No. 4 Penn State Upsets No. 2 UCLA to Win the Big 10/Pac 12 Challenge

Story posted February 6, 2023 in

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - In the final match of the Big 10/Pac 12 Challenge, No. 2 UCLA was defeated by No. 4 Penn State 3-1 as an electric crowd filled Rec Hall.

Just an hour prior, No. 13 Ohio State beat No. 10 USC 3-1 to wrap up its tournament, but all eyes were on the matchup at 7 p.m.

Although the temperature would only reach low 20 degrees on Saturday, Rec Hall was full of summer spirit as Beach Night was the theme for the final match of the tournament.

The first set was very back-and-forth and would end as the closest set of the match. Penn State would pull through with the 25-21 victory that would set up the rest of the game for both sides.

UCLA did battle back to win set two. The Bruins dominated this set, leading the entire way once both team’s scores reached double digits.

However, there was a clear shift in momentum into the third set. A switch seemed to turn for Penn State although head coach Mark Pavlik said that the adjustment made was simply that the team had to get used to how the Bruins’ play.

“You have to get used to the speed that’s coming,” Pavlik said. “I think we kept our physicality going through games three and four, and I think it paid off for us.”

Cal Fisher was the big name for Penn State as he led the match for either team with 15 kills. Closest to this mark was UCLA player Ido David with 12 kills of his own.

On the defensive side, Toby Ezeonu had seven blocks and two digs on the night.

“It’s fun to see him compete,” Pavlik said about Ezeonu’s performance. “Toby kind of set the tone in game four with some of [his] blocks.”

The teams first faced off in 1982 and the Bruins lead the all-time series 32-8-1, including winning three of the five games located at Rec Hall. However, Penn State did win their last matchup in 2020 3-0 with Brett Wildman recording 12 kills, while Cole Bogner had 38 assists.

Before Saturday, UCLA had not lost more than one set this season. That set was in its 3-1 victory over Princeton on Jan. 13. The Nittany Lions broke that streak when they won both the first and third sets in the game.

When asked about his thoughts about losing this streak, UCLA head coach John Speraw said he “was pleased with the opportunity to go five,” and that they’ll “grow from this.”

UCLA goes back home to face Long Beach State on Feb. 9.

Penn State is facing a difficult part of its schedule. The Nittany Lions previously defeated Pepperdine and Stanford, but were defeated 1-3 by the Beach.

The Nittany Lions have a little bit of a break and then will head to the road to play Saint Francis on Feb. 11.

Allie Wenskoski is a first-year majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact her, please email