Coach Mark Pavliks squad will seek Penn States second NCAA Championship on Saturday against No.2 UCLA. The Bruins (25-12) defeated third-seeded IPFW, 30-25, 30-23, 30-28 to win their 13th consecutive match. Penn State and UCLA will meet Saturday at 7:00 p.m. in Rec Hall and tickets are available by calling 800-863-3336. The contest will air on GoPSUsports.com and ESPN2.
Making its 21st national semifinal appearance, Penn State advanced to the national championship match for the first time since 1995, where the Lions fell to UCLA, 3-0. In 1994, the Nittany Lions stunned the volleyball world by defeating UCLA, 3-2, to win its first national championship. UCLA will be seeking its 19th national title.
The teams met once earlier this season, with UCLA capturing a 3-0 win on Jan. 19 in Honolulu.
UC Irvine ended its season with two consecutive losses, including a defeat to Long Beach State in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament semifinals.
Penn State need four game points in the first game, but Nate Meerstein connected for consecutive kills to give the Nittany Lions the opener at 32-30. Penn State rallied from an early 5-1 deficit after a timeout in game two to win 30-23 as the Nittany Lions put together a 7-1 spurt with the score tied at 14-all. UC Irvine came back from a 10-5 deficit in game three to win 33-31 on its third game point, along with saving a match point of its own at 29-28. Jablonksy hammered three consecutive kills with the Anteaters trailing 25-24 to push UC Irvine to a 30-27 victory in game four. Penn State, which never trailed in the fifth game, won the match 15-13 with an ace by Max Holt after the teams endured a 12-minute power failure at 14-13.
Matt Proper provided the Nittany Lions with 22 kills on a .452 attack percentage to go with 10 digs as part of a double-double. Meerstein finished the night with 13 kills on a .458 attack percentage, in addition to 13 blocks to move into third place all-time in Penn State history. Kevin Wentzel chipped in 12 kills, six digs and four blocks. Max Holt contributed 10 kills as part of a .467 night hitting, in addition to one huge ace to end the match. Dan ODell set the Nittany Lions to a .351 team attack percentage with 61 assists and six blocks.
Jayson Jablonsky and Matt Webber each totaled 20 kills for the Anteaters in the loss. Jablsonky hit .424 with three blocks on defense, while Webber added five digs and two blocks. Aaron Harrell provided UC Irvine 14 kills on .458 hitting to go with five blocks. David Smith chipped in 13 kills and six blocks. Brian Thornton chalked up a double-double of 62 assists and 11 digs as the Anteaters hit .319 as a team.
UCI took a 2-0 lead to start game one with a kill from Harrell and Jablonsky, but Penn State came back to tie it at 3-all on a kill from Proper and block by Meerstein and Wentzel. Penn State took a 6-5 lead after Meerstein and Proper connected for consecutive kills. The Nittany Lions earned a two-point advantage at 8-6 as Gutor downed a kill followed by a Meerstein ace. After trading points, Penn State upped the margin to three at 11-8 as Holt slammed a kill followed by a Jablonsky back-row attack that sailed long. UC Irvine came to within one at 11-10 as Gutors serve just missed the line and Webber nailed a kill. Meerstein was part of consecutive blocks with Wentzel and Proper to give the Nittany Lions a 14-11 lead. The Anteaters cut the deficit to 15-14 as Webber and Jablonsky provided kills, and Smith aced the Penn State defense to tie the game. UC Irvine regained the lead on a Gutor attack error as part of a 4-0 run, forcing Penn State to call a time out down 16-15. Harrell turned in a kill followed by a block solo from Jablonsky to give the Anteaters an 18-16 lead. Penn State tied the game back up at 18-all on kills from Holt and Proper. Gutor continued the three-point run with a kill to force UC Irvine into its second timeout down 19-18. Gutor gave Penn State a 22-20 lead with a kill after the Anteaters committed a service error. UC Irvine tied the game at 22-all as Webber turned in consecutive kills. The Nittany Lions went back up by two at 24-22 as Meerstein collected back-to-back kills. Jablonsky tied the game at 24-all with a kill after a Proper service error. Gutor broke the tie with a kill and Wentzel nailed a kill to put Penn State back up 26-24. Holt tallied a cross-court kill to put Penn State up 28-26. Gutor took an off-balance attack and found the court for a kill at 29-27. Webber saved game point with a kill to cut the gap to 29-28, then tied it at 29-all on a net violation by Proper prompting Penn State to call timeout. Proper gave Penn State game point with a kill, but UC Irvine saved its third game point with a Holt service error. Penn State went up 31-30 with a Meerstein kill, then he followed it up with another kill for the game winner at 32-30. Gutor led the Nittany Lions with seven kills in the first game, while Meerstein added six kills and three blocks. Webber totaled eight kills for the Anteaters, while Jablonsky charted six kills. Penn State hit .415 in the game, but UC Irvine hit just better at .444.
Like game one, UC Irvine open up with a 2-0 lead with consecutive kills from Smith. Webber added a kill down the line to give the Anteaters a 3-0 lead. UC Irvine upped the lead to 5-1 with a Smith kill and Holt attack error prompting Penn State to call an early timeout. The Nittany Lions cut into the lead at 6-4 as Meerstein nailed the line for a kill after an Anteater service error. Penn State continued to narrow the deficit to 7-6 as Proper pounded a kill followed by a Thornton ball handling error. Proper connected for a kill, then Wentzel tied it at 11-all with a kill off a free-ball. Penn State took its first lead of game two at 14-13 after a UC Irvine back row attack error and Wentzel kill. Wentzel followed up an Anteater service error with a ace to build Penn States lead to 16-14. After a UC Irvine timeout, ODell and Meerstein teamed for a block followed by another Meerstein block to lift the Penn State lead to an 18-14 lead prompting the Anteaters to call a second quick timeout down by four. Wentzel ripped an ace down the line to continue a 5-0 run to give Penn State a 19-14 lead. The Nittany Lions upped the lead to six points at 21-15 as Proper downed a kill followed by an Anteater attack error. Gutor sliced a kill through the defense followed another UC Irvine attack error to put Penn State up 23-16. Harrell scored consecutive points with a block solo and overpass kill to narrow the deficit to 25-20. Proper punched a kill followed by a block from Meerestein and Matt Anderson to give Penn State a 28-21 lead. Gutor gave Penn State its first game point of game two with a kill, but UC Irvine saved it with a service error. However, Gutor ended it on the Nittany Lions second opportunity with a kill at 30-23. Proper tallied six kills on seven swings in game two as the Nittany Lions hit .345 in the game. Gutor followed with three kills. UC Irvine was held to a .227 attack percentage in the second game. Webber had three kills in the second game, while Harrell had two block solos.
Wentzel tallied a kill and ace on consecutive plays to give Penn State a 6-5 lead in game three. ODell and Meerstein followed with a block and Jablonsky attacked into the antenna as part of a 4-0 Penn State run to up the lead to 8-5 leading to an Anteater timeout. Out of the timeout, ODell and Meerstein teamed for another block to put the score at 9-5. ODell continued the pressure with an overpass kill to up the lead to 10-5. Jablonsky ended the 6-0 run with a kill and service ace, then UC Irvine added a third straight point on a Proper attack error to put the score at 10-8. After a Penn State timeout, Harrell extended the Anteater scoring streak to five points with two kills to tie the game at 10-all. Jablonsky added an ace to give UC Irvine the lead back at 11-10. Wentzel took a busted play and converted a kill to put Penn State back up 12-11. UC Irvine returned to the lead at 13-12 with a Webber kill and tandem block from Webber and Smith. The Anteaters took a two-point lead at 15-13 as Smith turned in a kill followed by a Proper service error. Penn State tied it at 15-all as Proper provided a kill followed by a back-row attack error on the Anteaters. Wentzel punched a kill and tag-teamed with Meerstein for a block to put Penn State back in the lead at 18-17. Jablonsky attacked long on the following rally to send Penn State up by two at 19-17. After a UC Irvine timeout, Proper served into the net and Webber tied it at 19-all with a kill. Penn State promptly gained the two-point lead back at 21-19 with a Proper kill and block from Meerstein. After a Jablonsky kill to narrow the lead back to one at 22-21, ODell took the second contact for a kill and 23-21 advantage. Webber and Smith tallied back-to-back ties for the 14th tie of game three at 23-all. Jablonsky and Smith combined for a block followed by a Penn State attack error to lift UC Irvine into a 26-25 advantage. Wentzel recorded a kill out of a Penn State timeout to tie it at 26-all, then UC Irvine was called for four hit putting the Nittany Lions back in the lead at 27-26. Meerestein slammed a kill down the middle to put Penn State up 28-27 after a Proper service error. Meerstein hammered a kill down the middle to put Penn State at match-point 29-28, but followed up with a service error. Steffin Rangel punched home a kill to give UC Irvine game point at 30-29, but Holt saved it with a kill. Webber powered home a kill to give UC Irvine its third game point. The Anteaters finished the game at 33-31 on a block from Thornton and Smith. Jablonsky and Webber each totaled four kills in the third game as the Anteaters hit .189 as a team. Penn State was led by Propers four kills in the third game, while Meerstein provided five blocks. The Nittany Lions attacked at a .273 clip as a team.
Penn State jumped to a quick 3-0 lead to start game four with a Meerstein kill and Gutor block solo. However, UC Irvine recovered with a 4-0 run including kills from Smith, Thornton and Rangel to put the Anteaters up 4-3. UC Irvine upped its lead to two points at 6-4 following a Meerstein attack error and Rangel ace. Penn State quickly tied it at 6-all following a timeout as the Nittany Lions gained points on two Anteater errors. UC Irvine turned the tide with a two-point run to go up 8-6 started by a Smith kill. Meerstein followed a UCI service error with a block to tie the fourth game at 10-all. Penn State regained the lead at 12-11 after Proper won two jousts at the net for kills. ODell and Meerstein combined for a block to push the Nittany Lion advantage to 13-11 leading to the Anteaters first time out. Penn State increased its lead to three points at 16-13 after Anderson nailed a kill and block with Holt. UC Irvine cut the deficit to 16-15 on a Jablonsky kill and ball handling error on the Nittany Lions. The Anteaters tied the game at 17-all after Harrell and Jablonsky contributed successive kills. UC Irvine took the lead at 21-20 through the service game as Wentzel served into the net and Webber landed an ace. The Anteaters inched the lead to two points at 22-20 after Thornton took the second contact for a kill, which resulted in Penn States second time out. Webber tagged a kill followed by a block from Thornton and Smith to put UC Irvine ahead 24-21. Holt turned the tide with a kill and Gutor tipped a kill on an overpass to close to within 24-23. Wentzel added a third straight point with a kill to knot the fourth game at 24-all leading to the Anteaters final timeout. Penn State took the lead at 25-24 on its fourth straight, a Jablonsky attack error. Jablonsky came back with three consecutive kills to put UC Irvine back in the lead at 27-25. Proper snapped the Anteater 3-0 run with a kill down the line, cutting the margin to 27-26. Webber pounded a kill off the Penn State defense to give the Anteaters two game points at 29-27. Harrell promptly ended the game with a kill at 30-27. UC Irvine hit .324 in the fourth game to the Nittany Lions .312 mark. Jablonsky tallied seven kills on 12 attacks in the period, while Webber added three kills. Proper led the Nittany Lions with six kills.
Penn State bolted to a 2-0 advantage in the deciding fifth game with a kill by Gutor and ace from Wentzel. UC Irvine tied the game quckly at 2-all as Jablonsky slammed a kill and Thornton and Smith combined for a block. Penn State traded for two points as Gutor pounded a kill from the left side, followed by a Webber attack that sailed just long for a Penn State 4-2 lead. Penn State took a 6-4 lead on a call questioned by UC Irvine for a back row block. The Anteaters tied the game at 6-all with a block from Webber and Harrell. Penn State reached the mid-way point first at 8-6 after Proper and Wentzel provided the Nittany Lions with consecutive kills. Penn State continued to hold a two-point lead as Meerstein powered a kill out of the middle. Rangel cut the deficit to one at 11-10 with a kill, but committed a service error to put Penn State back up 12-10. UC Irvine tied the game at 12-all as Smith sliced a kill followed by an ace to knot it up. Penn State went up 13-12 on a Smith service error out of a Nittany Lion timeout. Penn State gained the first match point of the fifth game at 14-13 with a Holt kill deep in the right corner. Due to a limited power failure in the arena during a UC Irvine timeout at 14-13, the game was delayed for 13 minutes. Once the referees gave the go-ahead to continue play, the match lasted just a couple seconds as Holt launched a serve that was unable to be handled by the Anteaters.