Pepperdine volleyball earns at-large bid into NCAA Final Four

Despite losing Saturday night’s Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title match, the Pepperdine University men’s volleyball team is still traveling to Columbus, Ohio to play in the NCAA championship. The Waves (26-2) learned Sunday that, as expected, they received the lone at-large bid into the four-team tournament.

Pepperdine, which earned the championship’s top seed, will face fourth-seeded Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne (22-7) on Thursday at 2 p.m. The Mastodons received their tournament bid after defeating Ohio State in the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association championship match. Thursday’s match will be shown live on ESPN2.

In the other semifinal match, Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association champion Penn State (22-7) will play UC Irvine (27-6), which beat Pepperdine in the MPSF title match.

The Waves’ loss on Saturday snapped a 23-match winning streak. Pepperdine started off strong, winning the first two games by scores of 30-27 and 30-24. On the brink of elimination, UC Irvine won a close battle in the third game, 30-28. The Anteaters won the next game by the same score. The deciding fifth game came next, with the winner needing at least 15 points and a two-point lead. The Waves led through most of the game, but UC Irvine rallied to win, 16-14.

Pepperdine head coach Marv Dunphy said after the match that the Waves played hard, but UC Irvine played even harder.

“I thought we made more errors as the match wore on than we should have,” Dunphy said. “But [saying] anything like that takes away from [recognizing] Irvine’s good play.”

Pepperdine is trying to win its sixth national title, with its last win coming in 2005. Penn State won the championship in 1994. UC Irvine and IPFW have never won the national crown.

The winners of Thursday’s semifinals will face each other in the title match on Saturday at 4 p.m. The final match will be televised live on ESPN2.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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