Messiah Hands Lions Tough 3-2 Loss

Photo (by Joel Nelson): Penn State Altoona sophomore Brandon Arentz goes up to hit the ball past a pair of Messiah College blockers during Wednesday night's match in the Adler Arena.
Photo (by Joel Nelson): Penn State Altoona sophomore Brandon Arentz goes up to hit the ball past a pair of Messiah College blockers during Wednesday night's match in the Adler Arena.

ALTOONA, Pa. – Penn State Altoona men's volleyball lost another back-and-forth, five-set match when non-conference opponent Messiah College defeated the Lions 3-2 in the Adler Arena on Wednesday night.

Three of the four losses suffered by Penn State Altoona (6-4) this season have been tightly-contested five-set matches on its home court.

After the Lions won the opening set 26-24, Messiah (1-1) responded with 26-24 and 25-22 wins in the next two sets. Penn State Altoona stayed alive by pulling out a 25-23 victory in the fourth set, but the Falcons triumphed 15-11 in the fifth set to take the match.

Brandon Arentz (Mount Wolf, PA/Northeastern) led the Lions in kills with 13, and he also had three solo blocks and seven digs. Brian Sheddy (Shrewsbury, PA/Susquehannock) finished with 12 kills, nine digs, and one solo block, and Dan Downs (Reading, PA/Daniel Boone) led all players with four solo blocks and two block assists while contributing nine kills.

Justin Bannister (Willow Hill, PA/Fannett-Metal) had two block assists and one solo block to go along with 10 digs and five kills. Ryan Dry (Douglassville, PA/Daniel Boone) totaled six kills and a solo block.

Tommy Kisick (Latrobe, PA/Greater Latrobe) totaled a team-high 42 assists for the Lions, adding nine digs and one solo block. Jonathan Ruhl (Lancaster, PA/Manheim Township) posted a team-best 13 digs.

Penn State Altoona capitalized on 12 attack errors by Messiah in the first set. The Lions trailed 7-3 before closing the gap and eventually taking a 17-16 lead following a pair of Messiah errors. Tied 24-24 later, two more attack errors by the Falcons accounted for the set-clinching points for Penn State Altoona.

Messiah bounced back to swing at a .333 clip as a team in the second set and pull out a two-point win. The Falcons led 5-3 before a 7-2 run by Penn State Altoona helped the home team take a 10-7 lead. During that run, the Lions got kills from Downs, Arentz, Bannister, and Sheddy, along with a block from Kisick. Penn State Altoona was later poised to take a 2-0 lead in the match when they had Messiah at set point, 24-22. But three straight kills from the Falcons turned the tables on Penn State Altoona, and Messiah capped the set with a block to win the set 26-24.

In the third set, Penn State Altoona led by as many as five points. A block from Dry and a pair of kills by Arentz gave the Lions a 16-11 lead. But Messiah embarked on a 12-4 run, grabbing a 23-20 advantage. Penn State Altoona used an attack error and Arentz block to pull to within one point of the visitors, 23-22, but Messiah used a Lions attack error and a kill of its own to close out the set 25-22.

The Lions battled back to stay alive in the fourth set. After Messiah had held the lead for most of the set, Bannister's service ace tied the score 14-14 and brought the Lions back into the mix. Later, blocks from Bannister and Downs, along with another Bannister ace, gave Penn State Altoona a 23-21 lead. Sheddy's kill provided the winning point in the set for the Lions, who triumphed 25-23 to force one more set.

Penn State Altoona posted its best hitting percentage (.312) of the night in the fifth set, but the Lions were unable to overcome Messiah's late charge. Sheddy's block put the home team up 7-6, and three Falcon errors helped the Lions expand their lead to 10-8. After two Messiah kills, Arentz responded with a kill to tie the score 11-11. But the Falcons scored the final four points on three kills and one ace, winning the set 15-11 and escaping with a victory in the match.

Penn State Altoona men's volleyball returns to action this Friday, February 2 and Saturday, February 3, when they will compete in the Wittenberg University Power Weekend. On Friday evening, the Lions will play host Wittenberg at 5:00 p.m. before going up against Marian University (Wis.) at 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, Penn State Altoona faces Elmira College at 11:00 a.m. before wrapping up its weekend against #5 Dominican University (Ill.) at 1:00 p.m.