Dec. 10, 2004
SEATTLE - The 15th-seeded UCLA women's volleyball team ousted the Big Ten Champion Penn State Nittany Lions on Friday night, winning the match with game scores of 30-24, 22-30, 30-25, 30-28. The Nittany Lions were the No. 2 seed in this year's NCAA Division I Tournament and finish their season with a 29-3 record. The Bruins were led in kills by Nana Meriwether and Nancy Barba with 16 apiece, and improve to 21-10 on the season.
The Bruins will face either 10th-seeded Saint Mary's or seventh seed Washington on Saturday night at 7 pm. The match will be televised live by CSTV and will be the last of four consecutive Regional Finals to air on the network tomorrow night.
The Bruins hit .341 in the opening game of the match to take the opening game 30-24. The Bruins took an early 10-6 lead, but the Nittany Lions stormed back to take the lead at 11-10 with a five-point run. It was back and forth from there before UCLA broke a 16-16 tie and never relinquished the lead. In that opening game, Nana Meriwether hit .750 for the Bruins, recording six kills on eight error-free attacks while adding three block assists.
UCLA took an early lead again in game two, pulling out to a 9-6 lead before another five-point run by the Nittany Lions gave Penn State an 11-9 advantage. Penn State would never relinquish that lead as they took the game 30-22. The Bruins had their lowest hitting percentage of the night in that game, checking in at .150 as a team to Penn State's .343.
After the 10-minute break between games two and three, the Bruins started quickly, going out to a 5-2 lead. Penn State came back to tie the score at seven and eight before taking a 9-8 lead on a UCLA service error, but a Brittany Ringel kill re-tied the score and started a six-point run by the Bruins behind the service of Meriwether. UCLA built a 28-18 lead from there, before the Nittany Lions put together a six-point run and scored seven of the final nine points of the game, but it was not enough as UCLA took the game 30-25.
The teams traded points early in a very sloppy fourth game. Penn State would creep out to an 18-13 lead before the Bruins scored six straight to take a 19-18 lead. UCLA would extend to a 21-19 lead and hold that margin until a three-point Penn State run on a Cassy Salyer ace and an Ashley Pederson kill tied the score at 28-28, but UCLA put the game and the match away on consecutive kills by Meriwether and Ringle to win the match 3-1.
Saturday night's match will mark UCLA's fifth NCAA Regional Final appearance in a six-year span. The Bruins have advanced to the Regional Final and lost in 1999 (lost to Penn State in State College, Pa.), 2000 (lost to Wisconsin in Madison, Wis.), 2001 (lost to Long Beach State in Long Beach, Calif.) and 2003 (lost to USC in Lincoln, Neb.). UCLA will look to advance to its first National Semifinal since 1994 when the Bruins face either Saint Mary's or host school Washington on Saturday at 7 pm at Bank of America Arena in Seattle.
The game will be broadcast live on television on CSTV, as well as with an audio broadcast on www.uclabruins.com.