May 6, 2006
The UCLA men's volleyball team ended its magical run to the NCAA title with a resounding 3-0 victory over host Penn State at Rec Hall at State College, Pa., Saturday night.
The Bruins defeated the Nittany Lions 30-27, 30-27, 30-27 in 108 minutes before a rowdy sellout crowd of 5,453. UCLA won its 14th consecutive match and finished its season with an overall record of 26-12, the most losses by an NCAA champion and the second most in school history. Penn State ended its season at 21-9.
For legendary Head Coach Al Scates the victory marked his 19th NCAA title since 1970, the most by any coach or school in the sport. The win was also the Bruins' third against Penn State in national championship matches, second at Rec Hall and third against a team on its home court.
For the Bruins, this match was all about respect for a storied program that had endured unfortunate circumstances, untimely injuries and the embarrassment of failing to achieve its ultimate goal for the last six years.
UCLA took the first two-point lead of game one at 6-4 after senior David Russell and Dennis Gonzalez put up a block following a Paul George kill. The teams traded points until senior Damien Scott hit just inside the left line for an ace at 11-8, which was followed by a Proper hitting error to give UCLA a 12-8 lead. Out of a Nittany Lion timeout, Penn State whittled the gap to two at 12-10 after Holt served an ace to follow a Bruin service error. Penn State erupted for a three-point run with a kill by Nate Meerstein, a block solo by Dan O'Dell and an attack error by Paul George to tie the match at 14-all and leading to the Bruins' first time out. UCLA promptly put the margin back to two as Russell and George combined for a block followed by a Nick Scheftic kill. Penn State scored three unanswered points to assume an 18-17 lead as Max Holt picked up a block and combined with Alex Gutor for a block. Scott slammed consecutive kills to give the Bruins a 19-18 advantage, only to see Penn State return to the lead at 20-19 on a kill by Gutor and attack error by Steve Klosterman. Proper hammered consecutive kills to increase the Nittany Lion lead to 23-22, forcing UCLA to call its second time out of the opening game. The Bruins came out of the timeout and secured three quick points on Penn State attack errors, including a combined block by Russell and Gonzalez, to lift UCLA back into the lead at 24-23. Klosterman served an ace following a Penn State timeout to give the Bruins a 25-23 lead. Kevin Wentzel and Meerstein stopped the 4-0 UCLA run with a block to cut the deficit to 25-24. The Bruins upped their lead to 27-24 with a Klosterman kill. Scott tacked on a kill down the left line to give UCLA its first game-opportunity at 29-26. After a Matt Anderson kill to save the game point, Scott concluded game one at 30-27 with a kill.
Scott hit 1.000 in the first game with six kills on as many attempts. UCLA hit .314 as a team. Penn State was led by Proper's six kills in the first game, but the Nittany Lions were held to a .182 team attack percentage. Both teams racked up four teams blocks.
Penn State gained the first two-point advantage of game two as Proper and Wentzel hammered consecutive kills for a 4-2 lead, then Meerstein won a joust at the net to lift the Nittany Lions to a 5-2 advantage leading to a Bruin timeout. Penn State doubled-up UCLA at 8-4 on a Gutor kill after a Scott service error. The Bruins scored consecutive points on a Wentzel service error and Russell block solo to cut the margin 8-6. However, Meerstein turned in a kill and ace on consecutive plays to put Penn State back up 10-6. Penn State went up by five at 13-8 after Holt and Gutor recorded consecutive kills. Holt continued the unanswered run of four points on Gutor's serve with a kill and block with Proper to put the Nittany Lions up 15-8 to force UCLA to call its final timeout of game two. Gutor found a crease in the Bruins defense for an ace to increase the margin to 16-8. UCLA cut into the eight-point deficit with a kill by Klosterman and a Proper attack error to put the score at 18-12. The Bruins scored three straight points on a Penn State service error, combined block by Jamie Diefenbach and George followed by an ace by George leading Penn State to call a timeout with the score cut to 19-15. UCLA closed to within one at 21-20 after Klosterman recorded a kill, George aced the Nittany Lions and Scott slammed a kill. Proper lifted the Nittany Lions back up by three at 25-22 on a kill and ace that UCLA let drop untouched. Scott returned the momentum to the Bruins with an ace following a Penn State service error to put the score at 25-24. Out of Penn State's final timeout, UCLA tied the score at 25-all on a Wentzel attack error. Klosterman gave the Bruins a 28-27 lead on an ace to follow-up a Penn State service error. Gonzalez put up a solo block to give UCLA its first game point at 29-27. Gonzalez then won a joust at the net to win the second game at 30-27.
Klosterman tallied six kills and an ace in game two as the Bruins hit .318. Proper paced the Nittany Lions with five kills in the period. UCLA had six team blocks in the second game and held Penn State to a .250 hitting percentage.
Penn State erupted for a 3-0 lead to start game three as Gutor and Wentzel provided kills around a Bruin attack error. UCLA closed to within 5-4 on a Scott and Diefenbach block. Klosterman powered a kill after a Proper error to force a Penn State timeout with the score tied 7-all, then Klosterman and Scheftic combined for a block at 8-7. Penn State recovered with a 3-0 run that included kills by Proper and Gutor and an ace by Proper to put the Nittany Lions back up 11-9. UCLA tied it at 12-all as Diefenbach sliced a kill followed by a Penn State attack error. Gutor served a deep ace in the middle after a Scott attack error to put Penn State up 16-14. UCLA tied it at 17-all on a Scheftic kill and Nittany Lion attack error. Anderson found open space on the serve for an ace after a UCLA hitting error to lift Penn State to a 20-18 advantage. Penn State benefited from consecutive UCLA mistakes, a service error and attack error, to go up 22-19. The Bruins closed to within one at 23-22 on a Scott kill and Scheftic block solo, then tied it at 23-all on a Proper attack error leading to the Nittany Lions final timeout. Scott hammered a kill off the Penn State back-row defense, followed by a George ace to send the Bruins up 25-23. UCLA inched toward match-point with kills from Scheftic and Klosterman to put UCLA up 27-24. Scheftic continued an 8-1 Bruin run with a kill giving UCLA a 28-24 advantage. Scott and Scheftic put up a block to give UCLA match point at 29-25. Penn State saved two match points with a UCLA service error and block from O'Dell and Meerstein to cut the margin to 29-27. UCLA Head Coach Al Scates called its final timeout, and the Bruins responded as Scheftic pounded out a kill over the Nittany Lion defense.
Klosterman had 14 kills and seven digs and Damien Scott added 12 kills for the Bruins (26-12) in their 14th straight victory.
Proper led the Nittany Lions (21-9) with 13 kills and Dan O'Dell had a game-high 39 assists for the Lions, who hit just 15.7 percent. In contrast, UCLA hit almost 30 percent and finished with 16 blocks to Penn State's nine.
UCLA Championship Notes
UCLA's first NCAA title of 2005-06 is its 98th overall team championship - the highest total in the nation. Since the 2002-03 academic year, UCLA has won 12 NCAA titles, also the highest total of any school in the country in the last four years.
UCLA has won 19 NCAA and five USVBA team titles for a total of 24 overall championships in men's volleyball, a collegiate record. The 19 NCAA titles exceeds any school's total for the sport in either gender.
Al Scates' 19th national championship ties the record for most NCAA titles in a single sport by one coach. John McDonnell at Arkansas has led the Razorbacks to 19 NCAA indoor track and field titles.
UCLA's victory over Penn State in the championship match gives the Bruins a record of 52-7 in NCAA Tournament matches since 1970. The Bruins are 19-6 in the finals and 3-1 against Penn State in championship matches.
The Bruins have won two of their volleyball championships against the Nittany Lions at Penn State's Rec Hall. In 1982, UCLA beat PSU 3-0 to win its ninth men's volleyball title. That title was the second of four straight national titles won by the Bruins.
UCLA finished its season with a 14-match winning streak and a 26-12 overall record. On March 17, the Bruins were 12-12 overall and 5-10 (ninth place) in league play before rallying from an 0-2 deficit in Pauley Pavilion to beat USC, 3-2.
UCLA's victory over Penn State was its second against the Nittany Lions this season. The two teams met on Jan. 20 in the second match of the Outrigger Hotels Invitational and the Bruins won 3-0. UCLA leads the overall series, 22-5.