For a senior getting National Player of the Year consideration, Penn State outside attacker Aaron Russell played like it tonight.
Russell had a match-high 20 kills as the No. 5 seed Penn State defeated the No. 4 seed Hawai’i 25-22, 25-20, 17-25, 27-25 on Tuesday in the NCAA Tournament play-in match.
Russell was one of three Penn State players with at least 15 kills in the victory. All-conference opposite Nick Goodell had 19 kills, while outside attacker Chris Nugent added 15 kills.
Hawai’i despite the loss out-hit Penn State .327 to .298. They also out-blocked the Nittany Lions 17.5 to 9.5.
All-American middle attacker Taylor Averill in the loss led the Rainbow Warriors with both 15 kills on a .609 attack percentage and eight blocks.
Penn State rallied from a three-point deficit midway through the fourth game and took a 21-20 lead. The Nittany Lions had a match-point opportunity denied before eventually winning in overtime
Hawai’i in the third game had a match-high .696 attack percentage and zero attack errors to avoid the sweep.
Goodell in the second game led all players with five kills. The senior also through two games had 10 kills and one attack error.
Russell finished with a game-high six kills and added an ace in the opening game. In addition, the Nittany Lions never trailed in the game and led by as many as eight points.
This is the second consecutive year the Nittany Lions have won a NCAA Tournament play-in match. Penn State defeated Lewis last season in four games in the play-in match.
With this victory tonight, Penn State advances to play the No. 1 seed Lewis in the NCAA Tournament semifinals on Thursday.