Every good band needs a “farewell” tour. (OK, some seem to have more farewells than others.) Penn State’s power trio of Cal Fisher, Brett Wildman and Cole Bogner brought theirs to the NCAA’s National Collegiate Men’s Volleyball Championship in Fairfax, Virginia, on Tuesday.
It also could be called a revenge tour.
Whatever the name, it will have at least one more performance after the EIVA-champion Nittany Lions (27-3) outlasted the MIVA’s Ohio State 25-22, 24-26, 25-13, 26-24 in a de facto Big Ten championship.
The teams played twice in the regular season, with each winning once. Ohio State, which got an at-large spot in the seven-team NCAA field, opened play Tuesday with sweep of Conference Carolinas champ King. The Buckeyes, who finished in a three-way tie for first in the MIVA, ended their season 23-10.
Penn State advances to face second-seeded Hawai’i (28-2) in Thursday’s second semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Eastern at George Mason. Penn State was one of the two teams to beat Hawai’i, which won the Big West, this season.
The other semifinal, set for 5 p.m. Eastern, pits top overall seed UCLA (29-2) against Long Beach State (21-4). Long Beach dispatched Grand Canyon in four sets Tuesday.
Now, about the “revenge” aspect of Penn State’s season.
Last year, the Nittany Lions cruised to a 16-0 mark in the EIVA and looked to be one of the favorites headed into the NCAA tournament. That was until Princeton, which had lost twice to Penn State during the regular season, pulled the upset in the EIVA final.
Princeton got the EIVA’s automatic bid, while the Nittany Lions, whose season ended 23-4, stayed home.
So few could blame coach Mark Pavlik’s players — particularly the aforementioned veterans — if they were a little cranky Tuesday. They played like it.
Fisher was nearly unstoppable, amassing 18 kills (.533), seven block assists and three aces, one of which came in the fourth set with the score tied 24-24. An Ohio State attack error on the next point gave Penn State the match.
“I think it was less focusing on (Ohio State’s) side, but Pav pulled me over after the first set and just said I was kind of rushing my toss and stepping too quick into it,” Fisher said about his serving. “So just kind of pace myself, slow it down and work back into a rhythm, and I think that helped a lot.”
Wildman finished with nine kills, two aces and three block assists.
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