Top-seeded Penn State will play second-ranked Pepperdine for the NCAA’s men’s volleyball championship after each team won its semifinal match Thursday night at UC Irvine’s Bren Center.
Penn State beat Ohio State, three games to one, and Pepperdine swept Long Beach State in the nightcap, three games to none, to advance to the title game Saturday afternoon.
Pepperdine’s offense was led by Australia native Paul Carroll with 15 kills, followed by J.D. Schleppenbach with 14 and Cory Riecks with 12.
The Waves are trying for their sixth national volleyball title and their first since 2005.
Long Beach State’s Paul Lotman and Dean Bittner also scored kills in the double digits, but the team lost, 30-26, 30-21, 30-26.
Pepperdine had defeated UCLA, Long Beach State and BYU to win the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament and reach the final four. But the 49ers were still invited as the NCAA’s wild-card team.
In the opening match, Penn State’s front-line blocking -- led by sophomore Max Lipsitz -- proved too much for fourth-ranked Ohio State, which qualified for the final four by winning the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn. tournament last week.
The 6-foot-7 Lipsitz had a career-high 12 blocks in the overall match, either on his own or in tandem with teammates Ryan Sweitzer and 6-foot-10 junior Matt Anderson.
The blocks not only stymied several of the Buckeyes’ shots, it left them struggling to gain any offensive momentum.
Penn State Coach Mark Pavlik said that after his team got off to a sluggish start, “the blocks started to take control” of the match.
“Everyone who plays volleyball knows just blocking shots gets everyone fired up,” Lipsitz added.
Sweitzer and Anderson, meanwhile, also led Penn State’s offense with a combined 47 kills.
Senior Brett Versen led Ohio State’s losing effort with 13 kills, followed by junior Robbie Klein with 10. The Buckeyes reached the semifinals by winning the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn. tournament.
This is Penn State’s 23rd championship appearance, but it has won only one title, in 1994. The team lost to UC Irvine in a semifinal last year.