Waves Beat Long Beach, Will Play for Title


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IRVINE, Calif. - Junior outside hitter J.D. Schleppenbach hit a career-best .778 to help take the Pepperdine men's volleyball one step closer to a national championship, as the Waves defeated Long Beach State in three games (30-26, 30-21, 30-26) in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships on Thursday night at the Bren Events Center.

The second-seeded Waves (17-10) will take on top-seeded Penn State (29-1) in the NCAA final on Saturday (May 3) at 4 p.m. The match will be televised on ESPN2. The Nittany Lions took care of Ohio State in four games (30-21, 26-30, 30-22, 30-17) earlier tonight.

Pepperdine is trying for its sixth NCAA men's volleyball championship, while Penn State is going for its second.

Schleppenbach (Ventura, Calif./Ventura HS) continued his impressive postseason play with 14 kills on 18 errorless swings. He led a balanced attack that also featured a match-high 15 kills by junior opposite Paul Carroll (Forster, Australia) and 12 kills (and a .474 hitting percentage) by freshman outside hitter Cory Riecks (Auburn, Calif./Placer HS).

Senior setter Jonathan Winder (Irvine, Calif./Woodbridge HS) directed the Waves to a .500 hitting percentage and had 39 assists and a match-high six digs. Freshman middle blocker Tyler Jaynes (Granite Bay, Calif./Granite Bay HS) had six block assists and junior middle blocker Mark Hulse (Evanston, Ill./Evanston Township HS/Rutgers-Newark) added five.

"I thought we hit the court pretty well," Pepperdine Coach Marv Dunphy said. "That is always a good sign. I don't how many hitting errors they made, but we did a pretty good job of hitting the court. All year long Long Beach State has put out some great numbers. We just got hot at their place and then just hit the court well tonight.

"It doesn't matter how you get here, competing in the NCAAs is special. My guess is at one time this year we were just above .500 and then we got better. The team has improved quite a bit. We will have to be good on Saturday night because Penn State looks pretty good. They are by far the best team from the East or Midwest that I have seen."

After scoring the first two points of game one, the Waves never trailed, though it was always close. Pepperdine built a three-point lead at 16-13 after a block by Schleppenbach and Jaynes, although Long Beach State would tie the match at 17-17. Still tied at 22-22, a Schleppenbach kill and a 49er setting error gave Pepperdine the advantage again. With a 27-26 lead, Riecks had a kill, Winder made a dig that led to a Carroll kill, and Pepperdine claimed game one on a 49er hitting error. The Waves had a .379 to .188 edge in hitting, led by six kills by Riecks.

Pepperdine carried its momentum into game two, as Carroll had kills on three consecutive points to make it 5-1, leading to an early Long Beach State timeout. Four straight 49er points tied the game at 5-5, however, forcing a Pepperdine timeout. It stayed close until midway through the game. After going up 14-13, the Waves dominated the rest of game two. A 6-1 run that saw a kill and block by Schleppenbach, as well as three other 49er hitting errors, made it 20-14. Another 4-0 run that saw a solo block by Riecks and a shared block by Carroll and Hulse made it 25-16. The game ended on a Schleppenbach kill. Pepperdine had a big .542-.088 edge in hitting.

The 49ers took their only lead of the entire match at 1-0 in the third game. Pepperdine scored the next two points, however, and that was it. Tied 7-7, Carroll had two kills in a 3-0 run and the 49ers never quite caught up. It was a one-point game at 22-21, but a Schleppenbach kill followed by a 49er attack error made it 24-21, and two more Schleppenbach kills increased the lead to 26-22. With a 28-26 lead, the Waves ended the match on kills by Carroll and Riecks. The Waves upped their hitting to .600 in game three.

The Waves defeated the 49ers (23-7) for the third time in four matches this season. This was Pepperdine's third straight three-game sweep. The last meeting was in the MPSF Tournament semifinals in Long Beach last week.

Pepperdine is 16-3 all-time against Penn State. The Waves have won all three previous meetings in the NCAA Championships (all three were in the semifinals).

Article courtesy of Pepperdine athletics

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