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UCLA Pulls Off Another Stunner

April 30, 2006|Martin Henderson | Times Staff Writer

UCLA's string of upsets continued Saturday at UC Irvine, where the men's volleyball team beat its third consecutive opponent ranked third or higher nationally.

The fifth-ranked Bruins, who finished seventh in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, won their 25th conference title by winning their 12th consecutive match, beating second-ranked Long Beach State, 24-30, 30-28, 30-23, 30-24.

It assured the Bruins (24-12) of a shot at a 19th NCAA title beginning Thursday at State College, Pa., where Eastern champion Penn State (20-8), ranked 11th, will play host to the Final Four. Also included is Midwestern champion Indiana Purdue Fort Wayne (23-6), ranked 10th.

The one at-large berth will be announced today at 1 p.m. The decision should come down to UC Irvine (27-4), which had been No. 1 in the nation for seven weeks, or Long Beach State (23-10), which beat Irvine in three games Thursday.

Norm Hutton had 27 kills for the 49ers. Paul George and Steve Klosterman had 16 kills apiece, and Nick Scheftic had 13 for UCLA.

The match turned for the Bruins late in the second game. Trailing, 25-24, UCLA broke serve on a double-block by David Russell and Paul George, then an ace by George, followed by an uncharacteristic 49er error: Teddy Liles' mis-timed hit on a high set by Tyler Hildebrand. It gave UCLA a 27-25 cushion, and the Bruins carried the momentum through to the end.

"It was incredibly important in the match, Game 2, when we had an opportunity to go up 2-0, and we didn't, and they got that second wind, dodged that bullet and got back in it," 49er Coach Alan Knipe said.

UCLA senior Dennis Gonzalez, who had 48 assists and served three winners while clinging to a 21-20 lead in Game 4, agreed the sequence was the match's defining moment.

"Paul George turned the whole match around for us with a couple of plays in a row," Gonzalez said. "He's been playing that way the whole year."

"Not the whole year," Coach Al Scates corrected. "Only during the winning streak."

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