UCI, USC advance to NCAA final

LOS ANGELES -- Senior outside hitter Tony Ciarelli had 18 kills and 10 digs as top-ranked Southern California held off Lewis 3-1 in the NCAA men's volleyball tournament to advance to Saturday's title match against UC Irvine.

Top-seeded Irvine (25-5) defeated Penn State 3-1 in the earlier semifinal Thursday night at USC's Galen Center.

Ciarelli, the national player of the year, hit .412 for the second-seeded Trojans (24-5) who won 25-18, 25-12, 18-25, 27-25.

Geoff Powell had 17 kills and nine digs for the third-seeded Flyers (26-7), who got an automatic bid to the semis with a five-set victory over defending NCAA champion Ohio State 3-2 in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament.

After winning the third set, Lewis led by as many as five points in the fourth until USC rallied. With the set even at 23, Cirarelli's kill gave the Trojans the advantage, but Jay Petty made back-to-back kills to extend the match. On the third match point, Powell's hit went long to give USC the victory.

Southern California has won four national championships, its last in 1990.

The Trojans were an at-large bid after losing to Irvine in the semifinals of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament. The Anteaters defeated Stanford in the final match for the automatic bid.

Kevin Tillie had 21 kills and eight digs in Irvine's victory over fourth-seeded Penn State, 18-25, 25-18, 25-15, 25-19. The Anteaters trailed in the final set before Tillie's spike put them in front 19-18. Tillie, who hit .500, closed the match with a kill.

Joe Sunder had 15 kills and eight digs for the fourth-seeded Nittany Lions (23-6), the 2008 champions who were playing in their 14th straight Final Four.

Irvine lost to Penn State in the 2006 semis before beating PSU the next year for their first national title. Irvine also won in 2009 -- playing the Trojans for the championship.