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SUNY Polytechnic Overtakes Lions 3-2; Byers Becomes All-Time Kills Leader

SUNY Polytechnic Overtakes Lions 3-2; Byers Becomes All-Time Kills Leader


2/3/2017 — UTICA, N.Y. - On the opening night of the North Eastern Athletic Conference schedule Friday evening at the Wildcat Field House, the Penn State Altoona men's volleyball team saw its two-set lead disappear, as SUNY Polytechnic Institute came back to win 3-2.

The match was a battle between the top two teams in the NEAC preseason poll, as SUNY Polytechnic was voted first and Penn State Altoona came in second.

The Lions (3-2, 0-1 NEAC) won the first two sets by scores of 25-23 and 25-16 and appeared to have a grasp on the match, but the Wildcats (4-3, 1-0 NEAC) came back to win the third and fourth sets by scores of 25-21 before taking the fifth tiebreaker set 15-10.

In the loss, Penn State Altoona senior outside hitter Jacob Byers (Level Green, PA/Penn Trafford) became the men's volleyball program's all-time kills leader. Byers led all players in Friday's match with 18 kills to pass former Lion standout Matt Huey (2015-2016) and his career total of 685 kills. Byers now has 691 kills in his career, which started in the 2014 season.

Additionally, Byers' total of six service aces on Friday is tied for the most in a single match in team history, and it is also the most number of aces in a five-set match in program history.

Bradley Colditz (Upper St. Clair, PA/Upper St. Clair) added seven kills and two block assists. Justin Bannister (Willow Hill, PA/Fannett-Metal) led all players with five total blocks (two solo blocks, three block assists), and he also contributed six kills and two aces.

Billy Smith (Pittsburgh, PA/Upper St. Clair) had a team-high 21 assists, and Tommy Kisick (Latrobe, PA/Greater Latrobe) finished with 14 assists.

Waldemar Rivera-Berrios (Toa Alta, P.R./Samuel Clemens) had a match-high 19 digs.

Penn State Altoona rallied late in the first set to stake out a 1-0 lead in the match. Down 21-20, the Lions used a kill from Bannister and two attack errors to leap ahead 23-21. Byers' kill kept his team up by two points, 24-22, and a SUNY Polytechnic attack error ended the set in favor of the Lions.

Penn State Altoona had its best attack performance in the second set, when it finished with 11 kills and zero errors on 17 total attempts. Byers accounted for five kills in his team's first 15 points of the set, and he later reeled off four consecutive aces to put Penn State Altoona ahead 21-12. Kills by Colditz and Bannister finished off the set, giving the Lions a nine-point win and a 2-0 lead in the match.

SUNY Polytechnic was able to grind out a win in the third set to stave off elimination. After the score was tied 12-12, the Wildcats took the lead on a Nick Hagen kill and never trailed for the rest of the set. With the home team up 22-19 late in the set, Byers and Max Szuba each traded two kills for their teams, but Szuba's ace capped off the set for SUNY Polytechnic.

In the fourth set, the Wildcats overcame a Penn State Altoona lead late in the game. Byers' kill gave the Lions an 18-17 lead, but SUNY Polytechnic scored four of the next five points to grab a 21-19 advantage. Kills from Robert Nilsen and Szuba clinched the set for the Wildcats, and the teams advanced to a fifth set.

In the fifth, SUNY Polytechnic capitalized on several miscues by the Lions to prevail by five points. Back-to-back kills from Byers kept Penn State Altoona's deficit at two points, 7-5. Later, two Colditz kills kept the difference at three points, 11-8. But with a 13-10 lead, the Wildcats used an attack error and a Nilsen service ace to close out the set and the match.

Penn State Altoona men's volleyball is back in action tomorrow, Saturday, February 4 at SUNY Polytechnic to wrap up their first NEAC crossover weekend of the season. The Lions take on Keuka College at 11:00 a.m. before finishing their day with a match against Wells College at 3:00 p.m.

Photo: Penn State Altoona senior outside hitter Jacob Byers had 18 kills on Friday to become the team's all-time kills leader.

TAGS: men's volleyball