AUSTIN, Texas — Stanford’s Moses Wagner knows how to play the guitar. So he looked perfectly comfortable holding the mini guitar that was presented to him as player of the match after the eighth-ranked Cardinal (5-0) of the MPSF swept No. 7 Penn State (4-1) of the EIVA on Friday night.
It capped the first day of the third annual First Point Collegiate Challenge. Earlier in the early season gathering of top-ranked NCAA men’s volleyball teams, No. 13 USC beat No. 14 Ball State in four sets and No. 4 Ohio State pulled off a reverse sweep against top-ranked UCLA.
Saturday in the Austin Convention Center, Ohio State plays USC at 1:30 Central, Stanford plays Ball State at 4 and UCLA plays Penn State at 6:30.
Wagner, a 6-foot-6 sophomore right side from San Jose who appeared in only five matches as a freshman, finished with a match-high 15 kills (hitting .423) and had four blocks and three digs in the 25-21, 25-21, 25-19 victory
But while Wagner was still getting tuned up, the match took an unusual detour.
On the sixth point of the opening set, a Stanford attack went wide and coach John Kosty and Penn State counterpart Mark Pavlik rose from their chairs and raised their challenge cards simultaneously. Kosty challenged the out call, while Pavlik suggested one of Stanford’s players touched the net during the rally.
Both coaches were correct. The ball was in, but one of Stanford’s players did contact the net. So both coaches won their challenges, but the point went to Penn State because of the net violation.
After that, Penn State held a slim lead for much of the first set before Stanford pulled away late for a 25-21 win, with Wagner getting two kills among the Cardinal’s final three points.
Save for a 1-1 tie, Stanford led the entire second set and again won 25-21. Will Rottman, a fifth-year senior outside from Santa Barbara, finished off the Nittany Lions with three consecutive kills. Rottman had nine kills, hit .308, and had an ace, two blocks and three digs. Younger brother Alex, a sophomore outside, had nine kills, two assists, two blocks and six digs.
The third set was tied eight times until, at 15-15, Stanford went on a 5-2 spurt and pulled away for a 25-19 win.
Wagner, who had eight kills in the third set, struggled with injuries last season, so he is looking for a bit of redemption in 2024. Through the Cardinal’s five matches, he ranks second on the team at 3.26 kills per set.
“Coming into this year fully healthy, I wanted to go in the gym every…