Penn State wins NCAA volleyball title

KANSAS CITY, Mo. —Winner, and still volleyball's champion, Penn State.

The Nittany Lions extended their dominance in the sport to four years with a straight set triumph over California on Saturday night before 14,032 at Sprint Center.

The second set was key. Penn State overcame two set points to pull out a 27-25 victory.

The Lions won the first and third sets 25-20.

In the third, California took a 12-9 when Ali Longo got the serve.

Eight points later, the Nittany Lions were well on their way to the title.

In the eight-point run, Longo had two aces, and outside hitter Blair Brown had three kills.

Brown was terrific throughout the night but especially in the third set with eight kills.

Penn State, which saw its NCAA record 109-match winning streak end this season, finished with a 32-5 record, the five losses the most in any of the four championship seasons.

But the Nittany Lions were at their best when it mattered most, dropping only one set throughout the NCAA Tournament, to Duke in the regional final.

California, 30-4, reached the final for the first time school history, but found its nemesis awaiting in the final. Penn State had knocked the Bears out of the NCAA Tournament each of the previous three seasons, in the national semifinals in 2007 and in regional finals in 2008 and 2009.

The Bears had to feel good about breaking through late in the second set, but when Penn State took the second set 27-25, the Nittany Lions had to feel invincible.

They overcame two set points, the first trailing 24-23. Arielle Wilson got the point on a block.

After the Bears regained a 25-24 edge on Carli Lloyd's kill, Penn State stormed back to win the next three points, none more important than the first when Katie Slay got her hands up to block Tarah Murrah's spike.

Penn State Coach Russ Rose, in his 32nd season, called timeouts before each match point, and his team benefited from the regrouping.

Slay played big throughout the second game, keeping Penn State in the hunt with four blocks.

She also will be remembered for hitting the game-winner in the third set. California had closed a 23-16 deficit to 24-20. After Deja McClendon's kill attempt was blocked the ball rebounded straight to Slay, who slammed it home.

McClendon was named the most outstanding player of the tournament.

The Bears had controlled much of the second set, taking a 17-14 lead. The Nittany Lions battled back with five straight points to move ahead but Cal battled back to edge ahead.

Brown's perfectly placed kill found the back corner for the game-winner as Penn State won the opener 25-20, handing Cal its first set loss after 15 straight NCAA Tournament victories.

The Nittany Lions climbed to an early lead, but the Bears closed to 16-15. Penn State ripped off three straight points with the third point on a third-hit ball dropping in between Adrienne Gehan and Shannon Hawari.