The Pepperdine University men’s volleyball team defeated rival UCLA Saturday to win the 2005 NCAA National Championship; the title was the school’s first since 1992 and head coach Marv Dunphy’s fourth at Pepperdine.
By Kevin Connelly / Special to The Malibu Times
Sean Rooney, the Pepperdine University senior and American Volleyball Coaches Association Player of the Year, ended a MPSF Finals match against Long Beach State with a resounding kill on April 30. Five days later, the 6-foot, 9-inch outside hitter sent Ohio State packing in the NCAA Semifinals with his second-consecutive kill on match point. So it should have come as no surprise to the 6,853 in attendance at Pauley Pavilion Saturday night when Pepperdine defeated UCLA in five games (30-23, 23-30, 24-30, 30-25, 15-10) on yet another Rooney blast to win the NCAA Championship, the school’s first since 1992.
“He’s [Rooney] one of the best volleyball players I have seen in recent years,” UCLA head coach Al Scates said. “We gave him as much attention as possible all night. He’s a tough guy to stop.”
Rooney, who was named tournament MVP, had a team-high 26 kills on a match-high 61 attacks (a .328 attack percentage). The Wheaton, Ill. native said he would cherish the victory for quite some time.
“To win a championship in Pauley Pavilion is unbelievable,” Rooney said. “It was a team win. It wasn’t just one player tonight. Tonight we needed everybody and used everybody.”
Other key contributors for Pepperdine were sophomore John Parfitt (18 kills), senior James Ka (a team-high 12 digs), freshman Jonathan Winder (a team-high 52 assists) and sophomore Tom Hulse (a match-high 12 block assists).
Pepperdine’s fifth national title did not come easily against a talented UCLA team (26-6), which was playing on its home floor-a place where the Waves (27-2) were swept 3-0 earlier in the year for one of their two losses this season. Pepperdine dominated in game one, garnering the approval of a large group of Wave supporters at the game, including head men’s basketball coach Paul Westphal. Pepperdine junior Andy Hein’s kill to make it a 16-12 game gave some credence to a banner in the stands reading: “The Great Wall of C-HEIN-a.” UCLA never led in the game and never really made it close as Rooney completed the victory (30-23) with his sixth kill in 13 swings.
Games two and three went to the Bruins. UCLA senior Jonathan Acosta’s kill made it a 19-18 game in game three, a lead the Bruins would never relinquish. An ace by Bruin sophomore Steve Klosterman (seven kills) gave UCLA a 30-24 lead and, with the raucous crowd anticipating a 19th National Championship for UCLA, seemed to seal the fate of the Waves as national runners-up for the second time in four years.
In game four, Acosta, who had a match-high 29 kills and a .523 attack percentage on 44 swings, had a Bruin-high six kills, but Rooney one-upped the fellow senior with seven kills. Rooney’s kill to make it a 13-10 game was the two-thousandth of his storied career (Rooney would finish up with 2,007 kills, making him third all-time on the Pepperdine career kills list). Rooney and the Waves proved to be too much for the Bruins as they went on a late run to win 30-25. The Pepperdine victory tied the match at two games apiece, setting up a final game to 15 with the national title on the line.
There was really never a question about game five after the first few points. Pepperdine took leads of 4-0 and 8-1 on UCLA attack errors and clutch block assists by Hulse. The Waves went to a 15-10 victory, finalized by the Rooney kill.
Jubilant, with his hands in the air, Rooney ran to hug teammate James Ka near mid-court and was subsequently mobbed by the rest of his teammates.
“This group of kids bought into [the idea of a national championship] all year long in practice and training,” Coach Dunphy said. “The ball bounced our way tonight and we were able to beat a good team with a good history.” The win gave Dunphy his fourth championship as the coach of Pepperdine.
Rooney will not be playing for Dunphy next year, but he thinks the coach has the talent to do it again.
“There will be some great players here next year,” Rooney said. “They will be losing some key pieces, but they will train hard and they will definitely have some talent.”
But Dunphy does not want to make any guarantees. “Now that’s a lot of pressure,” the head coach of more than 20 seasons said while laughing.
But for now he can relax and enjoy the fact that this year he is the head coach of the best volleyball team in the nation.