Host UCLA beat Pepperdine and Hawai’i beat North Greenville in their men’s matches Tuesday, setting up Thursday’s NCAA Tournament semifinals.

UCLA will play a rubber match against top-seeded Long Beach State, while Hawai’i gets a rematch with second-seeded Ball State.

Also, the NCAA Beach Championship gets underway Wednesday in Gulf Shores, Alabama, and the AVCA announced its men’s All-Americans and coach of the year.

Miles Partain and UCLA teammate Merrick McHenry with a facial block on Pepperdine’s Alex Gettinger/Jim Wolf photo

UCLA BEATS PEPPERDINE — The Bruins (22-4) beat their MPSF rivals for the third time this season, ending Pepperdine’s season at 19-10. Now UCLA will play Long Beach State (20-5) of the Big West in the semifinals.

UCLA won 25-23, 22-25, 26-24, 25-19. 

“Incredible team win for the Bruins,” UCLA coach John Speraw said. “Just to be able to make the moves that I made tonight and to have the success we had with everybody coming off the bench and contributing, was a significant example of the depth and talent that we’ve had. It’s helped make us the team that we are this season. 

“You got a glimpse of what we had every day in practice and you can see how that’s made us better. We talk all the time, ‘Game time is team time.’ There’s no better example of what we did here tonight.”

Kevin Kobrine led UCLA with 16 kills and hit .519 after having two errors in 27 attacks. He had an assist, two blocks and two digs. Ethan Champlin had eight kills, two assists, an ace, two blocks and three digs. Merrick McHenry had seven kills, hit .333, and had six blocks, one solo. Sam Burgi, who is not normally in the mix, had six kills with one error in 11 attacks, an assist, a solo block and three digs. 

“Sometimes, in these moments, you go with a senior,” Speraw said. “I’ve done that throughout the course of my career in big moments. Burgi goes down on the list of big-time performances from guys coming off the bench when it mattered most.”

Miles Partain had five kills in eight errorless tries, 46 assists, three blocks and five digs. The Bruins hit .437 and had three aces and 23 errors.

Ethan Champlin with the pancake dig for UCLA/Jim Wolf photo

Pepperdine, which hit .283, had four aces and 16 errors. Austin Wilmott had 12 kills with two errors in 18 attacks to hit .556 and had two aces and two blocks. Spencer Wickens had 11 kills with two errors in 17 attacks to hit .529 and had two assists and seven digs. Alex Gettinger had 10 kills, two assists, an ace and six digs. Bryce Dvorak had 43 assists, an ace, a block and five digs.

“I thought we had some opportunities in sets one and three and didn’t convert those, mainly in transition,” Pepperdine coach David Hunt said. “Set one, No. 9 (UCLA middle blocker Guy Genis) put on a run early and we dug ourselves out a hole. If he doesn’t go on that run, it’s a different set. 

“Set three, we have some swings at the end. If those bounce the other way, it’s a different set. That happens when you play good teams. Those margins are wafer thin. Ultimately, their offense, we had a hard time slowing it down, specifically, as the match went on.”

Hawai’i’s Chaz Galloway jousts against Sergio Carrillo of NGU/Jim Wolf photo

HAWAI’I SWEEPS NGU — Hawai’i of the Big West improved to 25-5 with its 25-15, 25-17, 25-16 sweep. The Greeks led the way: Spyros Chakas had 12 kills with two errors in 17 attacks to hit .588 to go with an assist, an ace, four digs and three blocks, one solo; and Dimitrios Mouchlias had 10 kills with two errors in 16 attacks to hit .500 and had two blocks and five digs. Cole Hogland had six kills in eight errorless attacks, an assist, three blocks and a dig. Jakob Thelle had three kills, 26 assists, four aces, three blocks and three digs. His team hit .429 and had five aces and 14 errors.

Hawai’i hadn’t played in nine days since winning the Big West.

“Just getting into the flow again and having everybody performing at a high level was important to us,” Thelle said. “I think we were able to execute, so that was a good start for us and I’m looking forward to (the) next game on Thursday.”

North Greenville of Conference Carolinas ended its season 21-6. The Crusaders won a play-in match Sunday, sweeping Princeton for the league’s first NCAA victory. Against Hawai’i, NGU hit .062 and had two aces and 15 errors. Gregory Torres led with 12 kills.

“What can you say when you go up against a team that is one of the best in the country? In South Carolina, that’s just something we don’t see,” said retiring NGU coach Fred Battenfield. “At a small college like North Greenville, we don’t get a chance to play against teams that are that good all the time, that are that fast and that athletic.”

THURSDAY’S MATCHUPS — UCLA has won 19 NCAA men’s championships, the last in 2006, and will play Long Beach State, which won it all in 1991, 2018, and 2019.

They played twice this season. Long Beach swept 25-22, 25-23, 25-13 on February 11 at Long Beach. Eight days later at UCLA, the Bruins won 25-20, 25-23, 23-25, 21-25, 15-12. Both teams were ranked No. 1 for stretches this season.

Hawai’i is the defending champion and also won in 2002, but that title was vacated by the NCAA because of violations. Ball State has never won it all.

Although UCLA-LBSU is a longstanding rivalry, Hawai’i-Ball State is a bit different. MIVA-champion Ball State, back in the tournament for the first time since 2002, beat Hawai’i twice this season, with an asterisk. 

Ball State beat visiting Hawai’i in back-to-back matches in late January when the Rainbow Warriors were without four players, including Thelle, middle Guilherme Voss, and outside Chaz Galloway. Ball State swept the first meeting on January 29 and then won in five two days later.

“It was so long ago, and it’s really not that relevant,” UH coach Charlie Wade said. “It was a totally different lineup for us. And back in January, there’s been a lot that’s going on. 

“We think we’re a lot better and playing a lot better than we were then. At this point, we’re just excited to still be in the tournament and looking to play well enough to advance.”

AVCA HONORS — The AVCA NCAA Division I-II Men’s All-American teams included 12 first-team players.

For the entire list, go to:

The AVCA also honored Ball State’s Donan Cruz, in his first year, as its national coach of the year.

For that story, go to:

BEACH BEGINS — Action started at 10 a.m. Eastern in Gulf Shores, Alabama, with matches scheduled to start on the hour. All will be shown on ESPNU, and ESPN+ will have cameras on all five courts.

Wednesday’s schedule
No. 8 FAU (22-10) vs. No. 9 Stanford (24-11)
No. 6 LSU (30-10) vs. No. 11 Cal (26-13)
No. 4 Loyola Marymount (29-7) vs. No. 13 Hawai’i (24-16)
No. 1 USC (32-1) vs. No. 16 UT Martin (17-8)
No. 2 TCU (38-3) vs. No. 15 Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (21-12)
No. 3 UCLA (31-7) vs. No. 14 Stetson (23-16)
No. 5 Florida State (28-9) vs. No. 12 Cal Poly (23-16)
No. 7 Grand Canyon (26-6) vs. No. 10 Georgia State (26-11)

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Keoni Thiim of Hawai’i dives in an attempt to keep the point alive/Jim Wolf photo


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