LOS ANGELES (AP) - The Penn State men's volleyball team (23-6) saw its season come to an end Thursday night with a 3-1 (18-25, 25-18, 25-15, 25-19) loss to top-seeded UC Irvine (25-5) in the NCAA National Semifinals. Penn State was making its 14th straight appearance in the NCAA Semifinals and 28th overall.
Redshirt senior Joe Sunder and redshirt freshman Nick Goodell closed out the match with 15 kills apiece. Freshman Aaron Russell was second on the team with 10 kills on a team-high .474 hitting. He had just one error in 19 swings.
"I'd like to congratulate UC Irvine, especially on their resiliency," said head coach Mark Pavlik. "I thought Irvine did a great job of handling our serves through the course of the match."
UC Irvine opened the match with a 5-2 lead, but Penn State rallied with a 5-1 run to take a slim 7-6 lead. A PSU service error tied it up at 7-7, but two PSU kills and a UCI error had Penn State leading, 10-7. UC Irvine closed the gap to one, 15-14, but a sunder kill and a UCI error kept the Lions leading by three, 18-15. The Anteaters used their second timeout to no avail. Turko pounded a kill before joining forces with Sunder for a block to push the Nittany Lion lead to five, 20-15. Penn State allowed the Anteaters just two final points before Goodell closed out set one with a kill for a 25-18 win.
UCI leapt out to a 6-2 lead to start the second frame and Penn State called a timeout. The Nittany Lions traded points with the Anteaters, including a kill from Goodell and two from Sunder, but four PSU errors allowed UCI to move ahead by six, 11-5. From there it was all Anteaters. The Nittany Lions were unable to slow UCI and came no closer than three for the remainder of the set. Irvine eventually claimed set two, 25-18.
UC Irvine moved ahead quickly in the third set and took advantage of Penn State errors which helped the Anteaters to a 9-5 lead. The set finished 25-15.
In the final and deciding set, Penn State came to life in set four grabbing a 6-3 lead to start. UC Irvine called a timeout and narrowed the gap to one, 6-5, but three straight Sunder kills had Penn State with a 9-5 advantage. UCI burned its second timeout, but Penn State's lead grew to six, 12-6. UC Irvine took off on a 4-0 run to come within two, 12-10. The Nittany Lions couldn't hang on late in the set to card the victory.