USC Men's Volleyball Set For NCAA Championship
May 1, 2012
The No. 1-ranked USC men's volleyball team (23-5 overall, 18-4 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, No. 2 seed), the 2-time defending MPSF regular season champion, will be making its second consecutive trip to the NCAA Final Four (and third in the past 4 years) as the school hosts its first-ever NCAA Men's Volleyball Championship May 3 and 5 in the Galen Center. The Trojans, who earned the NCAA at-large bid, will face No. 7 Lewis (26-6, 9-3 Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, No. 3 seed), which beat defending NCAA champion Ohio State in 5 sets last weekend in Columbus to claim the MIVA Tournament title, in a semifinal match on Thursday (May 3) at 8 p.m. The other Thursday semifinal pits No. 2 UC Irvine (24-5, 17-5 MPSF, No. 1 seed), which dramatically came back from 2-set deficits to USC and then Stanford to win last week's MPSF Tournament, against No. 8 Penn State (23-5, 14-0 Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, No. 4 seed), the EIVA regular season and tournament champ, at 6 p.m. The winners then play for the NCAA title on Saturday (May 5) at 7 p.m. USC, which has won 4 NCAA crowns (1977, 1980, 1988, 1990), is making its 14th NCAA Final Four appearance. USC is coming off a 5-set loss to UC Irvine in the MPSF Tournament semifinals (Troy led 2-0), snapping the Trojans' 18-match overall winning streak and 11-match home winning streak. This is the fourth time that USC has advanced to the NCAA Final Four coming off a loss (twice going on to win the NCAA title by defeating the team that gave them that loss, but falling last year to UC Santa Barbara in that scenario). USC has won 3 of its 5 all-time meetings against Lewis (the teams haven't played since 2008), 6 of its last 8 meetings against UC Irvine (but Troy lost 2 of the 3 matchups this year) and 18 of 24 all-time matches against Penn State (including a win in 2012). The Trojans' 23 victories in 2012 (17 by 3-0 sweeps) equal last season's victory total when USC advanced to the NCAA Final Four. Eleven current Trojans were members of USC's 2011 NCAA Final Four team (and 4 were on the 2009 NCAA squad). USC, coached by Bill Ferguson, is led by 2012 AVCA All-American first team outside hitter Tony Ciarelli, the MPSF Player of the Year who leads the nation in aces, AVCA Newcomer of the Year and MPSF Freshman of the Year Micah Christenson at setter, All-American second team picks Steven Shandrick at middle blocker and libero Henry Cassiday, as well as freshman middle blocker Robert Feathers, the nation's blocking leader. Like the Trojan men, USC's women also advanced to the NCAA Final Four the past 2 seasons.