Penn State Men's Volleyball Falls to BYU in NCAA Semifinal
LONG BEACH, Calif. (May 1, 2003) - Brigham Young (23-6) used a balanced offensive attack with four players in double-figure kills as the top-seeded Cougars defeated fourth-seed Penn State (26-6) 36-34, 30-25, 28-30, 30-26 in the semifinal round of the NCAA National Collegiate Men?s Volleyball Championship at Long Beach, Calif., on May 1. The match was played in front of a crowd of 3,622 at Long Beach State University.
Brigham Young (23-6) will face Lewis in the championship match as the Flyers defeated second-seed Pepperdine 30-27, 29-31, 30-27, 25-30, 15-13 in the first semifinal. The Cougars have won four straight matches after losing its regular season finale against Pepperdine.
Jonathan Alleman recorded a team-high 17 kills to go with 10 digs for a double-double in the Cougar victory. Michael Burke added 16 kills, a .538 hitting percentage and five blocks for BYU. Rafael Paal chipped in 15 kills, followed by Jaime Mayol?s 11 kills. BYU setter Carlos Moreno assisted on 62 of the Cougar?s 72 kills.
Carlos Guerra punched down a match-high 19 kills to lead Penn State, while Zach Slenker added 14 kills. Keith Kowal tallied 11 kills for the Nittany Lions, and Norman Keil chipped in 10 kills and seven blocks.
BYU held an a slight advantage in team hitting percentage, .353 to .338. However, the Cougar serve netted a 16-5 margin in aces.
BYU weathered three PSU game points in the first game to wind up winning 36-34. The Cougars erupted early to a 10-6 advantage in game two and cruised to a 30-25 victory and a 2-0 lead. Penn State overcame a 5-0 Cougar run and extended the match by winning game three 30-28. BYU ended the contest with a 30-26 victory in game four as it never trailed after taking a 14-13 lead.
BYU rolled to a 10-6 lead in the early going of game one after scoring three straight points. After trailing 15-11, Penn State got right back into the game by scoring five of the next six points to tie it at 16-16. The Nittany Lions took their first lead at 18-17 on a service ace by Koljesar. Penn State increased the lead to two points at 20-18 on a Slenker kill. The Cougars rebounded with consecutive kills by Alleman and Paal to tie it at 23-all. BYU regained the lead at 26-25 following another Paal kill and Penn State hitting error. Paal extended the lead to 27-25 on an ace, only to see Penn State come back to tie it at 27-27 on kills by Kowal and Slenker. BYU earned the first game point and 29-28 lead on a Burke kill, but Slenker tied it back up at 29-all. Penn State gained a game point at 32-31 after consecutive kills from Guerra and Slenker. BYU regained the point differential on a Mayol kill and Gorny ace to go up 35-34. Burke and Mayol ended the game on a block at 36-34.
The Cougars saved three game points in the opener and won it on its fourth game point. The first game witness six lead changes and 15 ties. Mayol and Paal led the BYU attack with six kills each as the Cougars attacked at a .590 percentage as a team. Slenker and Kowal each put down six kills in the first game.
BYU received the first two-point cushion in the second game at 6-4 following Moreno?s ace. The Cougars bumped the advantage to three following an ace by Paal at 8-5. Through the first 10 points (10-6) of the second game, BYU was credited with three aces by three different players. The Cougars continued to open up the game by scoring four of the next five points for a 16-11 advantage. Penn State was able to whittle its deficit to three at 19-16, but Alleman promptly pounded a kill and served an ace to bring the Cougar advantage to 21-16. The Nittany Lions responded with three straight points, cutting the margin to 21-19 behind a Nate Matthews ace and Guerra kill. Burke ended the immediate bleeding with a kill, pushing the Cougar advantage up to 22-19. BYU built a four-point lead at 24-20 following Gorny and Paal combining on a block. The Nittany Lions got as close as two points at 27-25 down the stretch, but the Cougars closed the game on a three-point run for a 30-25 win.
Alleman totaled seven kills in the third game for BYU, which hit .414 in the period with four aces. Guerra led Penn State with five kills in the second game.
After the score was tied 4-4 in the third, BYU reeled off four unanswered points to take an 8-4 lead. At 10-6, Penn State answered the call with a 6-1 spurt to take the lead at 12-11. Like the Nittany Lions, BYU moved the momentum back to its side with a 5-0 run and a 16-12 advantage. Penn State pulled to within one at 16-15 on kills by Slenker and Guerra followed by a BYU hitting error. Keil produced a block solo to tie the game at 18-all. After trading points, the Cougars were able to score back-to-back points on kills by Gorny and Mayol for a 22-20 lead. Penn State piled up four straight points, thanks to three BYU hitting errors, to re-take the lead at 24-22. The Nittany Lions managed to increase it margin to three at 28-25 with a kill by Keil and a BYU hitting error. Guerra ended the game at 30-28 on the Nittany Lions? third game.
Guerra finished the third game with five kills. Penn State hit .303 as a team and produced 4.5 team blocks. BYU?s Burke tallied four kills in the game as the Cougars were limited to a .182 hitting percentage.
Penn State took a 9-6 lead in the fourth game, only to see BYU challenge with kills from Alleman and Paal to close to 9-8. The Nittany Lions regained its three-point cushion at 11-8, only to see BYU take an immediate 12-11 lead on a 4-0 run behind the serving of Mayol. After PSU took a brief 13-12 lead, BYU took a 16-13 advantage on a 4-0 run. The Cougars increased the margin to four points at 19-15 following a block by Gorny and Paal. After two PSU points cut the margin to 19-17, BYU rattled off two points of its own for a 21-17 four-point lead. Again, the Nittany Lions put back-to-back points on the board to close to within two, only to see Alleman knock down a kill and Paal serve an ace for a 23-19 advantage. Penn State could not come closer than three points the rest of the way as BYU won 30-26.
Alleman and Luka Slabe tallied four kills in the fourth game. BYU was credited with seven of its 16 service aces of the match in the fourth game to offset a .200 hitting percentage. Guerra recorded seven kills in the fourth game as PSU hit .333 as a team.
BYU earned the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation?s automatic bid into the NCAA tournament by virtue of winning the league?s tournament. The Cougars defeated previous top-ranked Pepperdine and second-ranked Hawai?i in the MPSF Tournament. Penn State claimed its 15th Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association title for an automatic entry into this week?s NCAA tournament.
The two teams have been intertwined in the past and the present. Not only did BYU and Penn State split a pair of matches at BYU this year on March 7-8, but the coaches of the programs share a major tie to one another. BYU Head Coach Tom Peterson led Penn State to a national title in 1994 while current PSU Head Coach Mark Pavlik served as an assistant. Penn State is the only school east of the Rocky Mountains to have won a NCAA National Collegiate Men?s Volleyball championship in the 34-year history of the event. The Nittany Lions have not returned to the championship match since losing to UCLA in the 1995 finals.
BYU has earned trips to the NCAA Tournament on two other occasions, 1999 and 2001. In all three BYU NCAA post-season appearances, the Cougars have defeated Penn State in four games in the semifinal round, the first two en route to claiming the national championship. In the all-time series, though, Penn State leads the BYU 8-4 with three of the wins coming in the NCAA tournament. Meanwhile, Penn State reached the NCAA tournament for the fifth straight season and 18th time overall.
The BYU-Penn State match will be broadcast on ESPN2 on May 2 at 2:00 p.m. ET.
By Bill Kauffman, AVCA