COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL NCAA MEN'S CHAMPIONSHIPS : Tradition, Home Court Favor the Bruins

TIMES STAFF WRITER

For the first time in four years, UCLA men's volleyball Coach Al Scates returns to the NCAA Final Four, which bodes ill for the three other teams at the event, beginning tonight at Pauley Pavilion.

Second-seeded Cal State Northridge (22-9) will play third-seeded Penn State (20-4) at 6 p.m., and top-seeded UCLA (22-3) will play fourth-seeded Ohio State (28-8) at 8 in the semifinals.

If UCLA volleyball tradition--which was built by Scates--runs true to form, the top-ranked Bruins will win the national championship Saturday night.

Scates' teams have won a record 13 NCAA championships during his 30 years as coach. What's more, he is 20-0 in NCAA tournament matches in Pauley Pavilion, having won seven of his national championships there.

But the Bruins did not advance to the Final Four the last three years, the longest stretch Scates has gone without winning a national championship.

"Hell, I'm nervous," Scates said. "I haven't been here for so long I forgot what it's like."

The Bruins did not play either the 13th-ranked Buckeyes or the 10th-ranked Nittany Lions during the regular season but were 2-0 against the fourth-ranked Matadors, whom they are expected to meet again in Saturday's final.

UCLA has a veteran team and won the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship by defeating Stanford on April 28 to advance to the Final Four.

The Bruins are led by their tall middle blockers, whose average height is 6 feet 7. Also, sophomore quick hitter Jeff Nygaard leads the Bruins with 302 kills and ranks third in the nation with a hitting percentage of .486.

Northridge earned the West Region's at-large berth by defeating Cal State Long Beach in the final of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament last Saturday.

It is the first time in the program's 17-year history that the Matadors have advanced to the Final Four.

Penn State got here by defeating George Mason in the final of the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn. tournament. The Nittany Lions are making their ninth appearance.

Ohio State upset eighth-ranked Indiana-Purdue Ft. Wayne in the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn. tournament final April 24 to make the Final Four. The Buckeyes are making their 11th appearance in the semifinals.

The only non-Southern California teams to compete in an NCAA final are Ohio State, Penn State and Stanford, and no team outside Southern California has won the title.

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