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Penn State!

Tonight was the Final Four Men's volleyball tournament in Rec Hall. First, I need to go on record -- I love watching women's volleyball, but men's doesn't always keep my attention. The athletes are so good, that the games don't hold much suspense, a service ace follows a service error follows a quick kill follows a service error... there are rarely many long rallies or that many digs. To give you some perspective if you are not a fan, the starting middle for UCLA is 6'11", or approximately a foot and a half taller than I am. They set him quick, and the ball has hit the floor at a hundred miles an hour before the opponent's blockers can even leave their feet.

That being said, the PSU / UC Irvine game was outstanding. Penn State is the #4 seed, and Irvine is the #1 seed. If you look at PSU's record this season, against top competition (Irvine, UCLA, Hawaii...) they lost each match in a sweep 0-3 (vball matches are best 3 out of 5). IPFW was the three seed, and they lost in a pretty quick match 0-3 to UCLA. However IPFW beat PSU earlier this season 3-2. I was hopeful, but also not too optimistic that PSU would beat the #1 seed Irvine.

PSU came out on fire. They were clearly ready for this game and were not intimidated. They beat Irvine in game one in a close game 32-30. Then, they won game two after a slow start (they were down 5-1) by the impressive margin of 30-23. Then, in game three, they had match point at 29-28. Irvine scored and after a few deuces, won game 3 33-31. Irvine also came from behind to win game 4 30-27. Game 5 only goes to 15, and with Penn State in the lead 14-13, half the lights in Rec Hall went out. The NCAA folks made us wait until they came back on (it wasn't really all that dark), and after about 15 minutes of waiting, Holt served an ace to give Penn State the win.

A few comments... (1) The serving by Penn State was horrendous in games 3 & 4. UCI is a good team, but PSU had about 10 service errors in game 4 alone. Meerstein had 3 or 4 in a row, and finally resorted to hitting floaters and giving up on his jump serve.

(2) Meerstein & Proper are the stars of the team, and rightfully so. However, my vote for MVP of the game goes to Wentzel. He was rock solid all night and hit some crucial aces.

(3) The officiating was bad. I'm really tough on officials, and my buddies (*cough* Nate *cough*) like to give me grief about this attitude problem. In my defense, I never boo my own team, I try to treat the other team with respect, but if the ref blows a call, I will boo lustily. I should also confess that I have a *loud* speaking voice (I've been asked to lower my voice in a crowded bar by the people at the table next to me), and when I yell at a game, just about everyone hears me. I *hope* the refs heard me tonight. There were some downright bad calls (one of UCI's players foot faulted and when I looked at the ref who is supposed to make that call, he was zoning out looking at the net, and wasn't looking anywhere near the player's feet and there was a UCI serve that landed out by about a foot, and the line judge called it in), but mostly they were just inconsistent. PSU's setter got called for being over the net on a set, and two points later, UCI's setter did basically the same thing and no call. PSU got called for two hits on sets off of bad passes, and UCI didn't get called even once, even though they were just as guilty. That bugs me. The refs for the championship better do better.


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