Natalie Orr | Posted: 6 Jan 2022 | Updated: 5 Feb 2022

BYU opens 2022 season with a 3-0 loss at Penn State

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Penn. – The BYU men’s volleyball team opened its 2022 season with a 3-0 loss against Penn State on Thursday in the Penn State Rec Hall (14-25, 18-25, 19-25).

This loss ended BYU’s eight-match winning streak over Penn State, putting the all-time series record at 13-7, favoring the Cougars. This is the Nittany Lions’ first win over BYU since 2019.

"I appreciate Penn State doing everything possible to make this match happen," said head coach Shawn Olmstead. "I am appreciative of our administration here at BYU. I'm proud of the players on both sides for putting themselves in a position to compete. Penn State was solid from the service line, which didn’t allow us to find much momentum. It will be good for our guys to give it another go on Saturday."

Penn State entered the season ranked No. 5 in the NVA/AVCA Coaches Poll. BYU is No. 6. The Nittany Lions led with 35 kills and a .365 hitting percentage in the match. Meanwhile, the Cougars put up 27 kills and a .130 clip.

Penn State’s Toby Ezeonu topped the stats with 10 kills and a .467 clip. BYU senior outside hitter Davide Gardini followed closely behind with nine kills. 

Freshman outside hitter Luke Benson, sophomore outside hitter Kupono Browne and sophomore setter Bartosz Sławiński all made their BYU debuts in the match

The match started tight with the teams tying five times by 5-5. These points included BYU kills from senior middle blocker Branden Oberender, Gardini and Browne. 

Penn State managed a 3-0 run thanks to an ace and two BYU attack errors, extending its lead to 8-5. BYU snuck in one point before the Nittany Lions put up a 5-0 run after two kills and two more BYU errors.

Trailing 13-6, three service errors by Penn State allowed BYU to tighten the score. However, seven more kills sealed a first set win for the Nittany Lions at 25-14. Compared to Penn State’s .500 hitting percentage, the Cougars hit a .000 clip.

In the second set, BYU’s Gardini and Browne quickly laid down kills to take the lead at 3-2. The lead was short lived as Penn State’s Brett Wildman tacked on his fourth kill of the night. An attack error and another kill by Browne put BYU back in the lead. 

The score continued to ping pong back and forth with the teams trading kills and errors. Tied at 9-9, Gardini slammed two consecutive kills. Penn State battled back with a kill and ace, taking the lead again at 14-12. Gardini and Browne followed up with kills, but two solo blocks by Cal Fisher and Toby Ezeonu maintained the lead for the Nittany Lions. 

A highlight of the set included Benson tallying his first collegiate kill. However, four additional errors by BYU gave Penn State its second set win at 25-18.

BYU started strong with four combined kills from Gardini, Oberender and Benson. These kills put BYU in the lead at 6-5. From there, the teams tied at 6-6, 7-7 and 9-9. The Nittany Lions posted four kills and two aces to widen the gap to 16-10.

The momentum continued with four more Penn State kills, including two by Wildman. Trailing by eight points at 20-12, Benson contributed his fourth and fifth kills of the night. In the end, a final ace sealed the match win for the Nittany Lions at 25-19.

Up next, BYU and Penn State will face off for a second match in the Rec Hall on Saturday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. EST.

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