UC Irvine downs USC for national title
Clark's 22 kills, eight digs lead Anteaters to third championship
LOS ANGELES -- UC Irvine won its third NCAA title on Saturday night, sweeping Southern California 25-22, 34-32, 26-24 on the Trojans' home court.
Dan McDonnell ended the match with an ace, and Carson Clark had 22 kills and eight digs for top-seeded Irvine (26-5), also the tournament winner in 2007 and 2009. Clark hit .465 for the match and finished with 25.5 points for the Anteaters, who were facing the Trojans for the fourth time this season.
Tony Ciarelli, the national player of the year, had 18 kills and eight digs for second-seeded USC (24-6). He hit .289 and finished with 20 points.
The Anteaters claimed the first set when Clark's spike was ruled good on a touch call. The Trojans answered by jumping out to a 17-11 lead in the second, but Irvine came back to tie it at 18 on Conner Hughes' kill. The long set was back and forth the rest of the way, but the Anteaters finally won it with Clark's kill on their seventh match-point attempt.
The two teams most recently met in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament, where the Anteaters snapped the Trojans' 18-match winning streak in the semifinals -- also at USC's Galen Center. Irvine went on to beat Stanford for the tournament title, earning the automatic bid to the NCAA championship.
Top-ranked Southern California -- which claimed the MPSF regular season title -- won an at-large bid.
The two teams solidified their spot in the national championship match with semifinal victories on Thursday night. The Anteaters beat fourth-seeded Penn State 3-1 (18-25, 25-18, 25-15, 25-19) before USC downed tenacious Lewis, the third seed, 3-1 (25-18, 25-12, 18-25, 27-5).