Fort Wayne, IN - After a hot start and first set victory, the IPFW offense cooled off, falling in four sets to No. 9 Penn State, 35-33, 24-30, 26-30, 18-30.
With Senior Night tomorrow against Ball State, a pair of IPFW seniors got their senior weekends started off on the right foot. Opposite hitter Corey Stewart logged a career-best 14 kills and setter Kevin Goncalves tallied an IPFW career-high 43 assists in the match.
Trailing 12-11 in the opening frame, Goncalves took the IPFW serve and didn't hand it back for seven consecutive points, pushing the 'Dons out to a commanding 18-13 lead.
Penn State's Max Lipsitz, the NCAA leader in hitting percentage, slammed home a kill to cap off the Nittany Lions' response, tying the match at 20 a piece. The two sides battled deep into the set, with IPFW fighting off two set-points at 29-28 and 30-29 before settling into their own set-clincher at 34-33.
With Darryl Shank serving, a long rally ensued and Penn State's Nick Turko found the net with his attack, sealing a thrilling first set IPFW victory, 35-33.
As a team, IPFW hit .421 overall in an opening set which saw 22 tie scores and eight lead changes.
The second set wasn't quite as pretty for the 'Dons. After stealing away the first four points of the set, the Nittany Lion offense fell into gear. Penn State built their largest lead of the set at 26-19 before cruising to the second set victory 30-24.
In stark contrast to the efficient hitting percentage of the opening stanza, IPFW managed to hit just .031 in the second frame.
The 'Dons and Nittany Lions battled away in the start of the third set, eventually coming to an 18-18 tie, warranting a timeout from the Penn State bench. Settled by the whistle, the Nittany Lion attack garnered six of the next eight points to take a convincing 24-20 advantage. A pair of timeouts from the IPFW bench had much the same effect, as the 'Dons cut into Penn State's late to bring the score to 27-26.
With the momentum seemingly on their side, the IPFW offense failed to capitalize on three consecutive points, including a pair of errors, handing over the third set to the Nittany Lions, 30-26.
Simply put, the fourth and final set was all Penn State. The Lions took a 10-4 lead and never looked back. That lead grew to eight at 20-12 and a four point rally pushed the score to 24-14 before Ryan Wolf closed out the match with a kill to settle the final tally at 30-18.
Stewart's career-high 14 kills led the IPFW offense while redshirt sophomore libero Patrick Pinto logged 11 digs in the first start of his career. Corey Frain tallied two solo blocks and six block assists to lead the frontline.
Penn State's Max Lipsitz posted 23 kills and a .588 hitting percentage to lead the Nittany Lions.
The loss drops IPFW to 9-14 on the year as the ninth-ranked Nittany Lions picked up win number 20, pushing their season tally to 20-5.
The 'Dons return to action tomorrow night (Apr. 3) as they host in-state rival Ball State. All fans are encouraged to wear blue as the IPFW athletic department hosts the second annual Blue Out to support prostate cancer research. Match time is scheduled for 7 p.m. from the Hilliard Gates Sports Center in Fort Wayne.