Fort Wayne, IN - After taking two convincing
sets to start the match, the IPFW attack slowly drained, as the
ninth-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions rained on Senior Night,
25-20, 25-19, 20-25, 22-25, 12-15.
The game was the final home match for Darryl Shank, Shaun Dryden and Garrett Bitter. For the Mastodons, Ivan Matos led the charge with 20 kills as Shank posted another double-double with 15 kills and 11 digs. Dryden added a season-high 14 digs to lead a defense that also outblocked their opponents 11.5 to 9.5.
With the momentum of Senior Night and a large crowd on their side, the 'Dons jumped on Penn State out of the gate. Jumping out to a 6-1 lead on an Eddie Rivera kill, the Nittany Lion bench burned a timeout early. An IPFW 8-0 run came to an end at 9-2 but the damage had already been done. IPFW continued to build their lead as a Rivera ace put the home team up 13-4.
Holding a ten-point lead at 19-9, the Nittany Lions posted a charge late to cut IPFW's lead to three at 22-19, but the momentum was able to outlast the Nittany Lion attack, as Ivan Matos closed out a first-set win, 25-20. IPFW posted a .400 overall attack percentage, outblocking the EIVA Regular Season Champions, 4-0.
Set two saw the hitting percentage continue to hover near the .400 mark, as Dan Mader's solo block capped off an 11-8 start to set two. That three-point lead would hold throughout the set as senior Garrett Bitter took the serve and nabbed a five-point lead at 22-17. A kill by Shank that split the blockers moved the action to set-point at 24-19 and Ivan Matos closed out the second set, 25-19.
Through the first two sets, the Mastodon attackers were hitting at .397 overall as Matos' five markers led the squad in the second.
After the locker room break between sets two and three, the tables would turn. The 'Dons fell behind 6-4 and, hoping to save the energy, IPFW head coach Arnie Ball whistled a quick timeout in the early going. The Nittany Lions would build their lead to six at 16-10 before another Mastodon T.O. A kill by PSU's Ian Hendries gave the Lions a set-point opportunity at 24-17. After three points by the 'Dons, Ryan Wolf closed out the game, 25-20.
IPFW's hitting percentage plunged to .146 in the third set.
Set number four was tight throughout, as play featured 10 tie scores and four lead changes. With the score an even 16-16, the Nittany Lions would mount a brief charge, taking four of the next five points to take a 20-17 advantage. From there on out, the side would trade points at an even 5-5 as the Lions took their second consecutive game, 25-22.
With their backs against the wall heading to set number five, the momentum had swung fully to visitors' bench. After a 2-0 start, the 'Dons fell behind 7-5 and a play later an IPFW attack found the net to force the turn at 8-5. A Penn State point on the next play pushed the score to 9-5 before a four-point IPFW run. That rally, off of Bitter's serve, was capped off by an Eddie Rivera kill to even the score at 9-9.
In crunch time yet again, it was Penn State that responded. Mark Pavlik's squad rattled off four of the next five points and finished off IPFW on a Mastodon attack error in a come-from-behind effort to stave off IPFW's upset bid, 3-2.
The loss closes out the IPFW regular season at 16-11 overall. Still awaiting final confirmation on game time and date, the 'Dons are currently slated to travel to Romeoville, Ill. for a showdown in the 4-5 matchup of the MIVA tournament with the Lewis Flyers. The Mastodons and Flyers split the season series, including an IPFW four-set victory in their last meeting.
Check back on Gomastodons.com early next week for game details.