CSU San Bernadino 3, UC San Diego 2



LA JOLLA -- In perhaps one of the great regional championship games ever in NCAA Division II, Cal State San Bernardino rallied from a 2-0 deficit to defeat UC San Diego, 3-2, Saturday night for the Pacific Region volleyball title.

The Coyotes rode the backs of senior outside hitter Brie Harris and senior middle blocker Cathleen Price to their second straight regional title by scores of 27-30, 26-30, 31-29, 33-31 and 17-15.

A crowd of 649 fans in UCSD's RIMAC Arena watched Harris and Price literally bring the Coyotes back from the dead with Harris setting an NCAA and school record 45 kills tgo go with 15 digs and four blocks. Price set a personal best of 27 kills, 18 digs and seven block assists.

Those two were named to the all-tournament team along with setter Cristen Trent, who set a new Coyotes record for single-match assists with 75. The Coyotes will advance to the national championship tournament on Dec. 2-4 at a site to be announced on Monday.

"I have such mixed emotions right now," said CSUSB Coach Kim Cherniss. "I am so happy for our team. We've overcome a lot of obstacles to reach this point, but I can't help but feel for San Diego and their seven seniors -- those girls are great girls and great competitors. I feel for them."

UCSD came into the match with a 30-1 record, a CCAA championship and ranked No. 1 in the region and No. 2 in the nation and had already beaten the Coyotes twice in the regular season.

"San Diego outnumbers us position by position with their experience and ability to set every position on the court, so I am in awe of my players. They (San Diego) may have thought they could give up kills to Brie but they could triple Cat (Price) and beat us. Their first path worked but not the second," Cherniss said.

Harris, who collapsed from exhaustion after the match, was asked if her arm was ready to fall off after 103 attacks. "My arm? My whole body feels like it's going to fall off."

The 6-foot senior, who averaged over five kills a game this season, said she and her team "had to fight until the laswt ball fell on their (San Diego) side of the net -- and it did!"

The result of the match was a reversal of the 2001 Pacific Regional at CSUSB's Coussoulis Arena when the Tritons, including most of Saturday night's lineup, handed the Coyotes a 3-2 loss in the championship match and went on to reach the NCAA semifinals.

Other Coyotes who stood out in the match were freshman libero Yvette Hernandez (20 digs), junior Jessica Nelthorpe (19 digs); Trent with 15 digs and three blocks to go with her record assist total and junior Amy Long with 17 digs, four blocks and four service aces.

The Coyotes were down 10-5 in the crucial game five and rallied to tie the game at 14-all on Harris' 42nd kill of the matgch. After Lindsay Crandell put the Tritons up 15-14, Harris evened the count with her 43rd kill. Her 46th put CSUSB up 16-15 and Harris closed out the match with a bullet into the back court for kill No. 45.

All-tournament pick Bonnie Harris led the Tritons with 22 kills, 12 digs and seven blocks. Katie Hogan had 15 kills and Stacy Dunsmore had 14 and 19 digs. Libero Natalie Facchini had a Tritons recorfd 40 digs and also made the all-tourney team as did setter Teresa Ohta (58 assists, 14 digs) and Kendra Canape (10 kills).

-- Mike Murphy, CSUSB