Penn State to Host Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge in 2020

Photo by Jonathan Bates

Jonathan Bates | Associate Editor

The Big Ten men’s volleyball programs (Ohio State and Penn State) and two of the Pac-12 men’s volleyball programs (USC and UCLA) started playing a yearly tournament in 2016 at University Park, moving around to each school’s campus in subsequent years. After finishing that cycle with four matches last year at USC, the challenge is back at Penn State in 2020.

Penn State will open up with the Bruins on January 24 and conclude the challenge with a match versus USC on January 26.

The Bruins will feature a returning First-Team All-American in middle attacker Daenen Gyimah. Gyimah ranked fourth nationally last year with a .435 attack percentage. Also returning to Westwood are a pair of MPSF All-Freshman selections in setter Adam Parks and libero Cole Pender.

The Bruins, who ranked fifth nationally last year in both aces per game (1.73 aces per game), and attack percentage (.323), will have to fill the void left with the graduation of setter/outside attacker Micah Ma’a. Not only was Ma’a a three-time All-American, he led with 2019 UCLA squad in aces, assists, and digs.

UCLA finished with a 19-9 (8-4 MPSF) record in 2019, and lost in the semifinals to crosstown rival USC in the MPSF tournament.

Penn State will have plenty of returning awardees coming back to Happy Valley in 2020, highlighted by All-EIVA First-Team selection, middle attacker Jason Donorovich. Joining Donorovich are All-EIVA Second Team selections, libero Will Bantle and outside attacker Henrik Falck Lauten; Falck Lauten was also named the EIVA Newcomer of the Year in 2019. Opposite Brett Wildman earned All-EIVA Honorable Mention honors as well.

The big hole that the Nittany Lions will have to fill due is due to Matthew McLaren’s graduation. The outside attacker led Penn State in 2019 with 2.78 kills per game, and was second on the team with a .254 attack percentage.

Penn State will also travel to Columbus in early February to take part in the Big Ten/Big West challenge that was hosted by Long Beach State last year. The Nittany Lions will also play UC Santa Barbara in this tournament.

The Nittany Lions will play 14 non-conference matches, and make three road trips during the 2020 season. Their first road trip will take them to Provo, Utah to play a couple of matches against BYU, Off the Block’s Way Too Early No. 1 team for 2020. Penn State will follow up that trip with a trip to play the Chicago schools the following weekend. During their Spring Break, the Nittany Lions will play at Ohio State, at UC San Diego, and at UC Irvine.

The Nittany Lions’ 2020 schedule will include ten teams that were ranked in final coaches poll, including four of the six NCAA tournament participants.

Penn State will also complete a fourteen match EIVA conference schedule, with a home and home with the other seven members of the conference. –

Penn State finished with a 15-15 (10-4 EIVA) record in 2019, losing to EIVA tournament champion, Princeton, in five games in the EIVA tournament final.

2020 Penn State Schedule

Friday, Jan. 10 at BYU
Saturday, Jan 11 at BYU
Friday, Jan. 17 at Loyola
Saturday, Jan. 18 at Lewis
Friday, Jan. 24 vs. UCLA
Sunday, Jan. 26 vs. USC
Friday, Jan. 31 vs. Ball State
Saturday, Feb. 1 vs. Ohio State
Thursday, Feb. 6 vs. UC Santa Barbara (Neutral Site)
Saturday, Feb. 8 vs. Long Beach State (Neutral Site)
Friday, Feb. 14 vs. Princeton
Saturday, Feb. 15 vs. NJIT
Friday, Feb. 21 at Sacred Heart
Saturday, Feb. 22 at Harvard
Tuesday, Feb. 25 at Saint Francis
Friday, Feb 28 vs George Mason
Saturday, Feb. 29 vs. Charleston
Sunday, March 8 at Ohio State
Wednesday, March 11 at UC San Diego
Friday, March 13 at UC Irvine
Friday, March 20 vs. Saint Francis
Saturday, March 21 vs. Purdue Fort Wayne
Friday, April 3 at NJIT
Saturday, April 4 at Princeton
Friday, April 10 vs. Harvard
Saturday, April 11 vs. Sacred Heart
Thursday, April 16 at Charleston
Saturday, April 18 George Mason