Toby Ezeonu and A Dominant Service Attack Pushes Penn State Past Princeton

Story posted February 18, 2023 in CommRadio, Sports by Micheal Bolger

Princeton goes down swinging against Penn State in a 3-0 sweep at Rec Hall in South Gym. Since Penn State’s loss to No. 3 Long Beach State on January 25, the Nittany Lions have won four straight matches. 

Opening up the match in State College, Princeton matched Penn State’s energy in a 14-12 contest until a set of blocks helped the Nittany Lions get out in front. Brett Wildman then sealed the deal with a service ace, winning Penn State the opening set, 25-18.

“I thought our servers came up big,” Penn State's head coach Mark Pavlik said. “We just use them to gain separation and they did that tonight.”

The Nittany Lions ended the night with 13 service aces compared to the Tigers four. Not only did the blue and white dominate in the service ace column of the stat sheet, but it also tied for a season-low 14 service errors.  

Toby Ezeonu was a thorn in the Tigers back in the opening set as he recorded three kills, two blocks and one dig. Ezeonu would end the day with 11 kills on 17 attacks, two errors and two blocks.

Wildman came out firing in set number two with back-to-back service aces to help the Nittany Lions obtain a 9-2 early lead. However, Princeton would rally back with a 5-1 run against Penn State late in the set to pull within one.

With the second match on the line at 24-22, it was Ezeonu who ended the comeback from Princeton, giving the Nittany Lions a 2-0 lead in the match. The orange and black were able to contest the blue and white at the net which made a significant change in the final score of the set.

That aggressiveness at the net transferred into the third set with both teams trading blows. The Tigers and Nittany Lions found themselves locked in an even seven-to-seven contest.

“If one person has the energy it kind of amplifies to everybody else,” Ezeonu said.

Penn State pulled ahead to take a 3-point lead midway through the set but Princeton came storming right on back to tie it at 16. Nyherowo Omene and Brady Wedbush played significant roles for the Tigers throughout the match, both of them ending with 11 kills on the night.

With the match on the line, Michal Kowal killed the third set with a missile to help Penn State win 25-20 and complete its first sweep since its match against Merrimack on Jan. 14. 

“Last year, we went out there and we punched them in the face,” Princeton's setter Henry Wedbush said. “We just didn’t have that same off-the-jump aggression tonight.”

Wedbush and head coach Sam Shweisky believe that Penn State was playing with a chip on its shoulder after the Tigers defeated the Nittany Lions last year in the Semifinals of the EIVA Tournament. However, Pavlik and Ezeonu say otherwise.

“I didn’t look at last year’s match,” Pavlik said. “What’s done is done, it’s a different team and it served us no purpose at all to look at last year’s match.”

The Nittany Lions will improve to 10-1 while the Tigers fall to 4-7 on the season as both of these teams will face off again on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Rec Hall.

Micheal Bolger is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email