USC Men's Volleyball Defeats Penn State To Get To NCAA Final
May 7, 2009
Behind 24 kills from Murphy Troy, 19 from Tony Ciarelli and 13 from Tri Bourne, the No. 4-ranked USC men's volleyball team advanced to the NCAA championship match by posting a 27-30, 30-26, 30-26, 30-24 comeback victory over defending NCAA champion Penn State in an NCAA semifinal match on Thursday (May 7) before 2,564 fans at Provo, Utah.
USC, which improved to 21-10 overall, continued its recent hot run. After losing 4 of their final 6 regular-season matches (all on the road), the Trojans were an upset winner of last week's MPSF Tournament. They did so by first overcoming a 2-0 deficit to win at No. 4 Stanford, then blanking No. 1 UC Irvine on the Anteaters' home court in the MPSF semis and finally defeating No. 2 Pepperdine in a dramatic 5-set championship match. That propelled USC to its first NCAA Final Four berth since 1991.
No. 5 Penn State, which had its 12-match winning streak snapped, finished its season at 27-4. USC's win avenged a season-opening 3-2 loss to the Nittany Lions in a tournament in Hawaii.
The Trojans will be going after their fifth NCAA title in men's volleyball when they face No. 1 UC Irvine, a 3-0 winner over No. 10 Ohio State in Thursday's second semifinal. The NCAA championship match is on Saturday at 4 p.m. PT and it will be shown live on ESPN2 and ESPN360.com.
"We're obviously excited to be playing in the last match of the year," said third-year USC head coach Bill Ferguson. "Our plan all year was to get to this point and win it all. We've put ourselves in position now to do that."
USC hit a season-high .484 to PSU's .402.
Troy hit .595, Ciarelli had 8 digs and 3 blocks and Bourne hit .458. Hunter Current hit a blazing .875 (7 kills and no errors on 8 swings), Austin Zahn had 8 kills while hitting .467 along with 4 blocks, Luke Morris had a match-best 11 digs and Riley McKibbin set 62 assists and had 5 kills.
For Penn State, Will Price had 17 kills (hitting .640) and 5 aces, Joe Sunder added 14 kills, Max Holt had 13 kills (hitting .600) with 3 blocks and Max Lipsitz had 11 kills (hitting .400). The Nittany Lions served 8 aces.
USC built an early 7-5 lead in the first set and grew it to 14-11, but PSU then turned it on, tying it at 14-14 and then moving out to a 27-22 edge. USC fought back within a point at 28-27 before the Lions closed out the set. PSU hit .483 and had 4 blocks and 2 aces in the set.
After falling behind 11-9 in the second set, it was USC's turn to come alive. The Trojans went up 13-12 and slowly pulled away while hitting .667.
USC got off to a quick 4-1 lead in the third set and kept pulling away, building a 7-point edge at 15-8. But the Lions crept back within 26-24 before USC regained control. The Trojans hit .429 in the set.
USC got out to another 4-1 lead in the final set, but PSU tied it at 13-13. USC then took over, scoring the next 2 points and building the lead to 20-15, allowing the Trojans to hold on for the victory. USC hit .562 in that set.
"We struggled in the first set, but we were confident we could come back," said McKibbin. "Our passing improved, but it's hard when the other team has some of the best servers in the country. Murphy and Tony played unreal tonight. Our middles were great. And Tri came through big for us."
Added Troy: "Penn State had all the momentum after the first set. But we've known in this run we've had that we can play through adversity. We've been tested before. We were able to chip away and come back."