Penn State wins first men's volleyball title in 14 years

Updated: May 4, 2008, 12:34 AM ET
Associated Press

IRVINE, Calif. -- Top-ranked Penn State won its first NCAA men's volleyball championship in 14 years, rallying for a 27-30, 33-31, 30-25, 30-23 victory over second-ranked Pepperdine on Saturday night.

"This replaces the 1972 Derry (Pa.) Little League championship for me," Nittany Lions coach Mark Pavlik said of his first NCAA title. "The strength this team had was singularity of purpose. They certainly played much better than I can coach.

"I think the standard has been set, certainly in our gym, and we're going to find a way to try to surpass that next year."

Matt Anderson had 29 kills for the Nittany Lions (30-1), who beat UCLA in 1994 for their last NCAA men's volleyball title. Anderson, the national co-player of the year, was selected the NCAA tournament's most valuable player.

"I'm awestruck with what just happened," Anderson said. "One of our attributes was our ability to fight in circumstances a lot of teams can't even deal with. We've faced deficits of eight, nine points and come back to win games."

Teammate Luke Murray added a career-high 12 digs, tied a season best with 63 assists and had nine block assists. Max Lipsitz had 17 kills, and Max Holt added 12 kills, nine block assists and two service aces.

Penn State also became the second school to win NCAA men's and women's titles in the same academic year. Stanford accomplished the feat in 1997.

Paul Carroll had 35 kills, eight digs and three aces for the Waves (17-11). J.D. Schleppenbach added 15 kills and four block assists, and Jonathan Winder passed for 60 assists.

Winder said that Penn State relied on its serving to make his teammates vulnerable to attacks at the middle of the net.

"Their serving was really good and it knocked us off the net," Winder said. "We didn't have success early and throughout the season, our middle blockers had to be good early."

The Nittany Lions lost the first game after taking a 15-7 lead, then saw Pepperdine rally from a 20-16 deficit for a 30-29 advantage in the second game. But with the score tied at 31, Ryan Sweitzer punched a kill and Anderson converted a tip for the win.

In the third game, Penn State used an 11-6 surge to take a 23-18 lead. Sweitzer had three kills and Holt added two in the run. The Nittany Lions took leads of 6-0 and 9-2 in the fourth game.

Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press