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Mens Volleyball beats Penn St. advances to the finals

USC's Tony Ciarelli gets the ball past the defense of Penn State's Will Price on Thursday, May 7, during the NCAA men's volleyball championships in Provo. (Paul Fraughton | The Salt Lake Tribune)

So, I shut the match off against PSU after SC loses the first game. I really thought that outside of PSU's service errors they looked like they had the more complete game. Imagine my surprise whe I woke up this morning to see that USC came back and won the next 3 games to get to the finals on Saturday night!

From the Salt Lake Tribune

Coming into the NCAA Men's Volleyball Championships, USC had beaten the likes of Stanford, UC Irvine and Pepperdine, all higher ranked teams, sometimes coming from behind for the victory.

"All that was left was the defending national champion," USC coach Bill Ferguson said.

Thursday night in the Smith Fieldhouse, the Trojans, as they have for much of their late-season run just to get into the national semifinal, again started from behind. The match, however, finished the way of all the others.

In the end it was third-seeded USC celebrating a four-game upset victory against the second seed and defending champions Penn State, 27-30, 30-26, 30-26 and 30-24.

Again, I really thought that PSU was playing the better the game. They were skying for the smash and having a relatively easy time blocking SC at the net so I figured that as the defending National Champs, PSU had the edge in dealing with the pressure and was playing like they didn't have a care in the world.

But SC playing some stellar defense and they were digging the ball out and they took the momentum and ran with it.

"On this run we've dug balls and slowed down the ball at the net," Ferguson said. "We've been doing those things at the right time."

While Ferguson praised his defense, the Trojans offense was white hot. Sophomore Murphy Troy pounded 24 kills with just two errors, hitting .595, and freshman Tony Ciarelli added 19 kills. As a team, the Trojans finished with a season-best .484 hitting percentage.

"Momentum is a huge part of volleyball," Troy said. "When we went down 1-0, Penn State had all the momentum. But through this playoff run we've gotten through adversity. We're battle tested."

Penn State (27-4) hit .483 in Game 1, taking control when Will Price scored two kills and an ace for a 19-17 advantage. Max Holt and Ryan Sweitzer teamed up for a block at game point for the 30-27 win.

"We struggled in the first game but we were confident we would come back," USC setter Riley McKibbin said. "We got into a rhythm and started spreading the offense around."

USC hit a sizzling .667 with just one attack error in Game 2. The Trojans made several of what Ferguson called "those funky plays," winning key points on several long rallies. McKibbin made a huge play at the net against a much taller Penn State player to keep the ball alive and Austin Zahn ended the rally with a kill, giving USC a 22-19 lead. Hunter Current killed an overpass at game point for the 30-26 victory.

And they rolled from there.

So, now SC has to face the team they beat to get to the final four...#1 seed UC Irvine. This will be a real tough match but its not like they don't know what the Anteaters are going to throw at them.

They have already shown that the can beat these guys so they just have to focus on their game.

We'll have the game thread up tomorrow afternoon.