No. 1 USC Men's Volleyball Beats UC Irvine In MPSF Tourney Semifinal
April 28, 2011
Tony Ciarelli had a match-high 23 kills and Murphy Troy added 17 kills to lead the No. 1-ranked USC men's volleyball team (23-2) to a 25-19, 22-25, 25-20, 25-23 victory over No. 2 UC Irvine (19-12) in a semifinal match of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament on Thursday (April 28) in front of 1,550 fans in USC's Galen Center.
In the evening's other semifinal match, Jeff Menzel had a match-best 23 kills to lead No. 5 UC Santa Barbara (16-14) to a 25-17, 26-28, 25-20, 25-23 win over No. 3 Long Beach State (15-14).
The Trojans and Gauchos will meet on Saturday (April 30) at 7:30 p.m. in the Galen Center in the MPSF tourney's championship match, with the victor earning an automatic berth into next week's NCAA Championships at Penn State.
In the second semifinal of the evening, USC outhit UCI, .381 to .328, and had more aces (7 to 2) and digs (43 to 31). But the Anteaters had 8.0 blocks to USC's .3.0.
For UCI, Jordan DuFault had 16 kills while hitting .353 and Carson Clark added 14 kills and 6 digs.
USC jumped out to an 8-3 lead in the first set, extended it to 14-6 and was never threatened the rest of the set. UC Irvine bounced back from a 10-7 deficit in the second set, went ahead at 13-12, extended the lead to 18-14 and held on while hitting .357. The Trojans broke open a tight third set by scoring 4 points in a row to forge a 22-17 lead, which they were able to maintain while hitting .393. The fourth set was close until USC scored 3 straight points to build a 22-20 lead, all the edge it needed to close out the match (the Trojans hit .625 in the set to UCI's .542).
"We did a great job on defense in the first set," said USC head coach Bill Ferguson. "Things fell off in the second set. But in the third set, we did a great job of grinding it out, which made UC Irvine have to work harder. I thought we played really well in the third and fourth sets."
Said Ciarelli: "UC Irvine is a team I really worry about because they are smart. But our defense played really well. They are a fun team to play against."
"I'm obviously disappointed because right up to the end I thought we were going to make it happen," said UC Irvine head coach John Speraw. "USC is a very good team and they served and passed very well. We gave ourselves some chances, but just didn't put it over the top."
In the opening match, neither team hit for a high percentage (UCSB was at .256 to LBSU's .226). But the Gauchos had more blocks (15.0 to 8.5) and digs (44 to 36).
Menzel added 7 digs and 4 blocks for UCSB, while Scott Slaughter had 11 kills (hitting .786) with 7 blocks, Cullen Irons had 8 kills and 11 digs and Andy McGuire had 12 digs.
For LBSU, Taylor Crabb had 14 kills , 8 digs and 3 blocks, Josh Riley added 12 kills, 8 digs and 3 blocks and both Antwain Aguillard and Jim Baughman had 9 kills.
In the first set, UC Santa Barbara ran off 5 consecutive points to go up 14-9 and was never threatened while hitting .357 and getting 3.5 blocks. Long Beach State battled back from a 12-6 deficit in the second set to tie it at 13-13 and then the set seesawed until a pair of Riley kills ended it as the 49ers hit .371. The Gauchos scored 5 straight points to open up a 10-5 lead in the third set and never looked back while posting 5.0 blocks. UCSB overcame a 10-6 deficit in the fourth set, tying it at 11-11 and then scoring the match's last 3 points while getting 5.5 blocks.
"It was a battle," said UC Santa Barbara head coach Rick McLaughlin. "We knew it would be. We had to earn every point. They had some runs on us, but we were able to come back."
Said Menzel: "We put a lot of pressure on them with our serving. We know we can beat anybody. We're like the Lakers, we get up for big games. A lot of teams don't give us credit. It doesn't matter who's on the other side, it's just us playing."
"UCSB came out gangbusters in the first set," said Long Beach State head coach Andy Read. "We fought hard in the second set and then got it to a deuce game in the fourth set, but didn't come through. I'm proud of how hard we fought."