Surviving the Conference Semifinals is tough. Just ask top seeds across the nation. With only one Conference Final featuring a match between the top two seeded teams in its league, the 2006 Men's NCAA Volleyball Conference Finals will feature some interesting surprises.
St. Francis (17-9) continued it's hot streak in the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) Championship with a close four-game upset of No. 12 George Mason (22-6).
The Red Flash were led by Junior middle hitter Marc Honore and his school-record 29 kills in defeating the Patriots for the first time in four matches this season. St. Francis had four players with double figures in kills in the match where each game was decided by four or fewer points.
By advancing to their first ever EIVA Championship match, the Red Flash continue to validate the league's selection of Mike Rumbaugh as the EIVA Coach of the Year.
Awaiting St. Francis in the EIVA Championship match is Penn State.
The Nittany Lions (19-8) are in their 11th EIVA Championship match by virtue of their sweep of Rutgers-Newark (10-20). Senior opposite Matt Proper registered 11 kills to lead Penn State in the Championship as the EIVA's top seed.
In the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA), the only conference where both the top seeds survived, top-seeded and No. 8 Loyola-Chicago will meet second-seeded and No. 10 Indiana-Purdue, Fort Wayne (IPFW) for the right to advance to the NCAA National Semifinals.
The Ramblers (23-6) up-ended No. 15 Ohio State (20-12) in three games, joining Penn State as the only hosts to win in the semifinal round. Loyola Senior opposite Chris Kozlarek led all players with 23 kills and 24.5 points.
Josh Stewart, C.J. Macias, and Brock Ullrich combined for 50 (21, 17, and 12 respectively) of IPFW's 65 kills in a five-game victory over Ball State (21-7).
The Mastodons (22-6) are making their second consecutive MIVA Championship Finals appearance. Loyola-Chicago is making its fifth overall appearance in the MIVA Finals.
If it is playoff time and UCLA is in a final, then it is no surprise right? Wrong, especially when they are the No. 7 seed in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) and have been to Hawaii and back fending off conference foes on the way to the Championship match.
The Bruins (23-12) made third-seeded Pepperdine (17-8) their latest victim as Paul George led the hit parade with 16 kills.
Being the MPSF Tournament Semifinals host was not enough to power top-ranked and top-seeded UC Irvine (27-4) to a victory over No. 2 and fourth-seeded Long Beach State (23-9).
The 49ers received 22 kills from Norm Hutton and 15 from Robert Tarr to seal the fate of the Anteaters, putting an end to their 21-match winning streak and ending their hopes of winning their first ever MPSF title.