Jonathan Bates | Associate Editor
Haven’t seen a Lewis or Penn State match this season — not to worry.
Check out the 15 players to know and watch for as the Flyers and Nittany Lions play in the NCAA Tournament opening round tonight.
1. Ryan Coenen, Lewis
The five-time All-American is also the back-to-back MIVA player of the year and 2021 MIVA Tournament MVP. His 4.43 kills per game ranks No. 2 nationally on the strength of five matches with 20 or more kills. He had 35 kills in nine sets on a .408 attack percentage in three sweeps in the MIVA Tournament. Coenen was named MIVA Offensive Player of the Week for the last two weeks of the regular season.
2. Tyler Mitchem, Lewis
The three-time All-American ranked No. 2 nationally with 1.276 blocks per game, No. 3 nationally with a .478 attack percentage. For his career, the All-MIVA tournament selection has a 1.14 blocks per game average and a .473 attack percentage. In the opening match of the year, he had 11 kills on 14 errorless attempts to go along with 10 total blocks; he was named AVCA Player of the Week on January 26.
3. Cal Fisher, Penn State
Fisher, a finalist for the National Server of the Year, is second in the nation with a 0.74 aces per game average. Fisher had four aces the last time he played at Covelli Center as Penn State swept Ohio State in the season opener. The opposite also had a season-high 27 kills on a .440 attack percentage in the EIVA Tournament finals win against George Mason. Fisher enters the NCAA Tournament among the national leaders with a 3.50 kills per game average and is hitting a career-high .349.
2021 NCAA Tournament: The opposite had a match-high ten kills in Penn State’s play-in match victory over Belmont Abbey on Monday afternoon.
4. Cole Bogner, Penn State
Bogner was named the EIVA Player of the Year as he finished second in the conference with a 9.70 assists per game average and guided the offense to the sixth-best attack percentage in the nation at .329. In addition, Bogner has helped the Nittany Lions hit more than .300 in each of the last five matches.
2021 NCAA Tournament: Bogner led to Penn State to a .509 attack percentage in Penn State’s play-in match victory over Belmont Abbey on Monday afternoon.
5. Kevin Kauling, Lewis
Kauling was one of five setters this year to be named Off the Block Setter of the Week twice this year. The second-team All-American was also named to the 2021 All-MIVA Tournament team. He was named MIVA Offensive Player of the Week on March 9 after he led Lewis to a pair of sweeps over Ball State. The Flyers hit a combined .376 in those matches, with Kauling tallying a combined 79 assists and 10 digs.
6. Brett Wildman, Penn State
Wildman a year removed from being the Co-EIVA Player of the Year is in the top five of the EIVA with a 3.30 kills per game average, a .330 attack percentage and a 0.36 aces per game average. The outside attacker also had the second-most service receptions for the Nittany Lions this season and had a 96.6 percent successful reception rate.
2021 NCAA Tournament: Wildman tied a career-high with four aces in Penn State’s play-in match victory over Belmont Abbey on Monday afternoon.
7. TJ Murray, Lewis
His .435 attack percentage is for the year is actually down from his career average of .444, while his 1.14 blocks per game is a career-best mark. The middle attacker was named Off the Block Middle Attacker of the Week and MIVA Defensive Player of the Week for the week ending January 30, after he registered a double-double versus NJIT (10 kills, 11 blocks).
8. Will Bantle, Penn State
Bantle leads Penn State with 366 service receptions and had a 94.8 percent successful reception rate. The libero also is fourth in the EIVA averaging 1.84 digs per game and had a combined 24 digs in both EIVA Tournament matches.
2021 NCAA Tournament: Bantle had two digs and one assist in Penn State’s play-in match victory over Belmont Abbey on Monday afternoon.
9. Kyle Bugee, Lewis
After missing the first five matches of the season, the All-American honorable mention selection led the Flyers with 27 aces. His 2.79 kills per game and .309 attack percentage are his best marks for his career. He had three double-doubles, including a 15-kill (on a .778 attack percentage), 13 dig performance against Purdue Fort Wayne on February 20.
10. Sam Marsh, Penn State
Marsh is fourth in the EIVA with a 0.84 blocks per game average, including having four blocks in the EIVA Tournament finals. The middle attacker also had a season-high three aces in a sweep of Saint Francis in the EIVA Tournament semifinals.
2021 NCAA Tournament: Marsh had two aces as Penn State set a NCAA Tournament record with 11 aces (25-point rally scoring era) in the play-in match victory over Belmont Abbey on Monday afternoon.
11. Michael Valenzi, Penn State
Valenzi had a 2.20 kills per game average en-route to being named the EIVA Newcomer of the Year. The outside attacker, though, was sidelined for the final month of the regular season and returned to the court as a serving specialist in the EIVA Tournament finals.
2021 NCAA Tournament: Did not play in Penn State’splay-in match victory over Belmont Abbey on Monday afternoon.
12. Carlos Jimenez, Lewis
Often overshadowed by his fellow middle attackers, Jimenez led the Flyers with 2.00 digs per game. He had four matches with 10 or more digs. He was named MIVA Defensive Player of the Week on March 9 after tallying 29 digs in a pair of sweeps of Ball State.
13. Michael Kowal, Penn State
Kowal is in the top 10 of the EIVA with a 0.28 aces per game average. The freshman outside attacker also has a .325 attack percentage this season and had 12 kills while hitting .455 in a sweep against Saint Francis in the EIVA Tournament semifinals.
2021 NCAA Tournament: Kowal had seven kills on 13 errorless attempts in Penn State’s play-in match victory over Belmont Abbey on Monday afternoon.
14. Canyon Tuman, Penn State
Tuman is in the top 10 of the EIVA averaging 0.66 blocks per game and has at least one block in nine of the last 10 matches. The middle attacker also is hitting .331.
2021 NCAA Tournament: Tuman had three kills and two blocks in Penn State’s play-in match victory over Belmont Abbey on Monday afternoon.
15. Cole Brillhart, Lewis
Brillhart played in all 22 matches this year for the Flyers, and started 17 of them. Brillhart had nine matches with at least seven digs.