Pepperdine Rally Falls Short in MPSF Final


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IRVINE, Calif. - After recovering from a 2-0 deficit, the #2 Pepperdine men's volleyball team had a couple of chances to win its second consecutive Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament title, but #4 USC was able to hold on for a marathon five-game victory (30-23, 30-25, 20-30, 26-30, 21-19) in the championship match at the Bren Events Center on Saturday night.


USC (20-10) claims the MPSF's automatic berth to next week's four-team NCAA Championships. Pepperdine (22-5) and #1 UC Irvine are the top candidates for the lone at-large berth. Penn State and Ohio State won their respective conference tournaments on Saturday. The NCAA selection show will be tomorrow (Sunday, May 3) between 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. on ESPNews.


Senior opposite Paul Carroll (Forster, Australia), the MPSF Player of the Year who went through graduation on the Malibu campus earlier today, tied his own school single-match record for kills in the rally-scoring era with 37. He had nearly half of Pepperdine's team total of 76 kills.


Sophomore middle blocker Tyler Jaynes (Granite Bay, Calif./Granite Bay HS) was the only other Wave in double-figures with 12 kills and a .611 hitting percentage (12-1-18). Sophomore setter Kasey Crider (Granite Bay, Calif./Granite Bay HS) had 67 assists and 13 digs. The Waves finished with advantages of .349-.316 in hitting and 16.0-12.0 in blocks yet still lost.


USC got 23 kills from Murphy Troy, and he was one of five players in double-figures. Setter Riley McKibbin had 68 assists and 14 digs.


Pepperdine had beaten USC in the previous two meetings this season, including a five-game thriller in the Galen Center, but the fifth-seeded Trojans ended up making the exact same run that the Waves did in winning the 2008 MPSF title. Both squads beat the #4 and #1 teams on the road and the #2 team on a neutral court in the final.


A disastrous first game put the Waves into a hole quickly. The Trojans scored the first six points, four on Wave hitting errors. USC scored a point with its next three servers to increase the lead to 12-3. Later, a 3-0 run pushed the lead to 26-14. Only then did the Waves come alive, scoring points on their serve for the first time as Carroll nailed three service aces along with a kill as part of 7-0 run, cutting the Trojans' lead to 26-21. Still, the deficit was too great and USC's Tony Ciarelli eventually ended the game with a kill. The Waves had 14 kills but 10 hitting errors for a .125 hitting percentage, while the Trojans hit .400.


The second game didn't go any better, as the Trojans jumped out to leads of 3-1, 6-2, 8-3 and 12-5. Pepperdine got no closer than four points the rest of the way. The Waves' hitting rose to .300, but USC was at .385 and had eight more kills (21-13). USC's Troy had eight kills in the second game.


Although USC led for much of the first half of game three by as many as three points, Carroll was nearly a one-man show in turning Pepperdine's fortunes around. With the Waves down 14-12, he had a solo block and a kill to tie the score. After a Trojan point, Carroll had a kill, then combined with Jaynes on a block and followed with another kill to put the Waves up 17-15. Jaynes then had a kill to give the Waves a three-point lead. Later, senior outside hitter Matt McKee (Aurora, Ill./Aurora West HS) had two kills in a 6-0 run to make the score 27-18. Jaynes eventually ended the game with a kill. Pepperdine upped its hitting to .429, with Carroll notching eight kills, while holding USC to .065 hitting.


Pepperdine carried the momentum into the fourth game, though only for a while. The Waves took an early 6-3 lead and built their biggest lead of six points at 20-14. The Trojans didn't fold, however, and came back to tie the game at 23. After a Carroll kill gave Pepperdine back the lead, Jaynes turned out to be the key figure in helping the Waves send the match to a fifth game. On the next point, Jaynes combined on a block with McKee. He also had kills to make the score 26-24 and 27-25, and then teamed with junior outside hitter Brent Schirripa (Los Angeles, Calif./Crespi Carmelite HS) on a block to make the score 28-25. After a service error, the Waves ended the game on a kill by Carroll and a USC hitting error. Carroll had another big game, collecting nine kills as the Pepperdine outhit USC, .531 to .333.


The fifth game saw 11 ties and seven lead changes - as many or more than the previous four games combined. USC took early leads of 4-2 and 8-5, but Carroll brought Pepperdine back and eventually tied the game at 11 with a kill. Schirripa had a kill to make it 12-11, but USC scored the next two points to go back ahead 13-12. As the match progressed past 15, the Waves fought off the first four match points, and had two of their own, before the Trojans prevailed. The Waves served for the match at 21-19, but USC's Troy had a kill. A Wave attack error gave the Trojans the advantage again, and on the next point, Ciarelli's short serve fell in front of a couple of diving defenders. USC outhit Pepperdine .407-.367 in the fifth game, though Carroll collected 10 more kills.


The Waves were making their fourth appearance in the MPSF final in five years. They were aiming for their fifth tournament title.

courtesy Pepperdine athletics

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