Penn State serving, offense too much for Belmont Abbey in play-in match

Photo by Vinnie Lopes

Setter Cole Bogner didn’t have to be perfect running the Penn State offense.

The EIVA Player of the Year, though, nearly was perfect.

Bogner guided the offense to commit a season-low four errors and hit .509 as Penn State swept Belmont Abbey 25-22, 25-13, 25-19 in the NCAA Tournament play-in match on Tuesday in Columbus, Ohio.

Every starter for the EIVA champions hit at least .300 and no player had more than two attack errors.

All-American opposite Cal Fisher finished with a match-high 10 kills on a .562 attack percentage. All-American outside attacker Brett Wildman also had nine kills on a .438 attack percentage, while freshman outside attacker Michal Kowal hit .538 with seven kills and zero errors.

Despite hitting .375 in the opening game, the ConfCarolinas championship Belmont Abbey (15-8, 9-5 ConfCarolinas) ended the match being held to a .185 attack percentage.

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Opposite Andrew Kohut in the loss had 10 kills, and outside attacker Matteo Miselli contributed nine kills.

The Nittany Lions (22-3, 16-2 EIVA) had 11 aces to set the single-match NCAA Tournament record during the 25-point rally scoring era.

Four Penn State starters had multiple aces with Wildman led all players with four aces, including having back-to-back aces in the second.

Fisher, a finalist for the National Server of the Year, had an ace on Penn State’s first serve of the match and ended three aces. The opposite entered the NCAA Tournament second in the nation with a 0.74 aces per game average.

Middle attacker Sam Marsh had back-to-back aces to cap off a 7-2 run midway through the third game to give the Nittany Lions an eight-point lead that they would not relinquish. The Nittany Lions did not commit an attack error until 28 points into the third game and had a match-best .600 attack percentage.

Belmont Abbey committed five attack errors on the first eight plays of the second game to fall behind 6-2. Penn State led by as many as 12 points and held Belmont Abbey to a negative-.043 attack percentage.

Penn State opened the match on a 4-1 run with aces from Fisher and Kowal, but Belmont Abbey rallied to tie the game at 9-9. With the score tied at 20-20, Wildman had a kill and Kowal had another ace to give the Nittany Lions the lead.

Kohut in the opening-game loss had a match-high five kills.

This was the Nittany Lions’ first NCAA Tournament victory since 2016 and the program remains undefeated all-time against ConfCarolinas teams. Penn State will now advance to play the MIVA champions Lewis in the NCAA Tournament opening round on Tuesday.

Belmont Abbey was attempting to become the first ConfCarolinas school to win a NCAA Tournament match since the conference started receiving an automatic berth in 2014.

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