MANHATTAN, NY – The Penn State Behrend men's volleyball team upset No. 1 seed New York University in five sets in the first round of the United Volleyball Conference (UVC) Championships on Saturday at the Coles Sports Center in Manhattan.
The Lions, competing in their first season as a member of the UVC, entered the tournament as the No. 8 seed but battled like the top seed to record their first postseason victory. The win also marked the Behrend's first victory over a ranked team. The Violets entered the match ranked sixth in the latest AVCA Top-15 Coaches' Poll.
The Lions fell in the semifinals to No. 4 seed and seventh-ranked Nazareth 3-0 (25-23,25-20,29-27).
Behrend put the pressure on from the start against NYU, taking the first two sets 25-22 and 25-21. In the first set, the Lions were down by as much as five and used a 13-6 run to finish. Three straight attack errors knotted the game at 18-all, while a kill by Nate Steele (Cranberry Township, PA/Seneca Valley) gave Behrend the lead for good. Ty Sheehan (Cochranton, PA/Cochranton) put the match away with his first kill of the day off an assist from Evan Fullerton (Ambridge, PA/Ambridge).
The Lions only trailed the second set twice, taking control after the first 13 points exchanged. With a 20-16 lead, Sheehan recorded two kills and Steele tallied the final point to put Behrend one set away from the win.
In the third set, the Lions put a scare on the Violets with the early 13-10 lead. However, NYU went on a 5-0 run with George Koch serving four of the points. That streak spurred the Violets on to a 25-19 victory. The Violets proved they were not ready to let their chance at the UVC title end, breezing to a 25-13 fourth-set victory to even the match at 2-all.
In the deciding fifth set, Behrend grabbed an 8-4 lead and seemed to be in the driver's seat. The Violets shifted momentum to stay in the game and went up 13-11 thanks to a 9-3 run. With NYU holding match point at 14-12, Sheehan posted his team-leading 12th kill of the match and three attack errors helped the Lions claim the victory.
Grant Kocher (McMurry, PA/Peters Township) tied Sheehan with 12 kills, adding six digs and four blocks.
Behrend did not go down without a fight, falling by two match points in the first and third set and by five in the second. Neither team had a lead of more than four points in all three sets.
In the third set with the game tied at 22-all, the teams went point-for-point until the final two points where Billy Gimello got the kills and a Lions attack error sent Nazareth to the championships match.