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Penn State, Cal to play for title

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All-American Blair Brown put down 12 kills to lead Penn State to its fourth straight NCAA volleyball final.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. » Penn State will play for a fourth straight NCAA volleyball championship against first-time finalist California.

The Nittany Lions (31-5) and Golden Bears (30-3) swept the semifinals yesterday, with Penn State beating Texas in the opener and Cal topping Pac-10 rival Southern California in the second.

Blair Brown had 12 kills, Deja McClendon 11 and Ariel Scott 10 in Penn State’s 25-13, 25-13, 25-22 victory. Cal won 25-14, 25-17, 25-20, with All-American Tarah Murrey pounding 23 kills.

This is the matchup Cal has wanted all along. Penn State beat the Bears in the regionals the past three years.

"We want revenge, obviously," Cal All-America setter Carli Lloyd said. "When we saw the brackets, we knew when we did meet them it would be in the finals. I’m real, real excited to match up with them again Saturday night."

Penn State came back from a two-set deficit to beat Texas in last year’s national championship match. This time, the Nittany Lions opened big leads in the first two sets and then used powerful kills by Brown and Scott to finish off the Longhorns (27-6) in the third.

"It’s a great feeling, but we’re not celebrating yet," Penn State defensive specialist Alyssa D’Errico said. "We have one more match to play. Our goals are the same, the program’s goals are the same. It’s about tradition and upholding that tradition and getting to a final is not our goal. Our goal is to win."

Juliann Faucette, the Big 12 player of the year and a two-time All-American, had 14 kills to lead Texas, which hit just .131 and lost for the first time in 20 matches.

"We just didn’t feel like we ever got a rhythm on the serve-receive and serving, and when we give up almost 50 percent errors to a team of that quality, it’s going to be very difficult to compete with them," Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said.

Texas was held to 48 points, a record for fewest points allowed in a three-set match in the rally-scoring era at the final four. The Longhorns’ hitting percentage was their lowest in 24 matches.

The Bears swept USC after losing two regular-season matches to the Women of Troy.

Lloyd said the goal was to sweep USC.

"We wanted it bad," she said. "We’ve been beaten twice by them. We weren’t going to let it happen a third time."

USC (29-5), which upset Stanford in a five-set regional final, hit just .107.

"Funny how in seven days you can go from being on top of the world to the bottom of the heap with your feelings," USC coach Mick Haley said.


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