LOS ANGELES — National Player of the Year Tony Ciarelli tallied match highs of 18 kills and 10 digs to help Southern California hold off Lewis, 25-18, 25-12, 18-25, 27-25, in a semifinal match of the 2012 NCAA Men’s Volleyball Championship on Thursday.
The Trojans (24-5), the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular season champion for the second consecutive year, will now face No. 2 UC Irvine on Saturday at 7 p.m. in the Galen Center with the NCAA title at stake.
The Trojans, who are hosting the NCAA Championship for the first time, have won four NCAA crowns, but none since 1990.
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USC hit .345 in the match to Lewis’ .228. The Trojans had six aces and 10.0 blocks.
Lewis, winners of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association tournament, ends its season with a 26-7 record.
Steven Shandrick added 15 kills while hitting .700 for the Trojans, while Tanner Jansen and Steven Mochalski each had nine kills.
For Lewis, Jay Petty and Geoff Powell each tallied 17 kills, while Powell added nine digs and Petty seven.
USC jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the first set and kept building while hitting .462 and posting 5.5 blocks. Lewis hit just .120.
The Trojans scored 10 of the second set’s first 11 points, including the opening six, and breezed through the rest of that set while hitting .462 again (Lewis hit .125). USC totaled five aces in the set.
Lewis turned it around in the third set, using a 3-0 run to build an 8-4 lead and increasing it to a comfortable 16-7.The Flyers hit at a .393 pace to USC’s .129 and Powell had eight kills.
Lewis scored eight of 11 points to forge a 12-7 lead in the fourth set, and then USC scored the next four points to tighten the margin. The Flyers then went up 17-12 before USC pulled within 18-17 and tied the score at 20-20. The set then seesawed until a block by Robert Feathers and Tanner Jansen followed by a Flyers hitting error ended the match. The Trojans hit .361 in the final set.
“We were thrilled to get through that with a victory,” USC head coach Bill Ferguson said. “The crowd sure seemed to energize us in the end. We expended a lot of energy in the initial sprint of the first two sets. I told my guys that Lewis will come back. They had done that throughout the season. I could see it coming. Hats off to them, they picked up their energy and made some changes and it worked.”