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Upstart Lewis Is UCLA Opponent

NCAA volleyball: Other semifinal at Pauley Pavilion tonight pits Hawaii against Penn State.


It's understandable that Lewis University is considered a longshot going into tonight's NCAA men's volleyball semifinals at Pauley Pavilion.

While traditional powers UCLA, Hawaii and Penn State are making their second consecutive appearances in the NCAA championship round, Lewis, of Romeoville, Ill., is a Division II school that has fielded a volleyball team for only three seasons.

"It's incredible and overwhelming to be here with three great programs," said Lewis Coach Dave Deuser, whose Flyers will play defending champion UCLA in the second game of tonight's doubleheader that begins with second-seeded Hawaii playing No. 3 Penn State at 5:30.

"Being that we started our program only three years ago, we did the best we could in scheduling really tough matches during the regular season."

Largely on the play of All-American middle blocker Chris Borden, Lewis (31-4) defeated Ball State and Ohio State in the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Assn. tournament to gain its first NCAA berth. The Flyers, however, will have their hands full against UCLA, which swept Lewis in three games in March and is 22-0 at home in NCAA tournament matches.

Under longtime Coach Al Scates, the Bruins are making their 19th appearance in the NCAA tournament and are looking for their 16th title. After graduating four starters from last year's team, which defeated Penn State in the championship match, UCLA won the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title last weekend in Hawaii and has a 24-5 record.

The Bruins are led by senior setter Stein Metzger, who was named co-player of the year by the American Volleyball Coaches Assn., and junior opposite hitter Paul Nihipali, who set a school record with 52 kills in UCLA's five-game victory over UC Santa Barbara in the MPSF championship match.

"It's good that we're playing our best ball of the year right now," said Scates, who has an 892-138 record in 34 years at UCLA. "Lewis is a great offensive team that I know will give a better showing against us than they did earlier this year."

With about 3,000 fans making the trip from Hawaii, the Rainbows (26-2) will be a crowd favorite in their rematch against Penn State (24-5). Hawaii defeated the Nittany Lions, 3-0, in the second match of the season and was rated the No. 1 team in the nation for most of the season until UC Santa Barbara upset the Rainbows in the MPSF semifinals last week.

Sophomore outside hitter Yuval Katz was the other co-player of the year with Metzger and is the player the Rainbows count on after leading the nation in kills at per game at 7.7.

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