Top-ranked Long Beach State, the defending national champion, and No. 2 Hawai’i both won Friday and advanced to Saturday’s Big West Tournament title match.
That’s one of four automatic bids that will be decided Saturday for entry into the NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball tournament. The field will be announced Sunday on NCAA.com.
Up for grabs Saturday are bids in the Big West, MPSF, MIVA and EIVA. Barton won the Conference Carolinas bid on Thursday with its five-set win over King.
In the Big West, host Hawai’i (26-2) will face Long Beach State (26-1).
Hawai’i defeated UC Irvine 25-17, 25-16, 25-18, while Long Beach beat UC Santa Barbara 25-19, 21-25, 25-18, 25-17. Both the losers hold out hope for one of the NCAA’s two at-large bids.
Long Beach State beat Hawai’i twice last week, both times in five as the teams finished up the regular season with back-to-back matches at Long Beach.
In the MPSF, Pepperdine (21-6) plays host to USC (18-10). They split their two regular-season matches with both teams winning at home. Pepperdine is unbeaten this season in Firestone Fieldhouse.
The MIVA automatic spot will go either to crosstown rivals Lewis (24-5) or Loyola (21-7). Lewis won both meetings this year by 3-1 scores.
The EIVA title match pits Princeton (16-12) against Penn State (15-14). Penn State has made a bit of a run of late, knocking off George Mason to reach the final, but Princeton beat the Nittany Lions twice this season, 3-1 at State College, and 3-0 at home.
Long Beach and UC Santa Barbara played the first Big West semifinal and Long Beach held advantages in hitting percentage (.404 to .238), aces (seven to four), and blocks (10 to 4.5).
Big West player of the year Kyle Ensing led all attackers with 18 kills, six digs, a block and an ace. His lone hitting error came in the waning moments of the contest. TJ DeFalco had 11 kills, five assists, three aces, five digs and four blocks. Simon Andersen had nine kills, four blocks and hit .750.
Josh Tuaniga recorded 41 assists, four kills, an ace, four digs and two blocks.
Corey Chavers led UCSB with 13 kills, two aces, four digs and two blocks. Brandon Hopper finished with 10 kills, five digs and an assist.
“These guys work so hard,” Long Beach setter Josh Tuaniga told Spectrum Sports. “You come into the gym, they’re absolutely killing it. And so it’s all about rewarding that work. They work hard in trans, they work hard to pass me balls, and all I can do is set them hittable balls and give them good opportunities. They’re going to go out and hammer.”
In the second semifinal, Hawai’i controlled the match throughout, hitting .441 to Irvine’s .117.
The Anteaters were unable to contain Rado Parapunov, who went 12 for 14 for a .857 hitting percentage. Parapunov’s line also included an assist, two aces, two digs and four blocks.
Stijn van Tilburg and Colton Cowell both had nine kills. Cowell also contributed five digs and four blocks, while van Tilburg added an ace, four digs and a block.
Karl Apfelbach led UC Irvine with 12 kills, an ace, and a dig. Joel Schneidmiller and Aaron Koubi followed with seven kills each.
“I’m really happy with their performance,” Hawai’i coach Charlie Wade said. “Guys came out, played good defense, and were good offensively. It’s nice to advance at this point.”
“We weren’t very good blocking last week. We’ve been good all year, we didn’t execute, we didn’t finish blocks, so it’s something we worked on, and it’s nice to see us put up some numbers tonight.
“We have to play better than we did last week. I don’t think there’s any doubt.”