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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, April 24, 2002

Four MPSF teams fighting for NCAA tourney berths

By Stephen Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Question: What's two divided by four?

MPSF Tournament

Hawai'i times

Matches at Pepperdine's Firestone Fieldhouse



2 p.m. No. 4 BYU vs. No. 1 Pepperdine 4:30 p.m. No. 6 UC Santa Barbara vs. No. 2 Hawai'i


Championship 4 p.m.

Answer: Two unhappy men's volleyball programs.

Entering tomorrow's Mountain Pacific Sports Federation semifinals in Malibu, Calif., there are four remaining teams battling for two berths in next week's NCAA final four.

As the nation's top-ranked team and the MPSF's regular-season champion, Pepperdine (26-4) is all but guaranteed a berth in the final four, even if it does not win this single-elimination tournament. The MPSF tournament winner earns the league's automatic berth in the final four. The MPSF, as the country's best conference, also will receive an at-large berth.

But fourth-seeded Brigham Young (23-6), which faces Pepperdine tomorrow, and the other semifinalists — No. 2 seed Hawai'i (21-7) and No. 6 UC Santa Barbara (18-10) — all believe they merit consideration.

If UH and Pepperdine both win tomorrow, "we're in, definitely," said UH middle blocker Dejan Miladinovic, noting the Warriors finished second in the MPSF this season.

If UH loses tomorrow, and Pepperdine beats UC Santa Barbara in the championship match, the Warriors still believe they should earn the at-large berth.

But BYU coach Carl McGown disagreed, saying: "If you were to look at the at-large battle between Hawai'i and BYU, I think it's a toss-up. Mike (Wilton, UH's coach) thinks he's going to win that at-large thing. I could say I'm going to win that at-large thing."

Although BYU finished fourth during the regular season, overall "we've won more matches and lost fewer matches than Hawai'i," McGown said. "We've played better at the end of the season than Hawai'i has. Those are the two main categories we would try to argue from. It's not just the MPSF (regular season) that determines the at-large berth. It's the total season."

If Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara both win in the semifinals, Gaucho coach Ken Preston said his team deserves the at-large berth. Despite finishing sixth in the MPSF, the Gauchos would have defeated No. 2 UH and No. 3 UCLA in the playoffs to reach the league finals.

"You can never be sure," Preston said. "It's all in the selection committee's minds."

Even Pepperdine coach Marv Dunphy would not guarantee the Waves' participation in the final four.

"I've been in this game too long to start forecasting things," he said. "It's much better to keep playing and not worry about other things."

A look at the MPSF semifinalists:


Coach: Marv Dunphy
Record: 26-4
Last match: Defeated Cal State-Northridge, 30-18, 30-25, 31-29.

Why they rule: They have the best overall record in the country and finished first in the nation's best conference.

On second thought: School's out, and even though the Waves are the No. 1 seed, they play in the opening match of tomorrow's doubleheader.

Final four chances: It's a slam dunk. The only way they're not going is if they previously committed to attend a wedding.

Coolest thing about Pepperdine: The student-to-professor ratio is 12-to-1. Oh, yeah, the view is great, too. "We're looking right over the Pacific Ocean," spokesman Mike Zapolski said. "On a clear day, you can see Hawai'i."

Coolest alumni: Actress Kim Fields ("Living Single," "Facts of Life"); Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn, Flight 193 hero Tom Burnett.


Coach: Mike Wilton
Record: 21-7.
Last match: Defeated Long Beach State, 30-26, 30-28, 30-28.

Why they rule: They have won 75 percent of their road matches.

On second thought: They don't have a winning record against the other remaining teams in the field.

Final four chances: If UH and Pepperdine both win tomorrow, the Warriors can call their travel agent.

Coolest thing about UH: The game room at the Campus Center.

Coolest alumna: KITV weather anchor Kathy Muneno used to be a soap-opera star in Japan.


Coach: Carl McGown
Record: 23-6.
Last match: Defeated Stanford, 30-24, 30-23, 24-30, 29-31, 21-19.

Why they rule: The Cougars, who are the defending national champions, have won nine of their last 10 matches.

On second thought: The match is at sea level. Moving from high altitude is a big adjustment in serving and passing, McGown said.

Final four chances: Even if the Cougars knock off Pepperdine, they probably need to win the tournament title.

Coolest thing about BYU: "Our football stadium doesn't have artificial turf," BYU spokesman Jeff Reynolds said.

Coolest alumnus: Mitt Romney, chairman of the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, is a candidate for governor of Massachusetts.


Coach: Ken Preston
Record: 18-10.
Last match: Defeated UCLA, 28-30, 27-30, 30-28, 32-30, 15-8.

Why they rule: Preston said UCLA has the best coach (Al Scates) and country's best program. Last Saturday, the Gauchos beat the best.

On second thought: In the last meeting between the teams, UH middle blocker Delano Thomas and outside hitter Tony Ching did not play. Both are now starters.

Final four chances: As the lowest remaining seed, their only hope is to win the tournament title.

Coolest thing about UCSB: The campus is right near the ocean, and most of the students live a block or two from the beach.

Coolest alumnus: Before Jim Rome became the sports world's Howard Stern, he was taking communication classes at UCSB