Men’s play heats up: top four ranked teams all win

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Hawai'i's Kupono Fey spikes as the Rainbow Wahine move to 2-0 on the season.

While the 2017 NCAA men’s season started earlier this week with a few matches here and there, action picked up considerably Friday with the defending champions starting their season ahead of a key early-season contest Saturday. No. 3 BYU paid a visit to the No. 6 Lewis Flyers, as part of their non-conference midwest swing.

We’ll also check in on tournament action hosted by UC Santa Barbara and Hawaii.

We start in Columbus, Ohio where AVCA No. 1 Ohio State, which downed BYU for the 2016 NCAA title at Penn State, opened 2017 play at St. John Arena in the AVCA Showcase & Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge with a 3-1 victory over USC and did so in come-from-behind fashion.

USC (1-1) took the first set 25-22, but Ohio State rebounded and swept the next three, including winning the final two sets by a combined 16 points (18 and 16).

Ohio State had 13 blocks in the contest, its highest total since 2015. Miles Johnson and Blake Leeson each had four block assists and one solo, while Driss Guessous had four blocks.

Johnson, the 2016 NCAA tournament MVP, led the way with 15 kills and hit .333. Leeson hit 1.000 with seven kills, while Guessous had 6 kills. Christy Blough had 38 assists and a team-high seven digs, while Andrew Hillman recorded an ace on his first collegiate trip to the service line. Ohio State had seven aces in the contest.

The Buckeyes welcome AVCA No. 2 UCLA to town Saturday in a game that will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network at 6 p.m. Eastern. AVCA No. 13 Penn State faces USC in the 3 p.m. Eastern contest at Ohio State.

Speaking of USC, Lucas Yoder led the Trojans with a match-high 15 kills on 36 swings. Gert Lisha added 28 assists. Yoder also had eight digs.

In Friday’s other game in Columbus, No. 2 UCLA was a 25-18, 25-22, 25-17 victor over Penn State.

UCLA hit more than .300 in each set and was led by freshman middle blocker Daenan Gyimah’s 10 kills (.500 hitting). Senior middle Mitch Stahl added nine kills (.467 hitting). JT Hatch had five kills, two blocks and two aces, while Michael Fisher had four kills, two blocks and one ace.

Penn State (1-1) was fueled by Chris Nugent’s 10 kills. Calvin Mende and Jalen Penrose each had four kills. Luke Braswell had 27 assists, while Royce Clemens finished with eight digs. Calvin Mende added five digs.

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In Romeoville, Il., 2016 NCAA runner-up and AVCA No. 3 BYU swept No. 6 Lewis 27-25, 27-25, 25-22 in non-conference play. The Cougars hit .380 to the Flyers’ .329 in a match marred by 37 service errors (BYU committing 20,  Lewis 17).

BYU’s Ben Patch led the way with 17 kills and a .556 hitting percentage, while Redshirt freshman Ryan Coenen paced the Flyers with 10 kills and a .350 hitting percentage.

“Tonight was a great team effort to get the season going,” BYU head coach Shawn Olmstead said. “Lewis is a great program, and I was happy with how the team navigated through some ups and downs of the opener.”

BYU will continue its midwest swing, contesting Loyola at Gentile Arena at 7 pm C.S.T.

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Kyle Ensing of Long Beach kit .632 against McKendree/LBSU athletics

At the ASICS/South Coast Inn-vitational hosted by UC Santa Barbara, No. 4 Long Beach State won twice on Friday against Fort Wayne (25-16, 25-20, 25-21) and McKendree (29-27, 25-16, 25-21). The win against Fort Wayne was Long Beach’s ninth season-opening victory in a row.

“I think we did a good job against two very talented teams that we don’t see very often,” said 49ers coach Alan Knipe. “Coming out and getting going was good. I thought there were a lot of things our guys did well throughout the day, primarily the adjustments made within the match were more important to me than the individual successes of block, hitting or what have you.”

Long Beach State hit .366 against Fort Wayne and .478 against McKendree.

Sophomore TJ DeFalco, a former VolleyballMag.com boys’ high school player of the year, had 10 kills against Ft. Wayne and 14 against McKendree. Sophomore right side Kyle Ensing hit .500 against Ft. Wayne with seven kills and then hit .632 (13 kills on 19 swings with 1 error) and posted 13 kills in the McKendree triumph. Setter Josh Tuaniga had a total of 75 assists in the two matches, while Andrew Sato had 21 combined digs.

“When we look at the stats as a staff, we feel there are so many other things we can tighten up,” said Knipe. “And that’s a fun feeling.”

Colton Stone and Pelegrin Vargas each had nine kills for Ft. Wayne, which hit .070 in the match. Nolan Rueter and Maalik Walker each had 13 kills for McKendree.

Long Beach State faces Quincy Saturday at 4 p.m. Pacific in the tournament.

Host UCSB swept its two matches against Mount Olive (25-14, 24-26, 25-15, 25-22) and McKendree (22-25, 25-19, 25-21, 25-13).

Outside hitter Jacob Delson led the Gauchos with a career-best 21 kills against Mt. Olive. He also posted 17 kills in the win against McKendree.

“Jacob played great today,” said UCSB coach Rick McLaughlin. “He’s going to have to do that when you have a young team around you. He’s got to carry them on his back a little bit and he did that in both matches.”

UCSB has now won 11 ASICS Invitational matches in a row dating back to 2013.

Henri Cherry added 19 total kills on the day out of the middle for Santa Barbara and hit .826. Hayden Boehle had a combined 24 kills and finished a dig short of a double-double against Mt. Olive.

Freshman setters Randy DeWeese and Casey McGarry made their presences felt immediately. Both averaged more than 10 assists per set and McGarry finished with 53 assists in his debut. Parker Boehle had 22 digs, including 14 against McKendree.

UCSB faces Fort Wayne Saturday at 6:30 p.m. Pacific.

AVCA No. 9 Stanford also is part of the USCB field. The Cardinal opened play with a 25-15, 25-15, 25-19 win over Mount Olive. Kevin Rakestraw led Stanford with 11 kills and five blocks. Gabriel Vega had seven kills and one block, while Jordan Ewert had seven kills and two aces.Clay Jones had six kills and three blocks. Freshman setter Paul Bischoff, the 2016 VolleyballMag.com boys’ high school player of the year, had 32 assists in his collegiate debut and directed a Stanford offense that hit .355. Mount Olive was held to a .027 hitting outing.

Robert Poole tallied a match-high 14 kills for Mount Olive.

Stanford followed that with a 20-25, 25-11, 25-22, 25-14 win over Quincy. Ewert led the Cardinal with 12 kills and four aces. Colin McCall had 11 kills, three blocks and one ace. Rakestraw had 10 kills and four blocks. Matt Klassen had eight kills, five aces and two blocks. Stanford hit .360. Florida native Kyle Dagostino, a junior, set in the second match of the day and had 40 assists, four digs and two blocks. Klassen hit .357, while libero Evan Enriques had six digs and three assists.

Setter Thane Fanfulik had 27 assists, four digs, four blocks and four aces to pace Quincy.

Stanford faces McKendree Saturday at 1:30 p.m. Pacific.

Also at UCSB, AVCA No. 14 Cal State Northridge notched a 25-16, 25-19, 25-23 win over Quincy. Sophomore Dimitar Kalchev had a match-high 11 kills on 19 swings and hit .526. He also had a season-high four aces with two coming in a tight third set. Kalchev came into the contest hitting .688 on the season.

“These matches are tough because neither team is used to playing this early in the morning,” said CSUN coach Jeff Campbell. “I thought we played really well in the first two sets, but Quincy played better in the third and made it close. We had some guys respond.”

Redshirt freshman Schylar Lillethorup added nine kills and hit .389 in two sets on the right side. Senior Jakub Ciesla added six kills and hit .417 in two sets. Sophomore setter Sam Porter had 32 assists as the Matadors hit .378.

David Seibum led Quincy with nine kills. Jerrod Kelso had seven kills.

Northridge then upped its record to 4-0 on the young season with a 25-11, 20-25, 30-28, 29-27 win over Ft. Wayne.

“Winning in four is a good victory for us,” said Campbell. “You have to give Ft. Wayne credit. They played really well in sets two, three and four. We won some deuce games at the end. Anytime you’re winning by two points, that’s just a play or two that could go either way.”

Kalchev posted a match-high 20 kills and hit .485 and is now hitting .571 through the first four matches.

“Dimitar is putting up some really good numbers. We went to him a lot in the last couple sets and he was virtually unstoppable,” said Campbell.

Ciesla had 14 kills and hit .357, while Arvis Greene had 12 kills.

Vargas led Ft. Wayne with 15 kills. The Mastodons fell to 0-3.

Northridge faces Mount Olive Saturday at 11 a.m. Pacific to wrap up tournament play.

And we wrap things up on the tournament trail with a trip to Hawaii and the 23rd Outrigger Resorts Invitational held at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.

Host Hawaii was a 25-15, 25-12, 25-11 winner over Princeton in Friday play to move to 2-0 on the season.

Stijn van Tilburg led the Rainbow Warriors with nine kills, three blocks and one ace. Kupono Fey had nine kills and three blocks, while Austin Matautia had six kills. Patrick Gasman added six kills and five blocks.

Hawaii hit .500 and had 11.5 team blocks. Princeton hit (minus) .072 and had no blocks.

Parker Dixon had nine kills to lead Princeton.

Hawaii goes for its second Outrigger title in a row and eighth overall Saturday against fellow 2-0 Ball State at 7 p.m. Hawaii time. Princeton and Erskine play at 4 p.m.

In Erskine’s loss to Ball State, Isaac Lanier led the Fleet with seven kills, while Trey Jones added six. Andres Talavera had 15 assists and Daniel Fralix had five digs.

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UCI’s Tamir Hershko scored 13 kills in a sweep over Grand Canyon/UCI athletics

In a non-conference contest in Irvine, Calif., UC Irvine (AVCA No. 8) was a 25-20, 25-19, 29-27 winner over Grand Canyon in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.

UCI hit .404 and held a 34-20 digs advantage to run its record to 4-0. Tamir Hershko led all players with 13 kills and hit .632. Scott Stadick and Thomas Hodges each had eight kills. Hodges had a team-high six digs, while Stadick had a team-best three block assists. Setter Michael Saeta had seven kills to go with 28 assists, two aces and four digs. Middle blocker Matthew Younggren hit .600 with six kills on 10 swings and no errors. David Parker hit .625.

Ashton King had eight kills to lead Grand Canyon. Shalev Saada and Luke Turner each had seven kills.

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