Pepperdine Rallies to Stun BYU, Win MPSF Title

4/26/2008

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Long Beach, Calif. - No matter how improbable it seemed a week ago, or especially when facing match point in the third game of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Tournament final, the Pepperdine men's volleyball team is the MPSF champion and is headed to the NCAA Championships.

After previously winning road matches against UCLA and Long Beach State, the No. 5 Waves rallied to stun No. 3 Brigham Young in five games (28-30, 28-30, 32-30, 30-27, 15-8) in the tournament final at the Walter Pyramid on Saturday night.

The NCAA Tournament field will be announced on Sunday, with one at-large team joining Pepperdine, Penn State and Ohio State. The NCAA Championships are May 1 and 3 at UC Irvine. Waves fans can call the Pepperdine Ticket Office on Monday (April 28) for tickets. Ticket information will be posted when it becomes available.

"It's always good to win, and in our sport, it's great to win in five," Pepperdine Coach Marv Dunphy said. "A bunch of good things happened after we were down 2-0. BYU played really well and I don't know if we outplayed them but we played as well as them in games one and two, but they were better at the end. I told the team we didn't finish."

Senior setter Jonathan Winder (Irvine, Calif./Woodbridge HS) was named Tournament MVP. He actually walked through Graduation ceremonies at the Malibu campus earlier Saturday before leading the Waves to victory tonight. He was joined on the all-tournament team by junior opposite Paul Carroll (Forster, Australia) and junior outside hitter J.D. Schleppenbach (Ventura, Calif./Ventura HS).

"(In the first two games) we had a late lead, but either we didn't make a play or they made a better play," Winder said. "We were playing well but would make a hitting error or something. At the end of games three, four and five, we made the plays down the stretch. We believed in ourselves the whole time, and if you believe, you have a great shot at winning."

Winder had 63 assists and 15 digs, good for his seventh double-double of the season. Pepperdine's all-time leader in assists, he recorded the 5,000th of his career during game four. Carroll had his second double-double of the season with a match-high 27 kills and 10 digs. Schleppenbach had his first double-double of the season with a career-high 23 kills and 12 digs.

This was Pepperdine's fourth MPSF Tournament title, and the Waves were making their seventh appearance in the final of the MPSF Tournament. Pepperdine improved to 16-10, BYU dropped to 25-5.

A trio of 3-0 runs helped the Waves to a great start in game one. They scored the first three points of the match, and the other runs put them up 8-3 and 13-8. BYU closed within one point at 20-19, but Pepperdine went on its fourth 3-0 run to make it 23-19. But with the Waves holding a 27-25 lead, BYU scored five of the next six points to claim the first game. Ivan Perez's ace gave the Cougars a 28-27 lead (their first of the game), and after a BYU service error, back-to-back Cougar kills finished it.

Unfortunately for the Waves, game two had a similar outcome, as they led both early and late but couldn't hold on. Schleppenbach had a kill and two block assists and junior middle blocker Mark Hulse (Evanston, Ill./Evanston Township HS/Rutgers-Newark) had three block assists during a 7-0 run that made it 9-3. The big lead was short-lived, unfortunately, as BYU pulled ahead 14-13. A 5-0 run that saw a Carroll kill, a Winder solo block and two Riecks kills gave Pepperdine the lead back at 20-16. The Waves were up 24-21 when the Cougars scored four straight points to take a 25-24 lead. The Waves tied the match at 25-25, 26-26 and 27-27, but a Pepperdine attack error gave the Cougars a two-point lead at 29-27 and BYU ended the game two points later.

Like game two, both teams had their chances in game three, but this time Pepperdine finished strong. Carroll ended a 3-0 run with a kill that made it 15-12, and Pepperdine still led 22-20 after a Schleppenbach kill. However, the Cougars went on a 4-0 run to take a 24-22 advantage. The Waves then regained the lead after back-to-back service aces by Schleppenbach made it 25-24. A Pepperdine attack error gave BYU a match point at 29-28, but Schleppenbach posted back-to-back kills to give the Waves back the advantage at 30-29. After a BYU kill, Pepperdine won game three after a Carroll kill and a solo block by freshman middle blocker Tyler Jaynes (Granite Bay, Calif./Granite Bay HS).

Game four was different from the first three in that it didn't have quite the same sort of end-game drama. Carroll and junior outside hitter Matt McKee (Aurora, Ill./Aurora West HS) had kills, followed by two Cougar attack errors, to give Pepperdine a 16-11 lead in game four. BYU closed within one point at 18-17, but three service aces by Hulse highlighted a 5-0 run, pushing the Waves' lead back up to 23-17. The Waves led 29-23, and while BYU made things interesting by scoring four straight points, Winder ended game four with a kill from his setter position.

Game five was never close as the the Waves scored the first four points of game four, with McKee recording a kill and a block assist. A BYU hitting error made it 6-1, a block by Winder and Hulse made it 9-3, a Winder kill made it 11-4 and another BYU attack error made it 14-6. McKee closed out the match with a kill.

McKee came off the bench and played a key role with seven kills, three digs and two blocks. Hulse finished with eight blocks and four service aces. Jaynes had six kills and five blocks. Sophomore libero Sean Grubbs (Newport Beach, Calif./Newport Harbor HS/Irvine Valley CC) had 12 digs.

Pepperdine outhit BYU, .296 to .241. The Cougars had won the two meetings in Provo earlier this season.

Article courtesy of Pepperdine athletics.

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