UH's Tony Ching smashed a kill over Ball State's Keith Schunzel as UH swept the Cardinals last night.

Penn State improves,
but still falls to Shanghai

By Cindy Luis

It was around 1 a.m. yesterday and Mark Pavlik was sending out his nightly post-match e-mail to the Penn State men's volleyball fan message group from his Waikiki hotel room. Coaches never sleep or, at least in Pavlik's case, they sometimes can't sleep when mentally replaying a loss.

"Too many easy points were given to Hawaii via overpasses and hitting errors," Pavlik wrote after losing to the Warriors in four games Thursday. "The good news is that these are fixable."

The Nittany Lions fixed a few things last night against Shanghai Oriental, improving their serve-receive, blocking and hitting. But the Chinese team was again too much for its American opponent, winning last night's first match of the Ninth Outrigger Hotels Invitational 30-28, 30-24, 30-18.

The exhibition victory sets up a true championship match at 7:30 tonight at the Stan Sheriff Center, pitting the tournament's two unbeatens, Shanghai and Hawaii. At 5 p.m., Penn State meets Ball State for third place in the round-robin event.

"It's hard to say what it will be like," Shanghai setter He Jiong said through an interpreter. "Hawaii is a strong team. If we can, the game plan is to run a lot of combination plays. We did it better today. Hopefully, we'll be even better (against Hawaii)."

In Thursday's sweep of Ball State, Shanghai hit a lot of angle shots. Last night, the Chinese ran combination plays in the middle and with their outsides hitting line frequently.

Shanghai had to mix it up, in part because Penn State's blockers had pretty good reads on angle shots. In part, it just showed the flexibility and complexity of the Chinese offense.

"They are so experienced, have played together longer, have the ability to raise their level (of play) during the match," said Pavlik. "But I am pleased with our effort tonight and I thought we played better at the ends of games than (Thursday).

"I'm pleased with us playing tough. I don't know what (Shanghai) thought of us, but I think we surprised them with our serving. We finally served well."

The Nittany Lions struck early in Game 1, capitalizing on uncharacteristically poor passing by Shanghai. Penn State reeled off five unanswered points behind the serving of Norman Keil, two on service overpass slams, to jump out to a 7-1 lead.

Wang ZhiTeng, who put down his first nine swings against Ball State on Thursday, had his first attempt partially blocked. Penn State converted on the transition with Zach Slenker putting down one of his five kills. Zeliko Koljesar's ace put the Nittany Lions ahead 10-2 and had Shanghai coach Shen Fu Lin calling his second timeout in 10 minutes.

Shanghai caught Penn State at 22-22 on Tang Miao's lineshot. The game was tied five more times before the Chinese put it away on another kill by Tang and two errors by the Nittany Lions.

Pavlik juggled his lineup the rest of the night, using his freshman setter Dan O'Dell for the last two games, and resting senior all-league hitter Carlos Guerra. The liberal substitution created some ragged play on Penn State's side of the net but the Nittany Lions more than held their own until the latter stages of Games 2 and 3.

Richard Schneider led Penn State with 11 kills, hitting .733 with no errors on 15 swings.

"I know some of our younger players were a little overwhelmed," said Pavlik, who used 12 players. "I used our freshman setter because how many times in one's life do you get a chance to play a team from China? I think it's real important they get that opportunity.

"Carlos (Guerra) strained his groin a little Thursday and we didn't want to chance anything more. He'll be back for Ball State. And that I think will be a very good match. They always play us tough."

UH Athletics

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