Penn State Men's Volleyball Falls to Hawaii in Four Games to End Season
STATE COLLEGE, Penn. (May 2, 2002) ¨C Normally playing in front of 5,000-plus fans at home, Hawai¡¯i needed to adjust to a hostile sellout crowd of 5,259 fans (5,157 seating capacity with 102 standing room only crowd) against Penn State in the semifinal round of the NCAA Men¡¯s Volleyball Championship Tournament. The Warriors fended off Penn State and its crowd with a 30-26, 27-30, 35-33, 30-27 victory to advance to the NCAA Tournament championship against top-seed Pepperdine.
Pepperdine and Hawai¡¯i squared off for the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title last Saturday with the Waves winning in four games.
The championship match will be played on Saturday, May 4, at Penn State¡¯s Rec Hall. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN2 at 7 p.m. ET.
¡°Obviously that was not very easy,¡± Hawai¡¯i Head Coach Mike Wilton said. ¡°I felt like we had the match pretty much in hand after game one and into game two and that was not the outcome.¡±
Costas Theocharidis turned in a team-high 25 kills for Hawai¡¯i and added seven blocks and four digs. Miladinovic, with just four kills offensively, made an impact on defense with 12 blocks. Delano Thomas chipped in 12 kills on 17 attacks for the Warriors, in addition to seven blocks. Eyal Zimet hammered nine kills with six blocks.
Carlos Guerra charted a match-high 28 kills in the losing effort, while four other Nittany Lions recorded 10 or more kills. Zach Slenker and Zeljko Koljesar each tallied 13 kills, followed by Norman Keil and Jason Hawkins¡¯ 10 kills.
Penn State held a 19-kill advantage over Hawai¡¯i (78-59), but the Warriors built its advantage at the net with 24.5 team blocks (33 Nittany Lion hitting errors). Penn State also committed 22 service errors.
Hawai¡¯i (23-8), the at-large berth in the tournament and seeded second, will play in its second title match after losing in 1996. The Warriors only other trip to the NCAA Tournament resulted in a first-round loss in 1995. Penn State was playing in its 11th NCAA Tournament in the last 12 seasons.
Penn State is the first team to host and participate in the same NCAA Tournament since UCLA won the event at home in 1997.
¡°I think Hawai¡¯i controlled our offense tonight,¡± Penn State Head Coach Mark Pavlik said. ¡°They played like champions. They are in a good situation to win their first championship.¡±
The Warriors held a 28-23 lead in game one, but Penn State pulled to within two at 28-26 on a 3-0 run. Hawai¡¯i withstood the challenge with consecutive points to win game one 30-26. Theocharidis placed six kills on the scoreboard in game one as five different Warriors produced kills. Guerra paced the Nittany Lion attack with eight first-game kills.
Hawai¡¯i gained an early 5-3 lead in the second game, and Penn State did not score consecutive points until down 12-7. Those two points ignited the Nittany Lion offense to a 10-5 run to knot the game at 17-17. Included in that spurt was a 4-0 spurt behind the service of Nate Matthews, who tallied one of the points on an ace. Penn State took its first lead at 21-20 and did not give up the advantage until the Warriors scored back-to-back points to go up 27-26. Following a Nittany Lion timeout, Hawai¡¯i served long to tie the score at 27-27. The Warriors misplayed the ensuing serve resulting in a bad set and attack into the net giving Penn State game point at 29-27. After Hawai¡¯i burned its second time, Guerra ended the game at 30-27 on a deep kill to the left corner. Penn State tallied 18 kills in game two for a .268 hitting percentage.
The Warriors used a 3-0 run in game three to overcome a 10-9 deficit and go up 12-10. Hawai¡¯i maintained the lead with the teams trading the next six points. The Warriors increased the gap to three points at 16-13. Penn State closed back within one at 17-16. The Lions put together a 3-0 run to take a 24-23 advantage, its first lead since 10-9. Penn State took a 28-26 lead on successive Koljesar kills. After the teams traded service errors, Penn State¡¯s first game point of the third game was foiled by a block from Theocharidis. The Lions missed two other opportunities for the game before Hawai¡¯i picked up its first game point. The Warriors converted its third game-point opportunity to win 35-33 on block assists from Zimet and Thomas.
¡°I don¡¯t think we executed well,¡± Pavlik said of the final stretch in game three. ¡°It was a match of streaks. No lead was safe. Whoever had the last streak in each game won.¡±
Penn State jumped out to leads of 9-6 and 12-9 behind the offense of Slenker, who had three early kills in game four. The Warriors rallied back on a 7-0 run on Jose Delgado¡¯s serve to take a 16-12 advantage. Zimet and Thomas teamed up at the net to ignite the spurt with back-to-back block assists. The Nittany Lions battled back to tie the game at 21-21 on successive Warrior hitting errors. Slenker followed with a service ace to give Penn State its fourth straight point, a 22-21 lead and brought the standing-room-only crowd back into the match. Hawai¡¯i gained a 23-22 lead on a kill and block solo from Theocharidis. After splitting the next four rallies, the Warriors picked up a 26-24 advantage following a Miladinovic and Theocharidis combination block. Hawai¡¯i scored the next point when Miladinovic and Daniel Rasay combined for a block. Koljesar stopped the bleeding with a kill, but it was not enough. Hawai¡¯i ended the match with a 30-27 win in game four. Miladinovic tallied three blocks in the final four Warrior points.
¡°Dejan led with his experience down the stretch,¡± Wilton said. ¡°Also during that stretch, Jose (Delgado) made some great float serves.¡±
¡°When somebody, anybody makes a good play, it brings the level of play of everybody up,¡± Miladinovic said. ¡°I have much respect for Carlos, we have been friends for a while,¡± Miladinovic said. ¡°I think Carlos got a little tired down the stretch, and we took advantage of that.¡±
Also making solid contributions down the stretch was Rasay, who tallied 21 assists in the final two games.
¡°We brought (Daniel) Rasay into the game (to set), and then we were able to focus more on defense after that,¡± Wilton said.
¡°We made the plays we had to,¡± Wilton said of warding off the game points in game three.
Despite the four-game loss, Penn State had its chances to win games three and four after evening the match up at one game apiece.
¡°We had our chances tonight,¡± Quinones said. ¡°Personally, I know I have had better matches.¡±
¡°All these people came to watch us win, and losing sucks,¡± Slenker said. ¡°When losing at home makes it worse.¡±
¡°I tried to put the team on my shoulders, and could not do it in the end,¡± Guerra said.