The NCAA women's volleyball Final Four that begins tonight at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo. has a local flavor.

USC (29-4), including Newport Harbor High product Kirby Burnham, faces Cal (29-5), for which former Newport Harbor standout Jennifer Carey is director of volleyball operations, in tonight's first semifinal.

Burnham started four matches and appeared in 20 matches and 37 sets for the Trojans, who are a No. 6 seed.

The USC roster also includes sophomore defensive specialist Erin Yoder, whose older brother Cory is a senior on the UC Irvine men's volleyball team.

Cal is a No. 7 seed.

The USC-Cal winner meets either Penn State (30-5) or Texas (27-5) in the final on Saturday.

— Barry Faulkner

Penewell honored

Newport Harbor High product Alex Penewell, a junior middle blocker at Montana State University, was named Newcomer of the Year in Big Sky Conference women's volleyball.

Penewell, who sat out last season after transferring from Colorado, where she played two seasons, averaged 1.46 kills per set and a team-best .73 blocks for the Bobcats. Her .212 hitting percentage was fourth best on the squad.

Montana State was 10-19, 3-13 in conference.

— Barry Faulkner

Five Pirates honored

Three Orange Coast College women's water polo players earned first-team All-Orange Empire Conference recognition.

Sophomores Lindsay Holbrook, Elizabeth Dempsey and Brittany Daniels have been recognized for leading the Pirates to a 19-12 record.

Sophomore Cassie Zaim and freshman Nicole Robison represent OCC on the second team.

OCC's Adam Lee is the Coach of the Year.

Holbrook, a center, was the team's leading scorer.

Daniels was the team captain and a two-meter defender.

Dempsey led the team in exclusions drawn and was also among the team's leading scorers.