Bruins Outlast Trojans in Five to Win Kilgour Cup
April 10, 2009
Anyone claiming that venerable Pauley Pavilion is haunted might be right: the ghost of Kirk Kilgour lives on.
The late namesake of UCLA's annual Kilgour Cup charity men's volleyball match breathes life onto his old program once a season. And sometimes his otherworldly exhale ignites a fire that burns a championship trail.
Four years ago, when UCLA's current seniors were freshmen, each witnessed first-hand a five-game victory against USC that sparked a 14-match march all the way to College Park, PA where the Bruins won their 19th NCAA title.
On Friday night, the ninth-ranked Bruins overcame the usual lineup shuffles, a humiliating run by their arch rivals in Game 3 and a trio of strange calls in the fifth set to win an epic thriller against No.4 USC.
And the five seniors each contributed key plays reminiscent of championships past.
The Bruins won 33-31, 27-30, 22-30, 32-30, 19-17 in two hours and 50 minutes in front of 2,003 fans, their largest and most vocal crowd of the season. With the victory, the Bruins raised their overall record to 13-14, 9-11 in MPSF play. Most importantly, they stopped a three-match skid against the Trojans. UCLA also won its 26th Kilgour Cup title and 12th against USC. USC lost its third straight match and fell to 16-9, 12-8.
Friday night was also Senior Night and Head Coach Al Scates started each one of his grizzled veterans: Jamie Diefenbach, Sean O'Malley, Ryan Ratelle, D.J. Stromath and Matt Wade. In Game 1, they each delivered.
With junior setter Kevin Ker finding the hot hitter, the Bruins stole the first set, but not without a little drama. They led 26-23 after a kill by Wade who started at outside hitter. A pair of kills by USC's Murphy Troy and a hitting error by Ratelle knotted the score. After Diefenbach converted a spike, USC's Troy hammered a pair of kills to give the visitors a 28-27 lead. The Bruins called their final timeout, but that didn't immediately help. Freshman Jack Polales committed a hitting error to give USC set point, 29-27. But the Trojans gave it back with a service error and the Bruins tied it at 29-29 on a thundering solo block by Stromath. USC freshman Tony Ciarelli and UCLA's Wade each traded a pair of kills for a 31-31 tie. Wade recorded another kill, then he set O'Malley for the clincher and the set.
USC took control in the next two sets, playing a quicker game and blocking the Bruins well. In Games 2 and 3, the visitors outblocked their hosts, 10-1. In Game 3, the Trojans ran off a 15-2 streak and outblocked the Bruins, 6.5-1, limiting them to an attack percentage of .171. The Bruins' fortunes looked bleak.
With their more rested and regular lineup finally starting in Game 4, the Bruins began to assert themselves. They kept USC at an arm's length most of the game until USC tied it at 28-28. On the next play, Ciarelli gave USC set and match point with a kill. O'Malley answered with his own kill to tie the score. The Bruins gave it back with a service error. O'Malley and freshman Nick Vogel combined to block Troy on the next point for a 30-30 tie. Junior Garrett Muagututia converted a kill and O'Malley spiked one and Game 5 was on.
In the fifth, things got interesting with Ciarelli at the service line and USC leading 11-10. Ker set O'Malley across the court near the antenna and the UCLA senior appeared to wipe the ball off the block. But the official called no touch on USC and the Trojans took a 12-10 lead. (Some minor disagreements were vocalized.) USC moved to a 13-11 lead before the Bruins tied it on kills by O'Malley and Muagututia. After a timeout by USC, Muagututia gave the Bruins match point with another kill. To most in the building, the next point was clearly UCLA's were it not for a linesman's late call. USC's Luke Morris set Troy in front of the up official. The spike cleared the block untouched and went wide; yet nearly five seconds after the play, the linesman working behind the play called a UCLA touch. Despite vehement arguments from the UCLA bench, the point was awarded to USC: 14-14. At this point, USC Coach Bill Ferguson ordered several substitutions for the next play and UCLA assistant Brian Rofer informed the down official of a USC rotation infraction before the play. In the ensuing confusion, Murphy Troy served an ace off O'Malley and USC held match point at 15-14. Ten minutes of strenuous arguing ensued before order was restored. The point remained USC's and the Trojans were serving for the match. Muagututia slammed a kill and the Bruins breathed easier, 15-15. Back and forth it went with USC gaining another match point at 16-15 on kill by Ciarelli. The Bruins got a match point on a kill by Muagututia and a block by Polales and Thomas Amberg. Ciarelli tied it with a kill, but USC gave it back on a service error, 18-17. The final point came on an ace by Muagututia.
O'Malley and Muagututia led the Bruins with 17 kills apiece with Wade adding a career-high of 12 and 11 digs. Ker also recorded 11 digs and added 62 assists and five points.
Troy pounded 33 kills and Ciarelli added 21.
The Bruins will end the regular season in the Bay Area with matches at Pacific (Apr. 17) and Stanford (Apr. 18).
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