May 4, 2006
Second-seeded UCLA swept third-seeded IPFW Thursday to advance to its 25th title match at the NCAA Men's Volleyball Championship, hosted by Penn State.
The Bruins won their 13th straight match 30-25, 30-23, 30-28 in 98 minutes. UCLA, which raised its record to 25-12, improved its semifinals record to 33-1, 22-0 in the current four-team format. IPFW, which saw its seven-match winning streak snapped, fell to 23-7.
UCLA meets Penn State (21-8), a 3-2 upset winner over top-seeded UC Irvine (27-5), Saturday night at 7 p.m. (EDT) for the national championship.
The Bruins won this match at the service line where every starter recorded at least one ace. They served eight aces, while the Mastodons served one and committed 13 errors. Several other UCLA serves kept IPFW off-balance and disrupted their passing. The Bruins also out-blocked the Mastodons, who were the MIVA's top blocking team, 8-7.
The Bruins raced out to an 8-3 lead in Game 1 on kills by junior Steve Klosterman and senior Damien Scott, an ace by senior David Russell and several IPFW miscues. The Mastodons clawed back and finally took the lead at 15-14 on a kill by sophomore C.J. Macias. The teams traded points until the Bruins took an 18-16 lead and IPFW called a timeout. The Mastodons cut the lead to one at 19-18, but the Bruins, behind an ace by junior Paul George and Russell's serving pulled away with an 8-2 run. UCLA was ahead 27-20 until IPFW mounted a 4-0 charge that was cut short by a kill from Klosterman. That gave the Bruins a 28-23 lead. Kills by senior Nick Scheftic and Russell gave the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
"We wanted to come out fast in the first game," said UCLA Head Coach Al Scates. "In three of our last four matches we had lost the first game and had to come back to win."
In Game 2, the Bruins found themselves in a hole at 11-15 before a TV timeout gave them a breather. They roared back with four consecutive points on a kill by Russell and consecutive blocks of Macias by George and Russell. The key point in this run came on the first play after the timeout when Scott made a brilliant save off an errant pass and the Bruins won a transition point on a kill from Russell. After UCLA tied the score at 15-15, the teams traded points until the Bruins mounted a 4-0 run to take a 22-18 lead following setter Dennis Gonzalez's only ace of the game. The Mastodons never threatened again as the Bruins scored eight of the next 12 points to go ahead 2-0.
The excitement in Game 3 began with the Bruins ahead 28-23. Four points by the Mastodons on two kills by IPFW's Josh Stewart and one by Macias forced the Bruins to call their final timeout. A block by Macias and Stewart brought the Mastodons to within one at 28-27 before George slammed a kill to give the Bruins their first match point. Stewart converted another kill, but Scott scored the game-winner to give UCLA a date in its second straight national championship match.
Klosterman led UCLA with 14 kills (.379), an ace and seven digs. Scott added 10 kills, an ace and one block assist. Russell and Scheftic combined for 17 kills and both hit above .400. Russell served three aces and added three block assists. Scheftic served one ace and recorded two block assists.
Saturday's match marks the first time since 1995 that the Bruins and Nittany Lions will meet for the NCAA title. Overall, UCLA holds a 2-1 edge against Penn State in the NCAA title match - winning 3-0 in 1982 and 95, and falling 3-2 in 1994.