Penn State Hands Fort Wayne First Loss
UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – An environment change for the Nittany Lions would prove no difference in Saturday’s win of the Fort Wayne Mastodons, as they win the back-and-forth affair by a final score of 3-1.
“735 people packed in the South Gym makes it kind of loud whether there is a loud opponents bench or not,” Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik said. “The crowd played a great role in today’s match for us, they were outstanding.”
A rivalry matchup in wrestling took over the main gym at the historic venue, which pushed the match to the South Gym. All 735 spectators filled the bleachers and spread across the floor settled in to watch a top 15 matchup as the Nittany Lions came into the match ranked 9th in the nation and the Mastodons came in at 15.
“[This game] is a great measuring stick to where we are as a volleyball team, and the first and third sets could’ve gone either way,” Fort Wayne head coach Ryan Perrotte said. “A play here and a play there made all the difference in the world.”
Fort Wayne came out firing on all cylinders at the beginning of the match, jumping out to an 11-6 lead in the first set. Sophomore Pelegrin Vargas had eight of his 13 kills in the first set until Penn State came roaring back and capture six of the last nine points of the set to jump ahead in the match 30-28.
“The match today was a really good step from yesterday’s match [against Ball State],” Pavlik said. “Our offense really started to take control of the match.”
Fort Wayne dominated the second set, 25-19. Penn State had trouble getting anything going in the set, as Fort Wayne rolled off a streak of securing ten of fourteen points to jump out to a 23-15 lead. Redshirt junior Colton Stone kept the Mastodons rolling and finished the match leading his team in kills with 14.
“We’re finding some strengths in individuals who we’ll be able to use throughout the season,” Pavlik said.
The tide started to turn in Penn State’s favor towards the end of the third set as both teams were battling to grab the 2-1 advantage. Fort Wayne and Penn State went back and forth with the scoring early, with Fort Wayne’s largest lead in the set only being three points. Late in the set, Fort Wayne made three consecutive errors while up by one to give the Nittany Lions the lead at 24-23. A service error and ball handling error by Stone along with an attack error by sophomore Richie Diedrich gave Penn State their first of four set points.
On their fourth set point, Lee Smith stepped up to serve and give Penn State the decisive advantage. The ball hung low heading straight for the top of the net and settled right on top for what felt like hours, before finally dropping on the Mastodons side to seal the win in the third set for Penn State.
“I served it and it hit the tape, and it looked like it was going to fall on our side,” redshirt junior Lee Smith said. “And somehow it did something and went down on [Fort Wayne’s] side and I was shocked.”
The fourth set started out slow for both teams, per usual for the entire match, until redshirt senior Jalen Penrose took over the match and led Penn State to six straight points and seal the match. Penrose had two blocks and two kills during the run and finished with a team-leading 15 kills and an additional five blocks in the match.
A kill from Smith polished off Penn State’s dominating 25-15 final set and a 3-1 win over Fort Wayne, ending the Mastodons 8-0 undefeated season and a weekend sweep for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State begins EIVA play next week as they travel to take on St. Francis University, and then return home the following week against Sacred Heart University. Fort Wayne begins their league schedule in the MIVA next week as they travel to take on McKendree University and Ohio State University to wrap up their five-game road trip.