February 19, 2011

No. 11 Nittany Lions scrape past Bobcats in five set thriller

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. --- The #11 Penn State University men's volleyball team had to dig deep, battling back from a 1-0 deficit to earn the 3-2 (24-26, 25-12, 25-23, 22-25, 15-9) victory over Lees-McRae College on Saturday in non-conference action.

Tom Comfort (Orchard Park, N.Y.) and Ryan Wolf (York, Pa.) paced the Nittany Lions (11-3) with 34 kills on the day, with 19 and 15 respectively. Also helping to pace Penn State was Edgardo Goas (San Juan, Puerto Rico) with a match-high 46 assists.

Matt Harpenau (Cincinnati, Ohio) led the Bobcat (8-7) attack with a match-high .714 hitting percentage, blasting 10 kills on 14 attempts. Chad Mercado (Orlando, Fla.) added a team-high 17 smashes on the afternoon, while Randy Ramirez (Guaynabo, Puerto Rico) tallied 45 helpers in the contest.

The Bobcats opened the match, taking the early 1-0 advantage when Eduardo Gonzales (San Juan, Puerto Rico) landed an attack to put Lees-McRae on the board. The teams battled back and forth, with the Bobcats knotting the contest at 8-8 on a Harpenau service ace. Penn State pushed the score to 11-9 before the Bobcats tallied a 3-0 run to take a 12-11 lead on a Chris Flood (Louisville, Ky.) ace.

The Bobcats refused to be denied, closing out the opening frame forcing a Penn State error to the antenna to earn the 26-24 opening set victory.

Penn State opened the second set on fire, registering a 3-0 tally to take the early advantage. The Bobcats countered with a 3-1 run of their own, cutting the margin to 4-3 following a Gonzales smash. The Nittany Lions then continued their hot play behind a .414 hitting percentage, tallying a 21-9 run to close the frame at 25-12 to even the match at 1-1.

In the third frame, the Nittany Lions opened with a 2-0 advantage with two kills from Wolf. The Bobcats battled back with a 5-3 run, capped by a John Lucas (Cincinnati, Ohio) service ace to knot the frame at 5-5. Penn State pushed the issue with a 9-5 run, capping the rally with a Nick Turko (Lewisberry, Pa.) kill to take a 14-9 advantage in the set.

Lees-McRae pieced together a 7-2 run of their own, finalized by a Harpenau and Lucas block to even the set score at 16-16. Following an 8-6 Penn State spurt, the young Bobcats withstood the Nittany Lion pressure, fighting off a set point to cut the score to 24-23 before Comfort finished the frame with a smash off the block of Randy Ramirez to give Penn State the 2-1 match advantage.

In the fourth set, the Bobcats took the early 3-0 advantage when Juan Ramirez (Miami, Fla.) set up Mercado for the smash. The Nittany Lions rallied back, evening the score at 3-3 on a Wolf blast. The teams traded points to stay even at 10-10; the Bobcats then took the set advantage at 11-10 on a Penn State error and never looked back. The Bobcats outscored the Nittany Lions 15-12 over the remainder of the frame, closing the set at 25-22 on a Harpenau smash to even the match tally at 2-2.

In the final frame, the teams traded points over the early portion of the set until the Nittany Lions pulled away on a 6-0 run, capped by a Comfort and Turko block, giving Penn State a 12-6 lead. The Bobcats battled, rallying to win three of the next five points, cutting the tally to 14-9. The Nittany Lions closed out the set and match with a Turko blast to earn the 15-9 victory, taking the match 3-2.

The Bobcats return to the floor on February 27, traveling to Limestone College to take on Washington Adventist University. Game time in Gaffney, S.C. is slated for 11:00 a.m.

-LMC-