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Anteaters top Trojans for third NCAA championship

May 6, 2012
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES (AP) - UC Irvine won its third NCAA men's volleyball title Saturday, sweeping Southern California 25-22, 34-32, 26-24 on the Trojans' home court.

Dan McDonnell ended the match with an ace, and Carson Clark had 22 kills and eight digs for top-seeded Irvine (26-5), also the tournament winner in 2007 and 2009.

Clark hit .465 for the match for the Anteaters, who were facing the Trojans for the fourth time this season.

Tony Ciarelli, the national player of the year, had 18 kills and eight digs for second-seeded USC (24-6).

The Anteaters claimed the first set when Clark hit the ball off a block and out. The Trojans answered by jumping out to a 17-11 lead in the second, but Irvine came back to tie it at 18 on Conner Hughes' kill. The long set was back and forth the rest of the way, but the Anteaters finally won it with Clark's kill on their seventh match-point attempt.

"Everyone will see it was 3-0 but everyone knows how close it really was all the way through," Irvine coach John Speraw said. "We didn't get rattled and stayed very poised when we were down big in the second set. It was a tight, emotional first game and we took a breath there. I think when we won that second game it was real tough for them. It's hard when you have a lead and then you're down 0-2."

The two teams most recently met in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament, where the Anteaters snapped the Trojans' 18-match winning streak in the semifinals - also at USC's Galen Center. Irvine went on to beat Stanford for the tournament title, earning the automatic bid to the NCAA championship.

Top-ranked Southern California - which claimed the MPSF regular season title - received an at-large bid.

"I thought it was pretty clear that UCI was the better team," Ciarelli said. "You have to give all the credit to them. They really peaked at the end of the season. People may see this as a three-game sweep, but I don't see that at all. Two deuce sets is amazing for us against that team."

Kamehameha Schools Kapalama graduate Micah Christenson dished out 38 assists for the Trojans. He also had two blocks and three digs.



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