, 25-21, 25-20; the SIAC’s Central State (5-9) defeated Alderson Broaddus (2-8) 25-22, 25-21, 25-17 and then Central State was beaten by Missouri S&T (5-8) of the IVA in five 24-26, 25-17, 25-20, 22-25, 15-11.
No matches are scheduled on Super Bowl Sunday, nor are there any on Monday. Tuesday, there are two Conference Carolinas matches when King plays Lees-McRae and Belmont Abbey plays North Greenville. UC San Diego of the Big West plays host to Westcliff and Tusculum is home for Lincoln Memorial.