In a battle of the top two early-season men’s college teams in the country, it was the defending champs that came out on top.
AVCA No. 1 Ohio State recorded a 25-22, 18-25, 25-21, 25-23 victory over No. 2 UCLA in the AVCA Showcase & Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge held at St. John Arena on the campus of Ohio State.
Ohio State now has won 25 matches in a row, a winning streak that dates back to Feb. 6, 2016. The Big Ten also was a 3-1 winner in the event over Pac-12 teams. Penn State split its matches with USC and UCLA.
Tournament action also wrapped up at UC Santa Barbara and Hawaii and one of the sport’s best earned his 400th career win Saturday.
Nicolas Szerszen, the 2016 AVCA national player of the year, led the Buckeyes with 17 kills and two aces. He hit .500 and also led the team in digs with seven. Ohio State had nine aces, including three in a row from Christy Blough, who had 38 assists and directed the team’s offense to a .309 hitting percentage.
Miles Johnson added 12 kills, while Maxime Hervoir had 10 kills and seven digs.
Jake Arnitz, a former VolleyballMag.com boys’ high school player of the year, had 16 kills and hit .440 for UCLA. Dylan Missry had eight kills and hit .389, while Daenan Gyimah had five kills and hit .364. Micah Ma’a and Hagen Smith combined for 32 assists. Arnitz also had two aces. Smith led the team with seven digs.
Ohio State welcomes defending EIVA champion and AVCA No. 10 George Mason to town Tuesday.
In the other match at Ohio State, AVCA No. 13 Penn State was a 30-32, 25-14, 21-25, 25-23, 15-11 winner over USC.
“It was a grittiness I think we’ve been looking for over the past 16 months or so,” said Penn State coach Mark Pavlik. “We had an easy win in the second set and everything was going our way. Game three, you know the Trojans are going to come back and they socked us in the nose. Game four was where I really wanted to see how we would react and I thought, ‘freshman setter, freshman opposite, let’s see what happens.’ I think Luke (Braswell) is finding the shape of the set that Cal (Mende) wants. Cal’s future is so bright. If we can keep him in good situations where his confidence keeps soaring then when we need him in bad-ball situations, then he’s going to feel good about himself.”
Mende added: “We took it point by point. We definitely passed well, we had a lot of options on our swings. By this point in the game (fifth set) we’d keyed in on their hitters pretty well. They still put us in some tough situations, but overall I think we handled it pretty well.”
From Braswell: “We did really well. One of our seniors Matt Callaway said, ‘We have to find our identity.’ I think we did that. We played well and battled back during Game 4 and finished them off in Game 5.”
Mende led Penn State with a career-high 25 kills in only his second match with the team. Mende also had five blocks and four digs while hitting .525. Chris Nugent had 22 kills and hit .395. Braswell had a career-high 62 assists and also had nine digs, three blocks and three kills. Aidan Albrecht had 13 kills, five blocks and three digs. Royce Clemens had 14 digs. Penn State had 14 blocks in the contest.
Lucas Yoder’s 33 kills on 53 swings and .509 hitting percentage led USC. Aaron Strange added 12 kills, while Andy Benesh had 11 kills on 17 swings (1 error) and hit .588. Gert Lisha had 57 assists, while Yoder led the team with nine digs. USC dropped to 1-2 on the season.
Further east in Chicago, AVCA No. 3 Brigham Young lost 25-20, 25-22, 22-25, 33-31 to No. 11 Loyola-Chicago.
“Tonight was an exciting match to be part of,” said BYU coach Shawn Olmstead. “I was happy with our fight and effort. We learned a lot this weekend about ourselves and we need to make sure we work on those things each day.”
Ben Patch led BYU with a match-high 25 kills while hitting .333. He also had eight digs. Price Jarman added four blocks, while Mitchel Worthington had eight digs. Leo Durkin had 51 assists and Jake Langlois had 14 kills. BYU fell to 1-1.
Collin Mahan led Loyola with 12 kills and hit .393 on 28 swings. Paul Narup also had 12 kills and hit .476 on 31 swings. Ben Plaisted rounded out the 12-kill club. Will Tischler added 10 kills and Jeff Jendryk had eight kills. Ian Cowen had 50 assists and Loyola hit .333 for the match.
Cowen and Plaisted each had 11 digs, while Mahan had seven digs. Loyola had 12 blocks and improved to 2-1 on the season.
Tournament action also wrapped up at UC Santa Barbara and Hawaii.
At UC Santa Barbara, the host Gauchos swept Ft. Wayne to finish 3-0 at their own ASICS/South Coast Inn-vitational. AVCA No. 12 Santa Barbara won the match 25-22, 25-14, 25-12.
Jacob Delson led Santa Barbara with 16 kills and hit .519. Hayden Boehle had nine kills, while Corey Chavers had four kills. Freshmen setters Casey McGarry (21 assists, six digs) and Randy Deweese (11 assists) quarterbacked the team’s offense to a .420 hitting percentage.
The Gauchos had no reception errors in the match and had eight blocks.
“I was very happy with the way our team continued to improve throughout the tournament,” said Santa Barbara coach Rick McLaughlin. “Our young guys are learning fast, but we still have much work ahead.”
Pelegrin Vargas led Ft. Wayne with eight kills.
In other UCSB tournament action, Long Beach State (AVCA No. 4) also went 3-0 after a 25-17, 25-15, 25-21 win over Quincy, which fell to 0-3.
The 49ers hit .320 and had 11 total blocks. TJ DeFalco led the way with 13 kills. Scott Stephanoff had nine kills on the right side, while setter Curtis Stallings had 28 assists. Amir Lugo-Rodriguez had six blocks, while Nick Amado had five. Stephanoff and Kyle Ensing combined for seven blocks.
Jarrod Kelso had nine kills and hit .375 for Quincy, which also received 25 assists from Thane Fanfulik and nine digs form David Siebum.
Stanford (AVCA No. 9) also went 3-0 at Santa Barbara, and capped off its play with a 25-17, 25-21, 25-21 win over McKendree (0-4).
Gabriel Vega led the Cardinal with 15 kills and three aces. Jordan Ewert had 11 kills, three blocks and two aces. Kevin Rakestraw had seven kills, while Stephen Moye had five kills and three blocks.
Stanford welcomes defending NCAA champion Ohio State to Palo Alto Friday and Saturday for a doubleheader.
The other contest at Santa Barbara saw Cal State Northridge move to 5-0 after a 25-12, 25-19, 25-19 win over Mount Olive. Northridge also went 3-0 in the tournament.
“We played really well in set one, but today we were steady throughout the entire match,” said Matadors coach Jeff Campbell. “We still have somethings to work on, but overall I thought we played well here. We got three important wins and faced some adversity, so this is a good springboard for conference play next week.”
Arvis Greene led Northridge with 15 kills and a career-best .778 hitting percentage. He had only one error in 18 attacks and also had four blocks and two digs. Dimitar Kalchev, who was hitting .571 through his first four matches, had 13 kills and hit .364 to go with two aces (to up his team-leading total to 12).
Sophomore setter Sam Porter had 30 assists and Northridge hit more than .400 as a team for the third time in five matches.
Brent Rutledge led Mount Olive (out of Mount Olive, N.C.) with 10 kills and hit .261.
In Hawaii at the Outrigger Resorts Invitational, host Hawaii won its eighth Outrigger title with a 22-25, 25-17, 25-23, 25-21 win over Ball State. It was Hawaii’s second Outrigger crown in a row.
Right-side hitter Stijn van Tilburg (6-8 sophomore) became the tournament’s first two-time winner of the most outstanding player award after finishing with a match-high 18 kills.
Freshman Austin Matautia added 13 kills and 13 digs. He also was named to the all-tournament team along with setter Jennings Franciskovic (46 assists, 10 digs) and middle blocker Patrick Gasman (11 kills, 5 blocks) Libero Mamane Namahoe had a team-high 14 digs.
Matt Szews had a team-high 13 kills for Ball State. Libero Nick Lavancy had 12 digs for the Cardinals (2-1). Both Szews and Lavancy were named to the all-tournament team.
In the third-place match in Honolulu, Princeton swept Erskine 25-20, 25-15, 25-14. Outside hitter Parker Dixon led the Tigers with 12 kills and hit .588. He also earned all-tournament honors. Isaac Lanier paced Erskine with a team-high nine kills.
AVCA No. 6 Lewis University scored a 25-22, 25-15, 22-25, 28-26 win over New Jersey Institute of Technology in a match that gave Flyers coach Dan Friend his 400th career victory. Friend has 241 wins as the Lewis men’s coach, 17 as the Lewis interim women’s head coach, 76 as Newman’s women’s coach and 66 as Newman’s men’s coach.
Redshirt sophomore opposite Mitch Perinar and senior middle blocker Jacob Schmiegelt combined for 29 kills and a .614 hitting percentage (29 kills, 2 errors, 44 attacks) to lead the way for Lewis.
Perinar had a match-high 20 kills and hit .594, while Schmiegelt hit .667 with nine kills. Sophomore setter Matt Yoshimoto had 41 assists, while redshirt sophomore Michael Simons had seven digs. Lewis hit .422 in the match. Lewis faces Harvard on Friday at home.