Cal State L.A. 3, Lock Haven 2Dec. 1, 2005

KEARNEY, Neb. - Cal State L.A. sophomore Airess Padda had 18 kills and four blocks and senior setter Tiare Tuitama had 61 assists, 12 digs and seven kills as fifth-ranked Cal State L.A. (28-2) advanced to its first Final Four since 1992 with a 30-32, 30-28, 30-17, 25-30, 15-13 win over 17th-ranked Lock Haven (33-6) before an NCAA Division II record crowd of 3,873 at the Nebraska-Kearney Health and Sports Center.

Lock Haven came out strong, scoring the first four points of the match. CSULA finally tied the game at 9-9 on four-straight points off the serve of junior libero Ashley Hardwick (Torrance, CA/South Torrance/Notre Dame de Namur). However, Lock Haven rallied for four-straight points to reclaim a 13-9 advantage. That same four-point margin held throughout game one until CSULA rallied to tie it at 28-28. LHUP had two game points erased, but got a block by Inga Kurgonaite and Li Yizhi to give LHUP a 32-30 game one win.

Cal State L.A. opened game two on an 8-2 run, but Lock Haven slowly chipped away, finally tying the game at 28-28. This time, CSULA made the plays as a kill by CSULA junior Melissa Zapiain (Irvine, CA/University/Orange Coast College) and a LHUP attack error by Kelly Kostelich gave Cal State L.A. a 30-28 win in game two and knotted the match at a game apiece.

Game three was all Cal State L.A. While LHUP opened the game on a 3-0 run, Cal State L.A. answered with seven of the next nine points to claim a 7-5 lead. The CSULA lead was just 17-13 before the Golden Eagles put on an impressive 13-4 run, finally winning game three at 30-17 on a kill by Zapiain followed by a block assist by Padda and Luana Cavalcanti (Sao Paolo, Brazil).

Lock Haven did not go away, however, as game four was tied five times early before LHUP took a 13-12 lead. The LHUP lead was still just one point at 19-18 before the Atlantic Region champions went on a four-point run to open up a 23-18 advantage. CSULA cut the gap back to two points at 27-25, but LHUP scored the final three points of game four to win, 30-25, and send the match to a decisive fifth game.

Lock Haven dominated the early going of game five, using a five-point run to take an 8-2 lead as the teams switched sides. Cal State L.A. immediately got kills from Padda and Cavalcanti, sandwiched around a Zapiain ace, as the Golden Eagles crept back into the game at 8-5. After trading sideouts, CSULA got kills from Padda and White to tie the game at 9-9. The game was still tied at 13-13 before a Cavalcanti kill and a LHUP attack error by Maggie Borden ended the two hour, 25 minute match with Cal State L.A. winning game five, 15-13.

CSULA advances to its first Final Four since 1992, when the Golden Eagles lost in the national semifinals to Portland State. The win also was CSULA's third-straight five-game win as the Golden Eagles defeated Hawaii Pacific in five games during the NCAA second round and Cal State San Bernardino in the "Sweet 16."

White led all players with 20 kills while Padda had 18 kills and four blocks en route to hitting .389. Cavalcanti had 16 kills, 21 digs and two blocks while Zapiain added 15 kills and 14 digs in the win. Hardwick led all players with 28 digs from her libero position for Cal State L.A. while Tuitama dished 61 assists to surpass the 1,300 assist mark for the season. Lock Haven was led by Kurgonaite and Li with 14 kills apiece while Li also added 26 digs and nine blocks for LHUP.

Cal State L.A. will face top-ranked Nebraska-Kearney on Friday night in the second Final Four matchup scheduled for 7:30 p.m. CST/5:30 p.m. PST. UN-K defeated Truman State 3-1 Thursday night. The other Final Four matchup will feature Grand Valley State vs. Tampa at 5 p.m. CST/3 p.m. PST.

-- Courtesy Cal State LA