Nittany Lions Fall to No. 4 BYU in a Thriller
Fourth-ranked BYU defeated the Penn State Nittany Lions 3-2 in what proved to be a back and forth and very exciting matchup between two of collegiate men’s volleyballs most storied programs.
BYU took the first set 25-22, with Penn State struggling early on making multiple service errors. Cougar outside hitter Cyrus Fa’alogo had himself a tremendous first set, leading the Cougars with numerous kills and blocks in the front row. However, after the first set of action the narrative completely changed.
Penn State’s resilience would prove to be huge in the second set. After being down by as much as six at one point, the Nittany Lions roared back behind the clutch play of numerous players. Star freshman Cal Fisher was instrumental in Penn State's second set comeback, with extremely clutch service, including two service aces. Jason Donorovich also proved to be huge in the second set, with key blocks at the net to go along with huge free ball put backs. Penn State would take set two, 27-25.
In set three, Penn State once again found themselves down early but had another fiery comeback. But, on the verge of going up 2-1 and looking at a match point, BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead challenged a pancake by PSU which the officials ultimately ruled in BYU’s favor. Now, with the momentum swinging in their favor, the Cougars stole away set three by a score of 28-26.
With a 2-1 deficit looming, Penn State came out firing on all cylinders in the fourth set. Taking an early lead and never relinquishing it, the setting, passing, back row defense and overall play for Penn State was tremendous. BYU star opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez, who up until the fourth set was near unstoppable, disappeared from the game, committing two service errors and struggling with his swing. Penn State used this to its advantage, with Henrik Falck Lauten providing incredible kills and service. The Nittany Lions would handily win set four, 25-19.
In set five, Gabi Garcia Fernandez showed why he is the best opposite in all of collegiate volleyball, picking up seven kills and one service ace in the fifth set, BYU would go on to win. Wil Stanely’s setting proved to be instrumental in this set as well, with him providing Gabi with crucial and perfectly placed balls. BYU would win set five, 15-13.
In the post-game conference, BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead went on to praise Garcia Hernandez, saying “Gabi likes it, Gabi wants to take those big swings in key moments.”
Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik also had high praises for Fernandez.
“[He's] probably the best opposite in the country right now," Fernandez said.
Pavlik added that he remains optimistic in terms of what lies ahead for Penn State.
“I think we’re gonna be a tough team to beat," Fernandez said.
Penn State heads to Saint Francis University for its next matchup as does BYU. Coaches expressed some concern with the coming winter storm, but as of now both, matches should be played as scheduled.
David Saggio is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism, to contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.