UNIVERSITY PARK - Led by double-digit kill performances from Aaron and Peter Russell, No. 12 Penn State men's volleyball (3-2) rallied from behind to defeat Ball State (1-3) in four sets (16-25, 25-22, 25-16, 25-22) Saturday evening in Rec Hall.
Aaron led the offense with a season-high 21 kills on .436 hitting, adding four digs and one block. Peter recorded 14 kills on .407 hitting, while also logging seven digs and five blocks, including three solo stuffs. Peter was tabbed the Mike Anderson Penn State Player of the Match for his all-around performance against the Cardinals.
Redshirt freshman Matt Callaway tied Peter for second on the team in blocking with five blocks, while redshirt junior Connor Curry anchored the defense with eight digs.
Trailing early, redshirt junior Nick Goodell and redshirt sophomore Taylor Hammond combined for a pair of kills to cut the lead to two, 8-6. After a PSU service error, the Cardinals followed with two errors to move PSU within one, 9-8. As Penn State struggled to settle into an offensive rhythm, Ball State took off on a 5-1 run to construct a four-point lead, 14-10. The Nittany Lions looked to regroup after a BSU service error, but the Cardinals answered with four unanswered points to bolster the lead to seven, 18-11.
Goodell attempted to spark some momentum with a kill, 18-12, but Ball State continued to pull away, closing out the frame on a 7-4 streak to secure a 25-16 win in the first set.
Tied up at 7-all in the second set, the Nittany Lions used a 4-1 streak to move ahead by three, 11-8. The Cardinals wouldn't go away though, battling within one, 12-11, before PSU used a 4-0 spurt, featuring two aces from Goodell to extend the lead to five, 16-11. Despite the steady offensive pressure from Ball State, PSU continued to maintain the advantage.
Leading by four, 19-16, the Cardinals put together a 5-2 streak to narrow the gap to one, 21-20, but Peter quickly answered with a pair of back-to-back kills to keep the Nittany Lions on top, 23-20. A PSU ball handling error set Penn State back by one, 23-21, but Aaron followed with a kill to make it set point, 24-21. Ball State held off one attempt, but Peter pounded a kill to seal a 25-22 win in set two, evening the match to 1-1.
The two teams came out of the intermission battling point-for-point in the third set until Penn State broke open an 8-all tie with a 6-1 run to capture a five-point lead, 14-9. The Cardinals responded with a kill, but PSU continued the balanced attack, using a 4-1 strike to move ahead by six, 18-11, forcing Ball State to call a timeout.
The Cardinals came out of the break with a kill, but Hammond, Callaway and Aaron all chipped in kills to give the Nittany Lions their largest lead of the stanza, 22-14. Ball State made one final attempt to mount a comeback, connecting on a kill, 22-15, but a kill from Peter and a kill and an ace from Goodell finished off a 25-16 decision in favor of the Nittany Lions.
Down by three in the fourth set, 9-6, Penn State opened up on a 4-0 run, featuring two consecutive aces from redshirt sophomore Matt Seifert in between a pair of kills from Aaron to go up by one, 10-9. Unable to continue the momentum, the two squads knotted the score seven more times before the Nittany Lions used a 3-1 run to break away from a 17-all tie with a slim two-point lead, 20-18.
Rallying, Ball State connected on a kill and an ace to retie the score, 20-20, forcing Penn State to call a timeout. The Nittany Lions came out of the break with a big block from Callaway and Aaron but a BSU kill tied the frame once more, 21-21.
Powering ahead, PSU closed out the match on a 4-1 run, capped off by two consecutive kills from Peter, to secure a 25-22 win in the set and a victory in the match.
Penn State returns to action Friday, Jan. 31st, welcoming Mount Olive to the court in Rec Hall for a 7 p.m. match. The Nittany Lions will also host in-state foe Saint Francis Saturday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m.
--Penn State Athletic Communications