Walk-off ace caps off No. 3/3 Penn State comeback win at No. 6/6 UC Irvine

Photo courtesy of Penn State athletics

In a showdown between two of the top servers in the nation, Hilir Henno set a UC Irvine record but it was Cal Fisher who delivered the biggest serve of the match.

Fisher had a walk-off ace in the decisive fifth game as No. 3/3 Penn State rallied to beat No. 6/6 UC irvine 32-34, 25-23, 18-25, 25-22, 15-11 on Sunday in Irvine.

The opposite and 2021 National Server of the Year finished with a team-high three aces, including that match-winning ace to cap off a 6-2 run to end the non-conference match. Fisher also started the run with a kill to give Penn State a 10-9 lead and then had another kill and block as part of the match-ending run.

Henno in the loss had nine aces – a single-match school record and tied for the eighth-most aces in a NCAA match during the 25-point rally scoring era. The outside attacker had four of those aces as part of a 7-0 run during the Anteaters’ third-game victory and had an early in the fourth game to establish the school record.

Henno entered this match second in the nation with an 0.83 aces per game average and had eight aces in a victory against No. 7/7 Pepperdine in February.


Fisher, who missed the first month of the season with an injury, now has multiple aces in five of nine matches played in so far this season.

Along with the serving performance, Fisher led Penn State (15-1, 4-0 EIVA) with both 14 kills and six blocks.

Fisher was one of three Nittany Lions with at least nine kills and at least five blocks as the Nittany Lions out-hit the Anteaters .311 to .239.

Middle attacker Toby Ezeonu contributed 12 kills on a .455 attack percentage and five blocks, including three kills and a block in the decisive game. In addition, middle attacker Owen Rose had nine kills and zero errors on a .529 attack percentage and five blocks to help the Nittany Lions extend their winning streak to nine matches.

UC Irvine opposite Francesco Sani had a match-high 22 kills and hit .312 against Penn State. Henno also added a season-high 20 kills, while outside attacker Cole Gillis had 13 kills.

No other UC Irvine player besides its three starting pin-hitters had more than three kills or double-digit attack attempts.

Libero Cole Power in the loss led all players defensively with 18 digs.

This loss drops the Anteaters (10-6, 0-0 Big West) to 0-5 against teams currently in the top five of the national coaches poll and national media poll.

The Nittany Lions will continue their West Coast road trip as they travel to the Outrigger Invitational that starts Thursday in Honolulu. Penn State in this non-conference tournament will play No. 1/1 Hawai’i, No. 2/2 Penn State and Purdue Fort Wayne.

Penn State with this victory against UC Irvine enters the Outrigger Invitational tied for its best start to a season since 2009.