Penn State put a different spin on the NCAA Division I-II men’s indoor volleyball landscape by knocking the “0” off of two-time defending national champion Hawaii’s resume Friday night.
The four-set victory in Honolulu by the Nittany Lions (15-2) before a crowd of 6,557 might not fall into the category of “upset of the century” because, after all, the country’s No. 3-ranked team defeated No. 1. Nonetheless, the rare loss by Hawaii (16-1) on its home court in the power-packed OUTRIGGER Invitational ended the Rainbow Warriors’ 25-match winning streak and very well could signal a shakeup at the top of next week’s AVCA national poll.
One night before, Penn State dropped a five-setter to No. 2 UCLA, which plays Hawai’i on Saturday. A victory by UCLA seemingly would vault the Bruins to No. 1. But if Hawai’i beats UCLA, the voters would have quite the puzzle to ponder.
The “thud” of a loss by No. 1 was the banner headline on a brisk Friday of men’s volleyball across the country. UCLA kept its eyes on the prize in Honolulu, Long Beach State and UC Irvine recorded Big West victories, BYU won in an intersectional matchup of ranked teams, Loyola-Chicago nearly stumbled on the road in the MIVA and Charleston also dodged an upset bullet.
With the score knotted at 23 in the fourth, Penn State of the EIVA got kills from Michal Kowal and Toby Ezeonu to close the show on its 21-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-23 triumph. The Buckeyes held Hawaii of the Big West to an uncharacteristic .250 hitting. The Rainbow Warriors’ .380 percentage ranked No. 2 in the nation behind UCLA’s .387.
Kowal and Cal Fisher led the Nittany Lions in kills with 12 each, and Fisher popped three aces and made 10 digs. Ezeonu cracked 10 kills while hitting .533, and recorded three blocks, two solo. Aggressive serving by Penn State played a key role in getting Hawaii out of system. The Bows’ big guns, Dimitrio Mouchlias and Spiros Chakas, picked up 16 and 14 kills, respectively, but hit .333 and .222.
UCLA (19-1) of the MPSF whacked .463 as a team in powering past the MIVA’s Purdue Fort Wayne (12-6) 25-20, 25-21, 21-16. The Bruins will carry a 10-match winning streak into their showdown with Hawaii on Saturday night. Returning first-team All-American Ethan Champlin dialed up five of UCLA’s 10 aces and pounded nine kills on 13 swings with no errors. Freshman setter Andrew Rowan had three aces and dished 32 assists. Zach Rama, a 6-foot-8…
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