Coach John Speraw has led UC Irvine to the NCAA men's volleyball final. (UC Irvine )
UC Irvine was not about to let another match go to five sets.
The top-seeded Anteaters lost the first set, but came back to win three in a row to defeat Penn State, 18-25, 25-18, 25-15, 25-19, in an NCAA men’s volleyball semifinal at the Galen Center.
"Once we have our foot in the door we can do anything," Irvine outside hitter Connor Hughes said.
Irvine will play for the title Saturday against the winner of Thursday night’s match between USC and Lewis.
Junior outside hitter Kevin Tillie had 21 kills and Connor Hughes added 10 for Irvine (25-5), which had advanced to the Final Four by defeating USC and Stanford in five-set matches in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament.
It looked as if it might take a similar effort against Penn State.
“In the first game we had them figured out,” said Penn State outside hitter Joe Sunder. “They made some changes and as the match went on they had us figured out.”
Irvine’s biggest adjustment came in the fourth game when, trailing 12-6, Coach John Speraw sent Daniel Stork into the match to replace setter Chris Austin.
Stork had been the Anteaters starter in the first half of the season but sat out nearly two months because of a concussion.
Stork helped spark a comeback that helped the Anteaters tie the score, 18-18, and junior Will Montgomery came off the bench with an effective float serve while Tillie continued his assault.
Sunder and Nick Goodell each had 15 kills for Penn State (23-6).
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UC Irvine volleyball advances with victory over Penn State