No. 3/3 Penn State serving too much for No. 1/1 Hawai’i in road win

Photo courtesy of Penn State athletics

The serving game of No. 3/3 Penn State forced No. 1/1 Hawai’i out of system all match and out of an undefeated season.

The Nittany Lions had seven aces and limited the Rainbow Warriors to a season-low .250 attack percentage en route to a 21-25, 25-23, 25-21, 25-23 non-conference victory on Friday in Honolulu.

Hawai’i (16-1, 0-0 Big West) entered this Outrigger Invitational match as the only undefeated team remaining in the nation and with a nation-best .383 attack percentage. The loss also ends the Rainbow Warriors’ 29-match regular season home winning streak that dated back to 2020.

Middle attacker Toby Ezeonu in the victory finished with 10 kills on a match-best .533 attack percentage. In addition, Ezeonu had the match-winning kill that was set up after an errant Hawai’i pass from Michael Kowal serve.

Both Ezeonu and Kowal were among the four Nittany Lions to have double-digit kills as Penn State finished with a .302 attack percentage.

Kowal had 12 kills, while outside attacker Brett Wildman had 11 kills in Penn State’s first win against a No. 1 ranked team since 2017. The pin-hitters each added an ace against the Rainbow Warriors.


Opposite Cal Fisher led Penn State (16-2, 4-0 EIVA) with 12 kills on a 385 attack percentage, three aces and 10 digs. This performance comes a day after Fisher had one kill and hit in the negative during a five-game loss to No. 2/2 UCLA to open the Outrigger Invitational.

Libero Ryan Merk contributed defensively with seven digs and was the primary passer for Penn State.

Hawai’i was held to four aces, and setter Jakob Thelle, a 2022 National Server of the Year finalist, had zero aces.

Hawai’i opposite Dimitrio Mouchlias finished with match-high 16 kills on a .333 attack percentage, including having a game-high eight kills in the final game. Outside attacker Spyros Chakas also contributed 14 kills.

Both Mouchlias and Chakas had kills as part of the Rainbow Warriors’ comeback in the fourth game.

Hawai’i rallied from a 16-11 deficit to tie the game at 17-17 and then rallied from a three-point deficit to tie the game at 23-23. Penn State, though, responded with back-to-back kills from Kowal and Ezeonu to close out the match.

Penn State midway through the third game went on a 4-0 run that was capped off with a Wildman ace to take a five-point lead. The Nittany Lions led by as many as nine points and finished with a .375 attack percentage in the third-game win.

Fisher and Wildman each had a game-high five kills in the second-game win as the Nittany Lions evened the match. In addition, Fisher had two aces to help Penn State overcome Hawai’i hitting .400.

Penn State opened the match on an 8-2 run, but Hawai’i tied the game at 13-13, despite hitting in the negative. The Rainbow Warriors en route to the first-game win trailed 19-17 before going on a 5-1 run that featured two kills and two blocks from Chakas.

The Nittany Lions committed 11 service errors in the opening game.

This is Penn State’s first win against Hawai’i since beating the Rainbow Warriors in the 2015 NCAA Tournament opening win. It is also the first time the Nittany Lions have beat the Rainbow Warriors on the road since 2013.

The Outrigger Invitational will conclude Saturday with Penn State playing Purdue Fort Wayne and Hawai’i playing host to UCLA.

UCLA hit .463 as it swept Purdue Fort Wayne on Friday to extend its winning streak to 10 matches.