Aztecs' Volleyball Victory a Top 10 Hit?

TIMES STAFF WRITER

They're going to have to drop ASICS out of this thing and just refer to it as the WIVA tournament.

All four teams that advanced to the semifinals of the ASICS Grand Prix volleyball tournament, after all, were Western Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn. teams: San Diego State, Hawaii, Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara.

Of those four, only San Diego State is not ranked in the top 10.

Not now, anyway.

The Aztecs may move up from their current ranking of 12th after their showing in the ASICS.

SDSU not only made it to the championship game, but once there pulled off a 10-15, 15-8, 15-11, 16-14 victory over No. 4 Long Beach State. It was the first time in the last nine matches between the two teams that the SDSU came out on top.

It wasn't easy.

The Aztecs held the lead in the fourth game from the very beginning--until, that is, Long Beach tied it at 10-10. But with the Aztecs still up, 9-7, a controversial officiating call seemed to deflate the Aztecs. One referee over-ruled another after the point had already been awarded to the Aztecs.

On the play, Aztec Sean Clark spiked a ball over the end line, but the corner official ruled that the ball had been touched by Long Beach's Robert Kutsch, who went up at the net in an attempt to block the ball.

The side official, however, overturned that ruling after Long Beach players voiced their complaints.

Instead of putting the Aztecs up, 10-7, the 49ers had the ball--and the momentum. They scored five of the next six points to forge a 12-10 lead.

But the 49ers could not sustain the drive and the Aztecs came back to take six of the last eight points.

The third game saw the lead change five times before the Aztecs scored the last five points of the game. Two key points in the run came via service aces, one by Tagore Evans--the tournament's most valuable player--and Douglas Potter.

The Aztecs' kills were beginning to find the floor in the second game. One reason, why, perhaps, was that Mark Kerins, the 49ers' 6-foot-4 outside hitter whom many consider the top player in the WIVA, had to leave the match.

Kerins only played in two tournament matches before the championship. It was the first action he had seen in two months because of a stress fracture in his left leg.

In the match's first game, the 49ers jumped out to a 8-0 lead as the Aztecs had trouble getting their kills past Long Beach.

Two consecutive service aces by Mike Mattarocci made it 8-2, and after that the 49ers let the Aztecs back into the match by committing 5 service errors.

That Long Beach State made it to the finals was somewhat of a surprise. The 49ers had to beat No. 3 Hawaii, which was favored to win its second ASICS championship, in the semifinals, 16-14, 15-12, 2-15, 7-15, 15-9, in the women's gym at SDSU.

A mild upset, to be sure, but nothing compared to what was going on concurrently at Peterson Gym in the other semifinal. There the Aztecs were busy working on their second victory over a top-10 team in the tournament. This time the victim was No. 8 Santa Barbara (the Aztecs had previously beaten No. 6 Ball State).

It took five games, but the Aztecs prevailed, 15-8, 15-9, 4-15, 5-15, 15-13, despite making things difficult for themselves in games three and four when Coach Jack Henn decided to rest some regulars and see what a couple bench players could do.

The substitutions ruined the Aztecs' chemistry and put USCSB back into the match.

"We fell apart," said Douglas Moreland, who finished with a match-high 29 kills and a .491 hitting percentage. "That's exactly it."

The Aztecs also seemed to have a psychological block.

"We haven't been put in that situation (up 2-0) much," Henn said. "And we just waited for the other team to lose instead of going out to win."

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