When it was first announced that USC’s Galen Center would be the host venue for the 2012 NCAA Men’s Volleyball national championship, it’s hard to imagine the scene which would take place for the title match.
A vocal and enthusiastic crowd of 9,612 (which is the third largest crowd ever for a college volleyball event) was treated to a fantastic battle between the No. 2 seed USC Trojans -- playing on their home floor – against top-seeded UC Irvine. When all was said and done, the Anteaters had captured the title -- their third in the last six years -- by virtue of a 25-22, 34-32, 26-24 sweep.
Having a three-set match that is decided by seven total points gives an indication of how close things were, even if the Trojans acknowledged UC Irvine as the better team on this night.
"I thought it was pretty clear that UCI was the better team. You have to give all the credit to them,” said USC senior Tony Ciarelli, the ACVA National Player of the Year.
The Anteaters were led by Carson Clark -- who was named the Most Outstanding Player on the All-Tournament team -- as he had a match-high 22 kills. Connor Hughes had 13 kills and Kevin Tillie had 11 kills as UC Irvine defeated the Trojans on their home floor for the second time in nine days, the previous victory coming in the semifinals of the MPSF Tournament when the Anteaters came back from a two-set deficit.
"We're disappointed to come up short in this match," said USC head coach Bill Ferguson. “I wanted to win this match really badly, but if I take a step back and get realistic, I'm unbelievably proud to be here. We were not the most talented team I've had since I've been here, but we worked and grinded and played vollleyball the right way. I thought the level of play was unbelievable. And the fan support for both teams was unbelievable. I don't think there's ever been an atmosphere like that for a national championship game. We took college volleyball to a new level tonight, and that's something we're very proud of.”
USC finished the season with a 24-6 record and has advanced to the NCAA Final Four in three of the past four years under Ferguson. The last USC national title in men’s volleyball was in 1990.