Senior setter excels in first start, No. 8/6 Penn State sweeps No. 15 Ball State

Photo by Vinnie Lopes

Luke Snyder for three seasons sat on the Penn State bench.

There wasn’t much of an opportunity for the California native to get on the court playing behind Cole Bogner, an All-American setter and multi-time winner of the EIVA Player of the Year.

Then came along the highly touted freshman recruit Michael Schwob, who beat out Snyder in the preseason for the starting setter spot.

It was a similar situation for Snyder through the first month of this season. That is until coach Mark Pavlik turned to the senior.

Snyder made the most of the opportunity in his first college start.

Snyder guided the offense to a .446 attack percentage as No. 8/6 Penn State swept No. 15 Ball State 26-24, 25-22, 25-19 on Friday in Muncie, Indiana.

Penn State in front of a road crowd of 2,513 people hit more than .450 in each of the final two games. In addition, the Nittany Lions in the third game committed one attack error and had a match-best .519 attack percentage to complete the sweep.


All five of Penn State’s starting pin-hitters and middle attackers hit more than .300 with three of them having double-digit kills.

Opposite John Kerr led all players with 13 kills on a .400 attack percentage. Outside attacker Michal Kowal contributed 12 kills, while outside attacker Michael Valenzi added 10 kills.

Both middle attackers Toby Ezeonu and Owen Rose had eight kills and hit more than .500.

Valenzi and Ezeonu each also had a match-high two aces. Penn State finished with six aces and overcame committing 20 service errors – 13 more service errors than Ball State.

Libero Ryan Merk defensively led all players with 11 digs. The All-American also had a team-high 23 service receptions and helped limit Ball State to two aces.

Ball State outside attacker Tinaishe Ndavazocheva in the loss had a team-high nine kills on a .318 attack percentage.

The Cardinals hit .262 for the match and committed a match-worst six attack errors in the final game.

Ball State in the second game erased a six-point deficit and tied the game at 20-20. The Nittany Lions, though, responded and closed out the game on a 5-2 run that featured an ace from Kowal and a game-winning kill from Ezeonu.

Penn State won the opening game after going on a late-game run following a controversial call.

The opening game at 17-17 was delayed minutes after the officials called a back-row violation on a Ndavazocheva kill.

Ball State successfully challenged the call with the officials initially deciding to award the point to the Cardinals instead of a replay. Pavlik argued the decision resulting in a yellow card, but upon further review the officials opted to replay the point.

Ball State won the replay point, but Penn State then went on a 3-0 run to take a lead that it would not relinquish. The Cardinals were able to fight off a game-point to force overtime, but Kowal delivered a kill on Penn State’s second game-point opportunity.

Penn State entered this match after twice upsetting then-No. 1/1 Ohio State last week. Pavlik in the finale of the home-and-home series inserted Snyder into the lineup, and the setter helped the Nittany Lions rally to win in five games.

This was the first meeting between Penn State and Ball State since 2020. The Cardinals had now won three of the last four meetings and were on a six-match home winning streak against the Nittany Lions dating back to 2011.