Foreign legions descended on Pauley Pavilion at UCLA last weekend for the NCAA volleyball tournament. USC came with its Great Wall of China, George Mason with its Nigerian Prince of Midair and Ball State with its Midnight Express attack. But this was, after all, volleyball in California, and the foreign influx was stemmed by the Malibu Roofing Company, an ail-American outfit from the Pepperdine campus that has earned the right to hang out a shingle that says NCAA CHAMPS.
Pepperdine has provided volleyball's answer to Phi Slamma Jamma, the University of Houston basketball team of 1982-84 that glamorized the slam dunk. Pepperdine's specialty is the roof. In volleyball, when a defender snuffs a spike at net, it's simply a block. But a gnarly, sand-in-your-face, ultimate-disgrace block, that's a roof. And Pepperdine coach Marv Dunphy, a former middle blocker and now a bit of a carpenter, is big on roofing.
When Pepperdine met USC in the finals on Saturday night, the roofers were all thumbs in the first game, which the Trojans won 15-10. This wasn't the outcome that had been foreseen by Margaret Ctvrtlik, mother of Pepperdine outside hitter Bob Ctvrtlik (pronounced stu-VERT-lik). "Last night I dreamed that Pepperdine won," she said before the match, "and I saw Bob with a big trophy. When I woke up, I thought the tournament was over."
Pepperdine woke up for Game 2. On the Waves' first service, Pepperdine sophomore Troy Tanner roofed a hit by USC's David Yoder. On the next two serves, Tanner and Steve Friedman combined to shingle first Yoder and then Adam Johnson as the Waves jumped ahead 3-0. Malibu Roofing was back in business. The Waves never looked back, sweeping the last three games of the best-of-five match 15-10, 15-7, 15-13.
In the fourth game, Pepperdine had fallen behind 9-7, then tied it at 10-all. Ctvrtlik snuffed an Adam Horstman spike, putting the Waves ahead for good. "In a money time, you go to a money man," Dunphy said. For good measure, Ctvrtlik blocked a Johnson spike for the next point. Ctvrtlik led the Waves with 25 kills in the finals and was named tournament MVP.
Just by showing up, Ctvrtlik set a tournament record for consecutive consonants. His is not a great volleyball name. Troy Tanner, now that's a great volleyball name, evoking as it does both Hollywood and Coppertone. Ctvrtlik looks like a bad draw in Scrabble.
"It's always the starting topic of conversation," says Ctvrtlik, whose name is Czechoslovakian. "The only problem it's ever given me was in second grade when I had to learn to spell it myself."
It wasn't the only exotic name at Pauley. Ball State senior Umit Taftali, a member of the Turkish national team, combined with Fernando de Armas, a sophomore from Puerto Rico, for a leftside attack that put the Cardinals in the Final Four for the eighth time. But Pepperdine, which was ranked No. 1 every week of the season, needed just 47 minutes to bounce Ball State 15-2, 15-2, 15-7.
USC struggled a little more to eliminate George Mason 15-4, 15-11, 15-10. The Patriots' strong man is Moyo Kasim, a Nigerian prince whose father is king of Epe, a city 30 miles outside Lagos. Kasim is 6'6" and has good springs. He also has 13 brothers and 12 sisters, but then his father has four wives.
Kasim came to visit his uncle in the U.S. in 1982 and decided to stay after watching Akeem Olajuwon, with whom he'd played on the Lagos state basketball team, on TV. "When I tell people that this guy is my best friend at home, they say, 'Come on, get out of here,' " Kasim says with a laugh.