Penn State schedules huge non-conference home match vs. BYU

Photo courtesy of Penn State athletics

[Editor’s note: Off the Block in collaboration with the EIVA is presenting The Top 15 EIVA Non-Conference Matches. This list spotlights the best non-conference matches scheduled for EIVA teams in 2019 and will be the first time several of these matches have been publicly announced. Penn State versus BYU is ranked No. 1 on the list.]

No travel will be required for Penn State to play a marquee non-conference match in the upcoming season.

Penn State as part of unveiling its 2019 schedule on Wednesday announced it will play host to the defending MPSF championship BYU on Jan. 18 at Rec Hall.

This will be the first time that the Nittany Lions will play a home match against the Cougars in their series history that dates back to 1990. It also will be the fifth time this decade that the Nittany Lions have a non-conference home match versus a likely top-10 nationally ranked team from the MPSF or Big West.

Penn State one-year removed from winning the EIVA title and reaching the NCAA Tournament play-in match finished the 2018 season in second place in the conference and lost in the EIVA Tournament semifinals.

All-conference opposite Calvin Mende highlights the Nittany Lions returning starters. Despite missing part of the last season because of injuries, Mende was in the top five of the EIVA with both a 3.33 kills per game average and a .314 attack percentage.

Mende also had 18 kills while hitting .333 in a near upset five-game loss to BYU at the Outrigger Invitational in March.

BYU opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez in that non-conference victory contributed 19 kills on a .419 attack percentage. The Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Freshman All-American also was among the nation’s leaders last season averaging 3.49 kills per game.

BYU finished last season advancing to the VolleyFour for the third consecutive season and winning its fourth MPSF title in the last six years. The Cougars, though, will have to replace All-American outside attacker Brenden Sander, All-American setter Leo Durkin and all-conference middle attacker Price Jarman who all concluded their college careers in 2018.

BYU leads the all-time series 12-6 against Penn State.

While the Cougars have never played the Nittany Lions at Rec Hall, they have previously played at neutral site venues in Pennsylvania during their series history. BYU also reached the 2016 VolleyFour that was played at Rec Hall.