NCAA men: No. 1 Ohio State plays USC, No. 2 UCLA faces Penn State

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Erskine's Absalon Williams has trouble against the Hawai'i block/Hawai'i photo

The NCAA men’s volleyball season is under way and the biggest pre-conference tournament of the season begins Friday at Ohio State where the top-ranked and defending-champion Buckeyes play host to USC after No. 13 Penn State plays No. 2 UCLA.

It’s called the AVCA Challenge and pits teams from the Big Ten and Pac-12, although they don’t compete under those conferences’ banners in men’s volleyball. It’s also at Ohio State’s St. John Arena, the site of May’s NCAA final-six championship tournament.

Ohio State of the MIVA, which shocked then No. 1 BYU in the NCAA title match last May, opens its season after winning its last 23 matches of 2016.

USC of the MPSF opened its season on Tuesday by beating visiting Concordia of Irvine in four.

Penn State, which did not win the EIVA last year for the first time in 18 years, is playing its season opener, while UCLA of the MPSF opened its season Tuesday by going to Chicago and sweeping Loyola of the MIVA.

There are various ways to keep up with the gathering. The website Off the Block will be streaming the first match live on Facebook, while Ohio State vs. USC can be seen on Buckeye Vision. Saturday’s first match between Penn State and USC will be shown on BTN2GO, the Big Ten Network online, while Saturday’s later match between Ohio State and UCLA will be on the Big Ten Network.

These same four teams opened last season at Penn State, the site of the 2016 NCAA final six.

There were some interesting results this past week as teams in the four leagues, including Conference Carolinas, opened their seasons.

At Hawai’i’s 23rd Outrigger Resorts Invitational the home team crushed Erskine of Conference Carolinas in three. Hawai’i had 13 service aces and hit .451 while limiting the Flying Fleet to .015 hitting. UH also outblocked Erskine 8.5 to 1.

Transfer Larry “Tui” Tuileta started the match at libero and finished it as an outside hitter and had five kills, two digs, and two aces.

The tournament continues Friday with Ball State playing Erskine before Hawai’i plays Princeton.

As mentioned, UCLA beat Loyola as Jake Arnitz had 11 kills and Micah Ma’a had seven blocks.

USC, which struggled last year under new coach Jeff Nygaard, opened its season with a 30-28, 23-25, 25-13, 25-18 over Concordia. Aaron Strange led with 13 kills. Concordia is 0-3 after also losing to UCI.

No. 8 UC Irvine is 2-0 after beating No. 20 IPFW in four. Karl Apfelbach led with 10 kills.

No. 6 Pepperdine had to go five to beat No. 22 McKendree 23-25, 18-25, 25-14, 25-21, 15-11 in the opener for both teams. Michael Wexter had 17 kills to lead the Waves, while Maalik Walker led McKendree with 21 and hit .421.

CSUN is 2-0. Northridge beat UC Merced in three after hitting .661 with just two errors on 62 swings.

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