Hawai’i beat Long Beach State — in five, of course — and not only won the Big West Tournament title, but the automatic NCAA bid that goes with it.
Also Saturday night, Pepperdine won the MPSF, Lewis won the MIVA and Princeton won the EIVA. They joined Barton, which won the Conference Carolinas bid to the NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball tournament this past Thursday.
And now they all wait until 1 p.m. Eastern Sunday when the bracket is announced on NCAA.com. Long Beach State will assuredly get one of the two at-large bids. Will the other go to UC Santa Barbara, UC Irvine, UCLA or USC?
From the NCAA:
Seven teams will be selected into the field, with the two top-ranked schools being placed in the national semifinals. The five other schools will first compete in an opening round structure.
More on that follows the recaps.
Second-ranked Hawai’i — which lost in five on back-to-back nights last week to end the regular season at Long Beach — turned around and defeated top-ranked Beach State 25-15, 25-23, 22-25, 20-25, 15-8 in front of a packed and raucous announced crowd of 10,300 at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Only 11 points separate the cumulative scores between the two teams, as Hawai’i has scored 308 points to Long Beach’s 297 points in the three contests. Hawai’i is 27-2, while Long Beach stands 26-2.
Hawai’i’s Stijn van Tilburg hit .543 as he had 25 kills without an error, an ace, two digs and two blocks. Colton Cowell had a career-best 18 kills, hitting .471 with an ace, 12 digs and three blocks. Libero Gage Worsley came up with 11 digs, including two big pick-ups in the fifth set.
“I just appreciate how volleyball has brought this community together,” Hawai’i coach Charlie Wade said in the Spectrum Sports post-match interview. “This win is because of our fans.
“We’re in. We said all year long, the way it works, is that to get into the NCAA Tournament, there’s a match being played in the Stan Sheriff Center. We’ve got to be in it, and we’ve got to win it. Our guys came through.”
No. 4 Pepperdine (22-6) defeated USC (18-10) 25-23, 25-20, 27-25 to complete an undefeated home season. The MPSF title win is the Waves’ first since 2008. Pepperdine played another clean match, with only seven errors, its fifth in the last six matches with single-digit errors.
Pepperdine out-hit USC .410 to .233 and out-blocked the Trojans 8.5 to 3.
The Waves led from the pins, as David Wieczorek led all attackers with 18 kills while hitting .571 to go with two aces, two blocks and seven digs. Michael Wexter had 10 kills, an ace, four blocks and four digs, while Kaleb Denmark had eight kills, two assists, an ace and seven digs.
Jack Wyett led the Trojans with 13 digs, an ace, a block and five digs. Ryan Moss had nine kills, an ace, and eight digs.
“It feels good,” Pepperdine coach David Hunt said. “The way it ended was pretty special, that’s for sure. They’ve been playing well for the last month-and-a-half. Our guys are doing some really cool things, it’s fun to watch as a coach. It’s fun for me as a coach to sit back and watch those guys work hard every day and to perform well on the court.”
For Wieczorek, the win was validation of the teams’ work ethic.
“It was a really fun win. It’s a dream come true. For me, for everybody, we’ve been working so hard, training in the gym, to come out and have your work pay off, it’s just a dream come true.
“USC’s a great team, and they’re coached by a great coach, for us to come out and play as well as we did, and beat a team like that, it’s just a testament to our training.”
In the MIVA, Lewis (25-5) swept Loyola (21-8) 25-17, 25-18, 25-19, beating its Chicago rival all three times for the first time since 2000. Lewis’ MIVA record was 13-1, losing only to Ball State on March 23.
Julian Moses had 10 kills, six digs, and four blocks, one solo. Ryan Coenen also had 10 kills, plus an assist, two blocks and four digs. Setter Matt Yoshimoto had 35 assists, two aces, four blocks and five digs.
Collin Mahan led the Ramblers with nine kills, an assist, an ace and two digs.
“It was so fun to watch,” Lewis coach Dan Friend said. “The guys were incredible tonight and I was their biggest fan. We were great in all facets of the game whether it was offense, defense or serving and they really embodied what we’ve been working on all year. I’m elated for them, for our program, for all of our alumni and excited to get to that next step.”
The EIVA tournament was won by Princeton (17-12), which eliminated Penn State (15-15) 28-26, 22-25, 25-18, 20-25, 15-13. The EIVA crown is the first for the Tigers since 1998.
Princeton’s George Huhmann delivered 25 kills, including the match-winner, three aces, six blocks and two digs. Parker Dixon added 15 kills, an assist, a block and four digs.
Penn State’s Brett Wildman had 24 kills, hit .300, and had an assist, two aces, two blocks, one solo and six digs.
“The legacy (of the program) was based around the 1998 championship and to be able to add to that and continue that legacy is really special,” Princeton coach Sam Shweisky saud. “It feels a lot bigger than us and we’re happy to be here for this moment, but it’s really special to be a part of something this big. We’re honored.”
More from the NCAA:
The first opening round game on April 25 will feature the two lowest-ranked teams. The winner of that match will advance to Opening Round Match 2. Two other selected participants will face off in Opening Round Match 3. The winners of Opening Round Matches 2 and 3 will advance to the semifinals.
The national semifinals and championship game — scheduled for May 2 and 4, respectively — will be hosted by Long Beach State University at Walter Pyramid in Long Beach, California.