May 5, 2005
LOS ANGELES - UCLA (26-5) defeated Penn State (30-4) a 30-20, 30-24, 30-27 in the first semifinal match of the NCAA National Collegiate Men's Volleyball Championship on Thursday evening at Pauley Pavilion on the campus of UCLA. The Bruins advance to the championship match on May 7 and will face the winner of the second semifinal between Pepperdine and Ohio State.
UCLA will be playing for its first national title since 2000 and its 19th overall title. The Bruins have now won 50 total NCAA Tournament matches.
Penn State has not advanced past the NCAA Tournament semifinals since 1995.
UCLA won the first game 30-20 after increasing its 9-8 lead with an 8-1 run in the middle stages. The Bruins hit .424 to the Nittany Lions' .120 in the first game. The Bruins gained the second game 30-24 as they opened up a 20-14 and withstood a Nittany Lion comeback. UCLA's Brennan Prahler came up big for the Bruins in game two with eight kills. UCLA held a 20-16 lead in game three, but had to overcome a 25-24 deficit late to win 30-27. UCLA hit .353 in the third game en route to the sweep.
Prahler led UCLA with a match-high 17 kills, while Jonathan Acosta connected for 16 kills on a .500 attack percentage. Allan Vince tallied eight kills with four aces for the Bruins, while Paul Johnson was credited with eight kills and a team-high four blocks in the victory. Gaby Acevedo paced the Bruins to a .353 team attack percentage on the strength of 47 assists. UCLA libero Tony Ker patrolled the Bruin back row and was credited with 15 digs.
Penn State was led by Alex Gutor's 11 kills and .33 attack percentage, while Matt Proper added 11 kills. Keith Kowal hit .556 with five kills and added four blocks. Dan O'Dell recorded a team-high five blocks to go with 28 assists. Nate Meerstein, an AVCA All-America First-Team selection, was held to three kills and three blocks. Kevin Wentzel totaled three kills and tied libero Gary Vogel for team-high honors with six digs.
UCLA held a 55-34 advantage in kills over Penn State. The Bruins also held margins of 30-23 in digs and 9.5-8.0 team blocks.
UCLA snapped Penn State's 14-match win streak ending into the semifinals. The Bruins also handed Penn State one of its three losses heading into the NCAA championships. Penn State held a 16-match win streak before losing to the Bruins in three games in Los Angeles on March 8.
Penn State recovered from an early 5-2 deficit to tie the opening game at 6-all. UCLA broke open a 9-8 advantage on a 5-1 spurt that included a kill and ace by Vince creating a 14-9 Bruin lead. After Penn State Head Coach Mark Pavlik called a timeout, UCLA upped the advantage to 17-9 with a kill each by Johnson and Vince around a Vince ace. Penn State ended the Bruins six-point unanswered streak as Vince served into the net at 17-10. UCLA built up the margin to nine points at 24-15 on consecutive kills by Kraushaar and Prahler forcing Pavlik to call the Nittany Lions' second timeout of the game. Penn State gained some momentum late in the game with a three-point spurt off Bruin errors, including a tandem block by O'Dell and Kowal at 28-20 leading to a UCLA timeout. The Bruins completed the game at 30-28 after two Nittany Lion errors. UCLA hit .424 in the first game as Acosta led the Bruins with six kills. Vince hit .800 with four kills, while Prahler connected for five kills. Penn State was limited to a .120 attack percentage as a team. Proper tallied three of the Nittany Lions' eight kills in the first game. UCLA held an 11-6 advantage in digs.
UCLA held a 7-5 lead early in game two, only to see Penn State recover to take an 8-7 lead that included a kill and ace by Alex Gutor. The Bruins reclaimed the lead at 10-8 as Paul Johnson served two aces after Prahler hit a cross-court kill. UCLA extended the gap to 16-11 following a kill by Prahler and ace by Vince. Penn State sliced the deficit to 16-13 as Gutor tallied a kill and block solo on consecutive plays. UCLA ran off four of the next five points that included two Johnson kills to give the Bruins a 20-14 lead. Penn State moved to within three at 21-18 on a 4-1 run ending with an ace by serving specialist Guillermo Fernandez. Holding a 22-19 lead, the Bruins rattled off three straight points for a 25-20 lead as Vince was credited with a kill and block assist in the mini-run. Penn State pulled to within four at 26-22, but could not come any closer as UCLA ended it at 30-24. Prahler led the Bruins in game two with eight kills, while Johnson added three blocks, three kills and two aces. UCLA held a .286 to .200 attack advantage in game two. Proper and Gutor paced the Nittany Lions in game two with five kills each.
UCLA picked up an 8-6 advantage in game three, its second two-point lead in the third. Penn State quickly knotted the game at 8-all through the service game following a Bruin service error and an O'Dell ace. The teams traded points until Penn State gained its first lead at any point of the match at 14-13 on a Proper kill and a ball handling error on UCLA. Penn State increased the lead to 16-14 as Meerstein took a kill and combined with Wentzel for a block. UCLA answered the challenge with three straight points, started by a Vince kill, to give the Bruins a 17-16 lead. UCLA increased its scoring run to six points in taking a 20-16 lead behind the serving of Kraushaar. After the Bruins extended the margin to four points at 22-18, Penn State took the next two points on kills by Gutor and Proper at 22-20. The Nittany Lions closed the deficit to zero as Kowal contributed a kill and block with O'Dell, followed by a Bruin attack error to tie it at 23-all. Penn State took the lead at 25-24 as Proper slammed a kill followed by a Bruin error. However, UCLA regained serve with a Gray Garrett kill and took over the lead at 26-25 on a Penn State attack error. Following a Penn State timeout, Prahler slammed a cross-court kill to give the Bruins a 27-25 advantage. UCLA picked up its first match point at 29-27 as Aaron Smith served the ball into the net. Vince finished the match with an ace at 30-27. Acosta pounded out eight kills in the third game, while Prahler chipped in four kills. The Bruins hit .353 in the third game, while holding the Nittany Lions to a .207 team attack percentage.
UCLA reached its 24th NCAA National Collegiate Men's Volleyball Championship. The Bruins have won 18 national titles, all under current head coach Al Scates. UCLA last won the NCAA title in 2000 by defeating Ohio State in Fort Wayne, Ind. The Bruins also defeated Pepperdine, the number-one seed in this year's tournament, in 1998 for its second-to-last national title. UCLA is 50-6 overall in the NCAA Tournament.
UCLA has hosted the NCAA National Collegiate Men's Volleyball Championship 13 times, but it is the first time since winning the national title in 1996 that the Bruins have participated on its home floor for the national title. UCLA is 25-0 at Pauley Pavilion, site of this year's national championship, in the current four-team national championship format. The Bruins have won nine of their 18 national titles at home.
Penn State advanced to the NCAA National Collegiate Men's Volleyball Championship by winning the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Tournament and the league's automatic bid. UCLA earned the one at-large berth into the NCAA Championship.
UCLA has defeated Penn State in four NCAA Championship semifinal meetings, including a 6-1 overall record in the NCAA Championships. The Nittany Lions last defeated the Bruins in the NCAA Tournament with a five-game victory in the championship match in 1994, the only time Penn State has won the NCAA title.
Penn State Head Coach Mark Pavlik's wife, Heather, earned a NCAA title as associate head coach of NCAA Division III Juniata's women's volleyball program. Juniata won the NCAA Division III women's volleyball national title in Nov. 2004.
Penn State was well-represented on the AVCA Division I-II Men's All-America Teams announced by the American Volleyball Coaches Association on May 4. Junior middle blocker Nate Meerstein was selected All-America first team by the AVCA, while junior right side/opposite hitter Matt Proper and senior middle blocker Keith Kowal were tabbed to the second team.
UCLA senior middle blocker Paul Johnson was selected to the AVCA Division I-II Men's All-America First-Team as announced by the coaching organization on May 4.
Penn State is currently ranked second in the May 2 release of the USA Today/CSTV Top 15 Division I-II uag