March 3, 2024
No. 4 Men’s Volleyball Takes Down No. 5 Pepperdine 3-1

AUSTIN, Texas – The fourth-ranked Penn State men’s volleyball team won a top-five matchup Friday night, opening the First Point Collegiate Challenge with a 3-1 (26-24, 25-18, 19-25, 25-14) win over No. 5 Pepperdine at the Austin Convention Center. The Nittany Lions improved to 5-0 on the season while handing the Waves (4-1) their first loss.
 
Penn State is off to a 5-0 start for the first time since 2009. Friday’s win was the Lions’ fifth straight when playing a ranked opponent dating back to Jan. 29 of last season.
 
The Lions hit .400 as a team behind 48 assists from Cole Bogner. John Kerr hit .421 with 20 kills, posting his second match of the season with 20 or more kills. Michal Kowal hit .625 with 11 kills, while Toby Ezeonu tallied 10 kills on .500 hitting. Kowal did it all in the win, adding four aces, four digs and three blocks.
 
Reigning EIVA Player of the Year Brett Wildman made his season debut and finished with seven kills and eight digs. Owen Rose also had seven kills and added three blocks.
 
Libero Ryan Merk did his part with six digs while helping hold Pepperdine to .279 hitting. The Waves were led by Jaylen Jasper with 21 kills on .368 hitting.
 
Penn State and Pepperdine played for the first time since 2012. It was the Lions’ fifth-ever win over the Waves.
 
 
Set 1
The opening set went as expected when two top-five teams take the court, with Penn State coming out on top 26-24 in back-and-forth action. Neither team led by more than two points. The Lions had their backs against the wall with a 24-22 deficit but closed the set with a 4-0 run to get the early momentum in the match. A Pepperdine attack error initially kept the Lions alive. Ezeonu then tied it up with a kill before Kowal followed with his second ace of the set. Another attack error by the Waves clinched the set victory for Penn State. Kerr started strong with eight kills on .583 hitting, while Ezeonu had four kills on five swings. Bogner led the Lions to .500 hitting with 15 assists.
 
Set 2
Penn State didn’t need a late run to get a win in set two, winning comfortably 25-18. The Lions used a 4-0 run to take a 9-6 lead and then started to pull away with another 4-0 run to go up 14-8. It was a balanced attack for the Lions in the second set with five players finishing with two or more kills, led again by Kerr with four. Kowal and Wildman had three kills apiece, while Rose and Ezeonu each chipped in with two. Bogner added 12 more assists and helped the team hit .462.
 
Set 3
Jasper went off for Pepperdine in set three, hitting .500 with eight kills to lead the Waves to the 25-18 win. Kerr continued his big night for Penn State with another five kills. This was the only set Pepperdine posted a higher hitting percentage than Penn State.
 
Set 4
Penn State cooled down the Pepperdine attack in the final set, holding the Waves to .000 hitting in a dominant 25-14 win to clinch the match. Meanwhile, the Lions hit .400, led by Kowal with five kills on six attacks. Ezeonu had four kills, while Kerr and Wildman chipped in with three apiece. Bogner tacked on 14 more assists. The Lions took control early, jumping out to a 7-2 lead on a kill by Wildman. The Waves only got as close as four the rest of the way.
 
Career-Highs
John Kerr – digs (5)
Michal Kowal – aces (4)
Owen Rose – aces (1)
 
Up Next
Penn State wraps up the First Point Collegiate Challenge with a match against No. 8 Stanford on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.