NCAA men’s final 6 preview

Long Beach faces Erskine on Tuesday

BYU and UCLA have to hurry up and wait. They dont play until Thursday.

But on Tuesday at Penn State, the National Collegiate Men’s Volleyball Championship begins with play-in matches between Long Beach State vs. Erskine and Ohio State vs. George Mason.

The winners advance to the semifinals.

Here’s the field:

No. 1 BYU (26-3)

No. 2 UCLA (25-6)

No. 3 Ohio State (28-2)

No. 4 Long Beach State (24-7)

No. 5 Erskine (20-6)

No. 6 George Mason (18-11)

The play-in matches will be shown on GoPSUnow, the video arm of Penn State. Here is the link to the link.

The semifinal matches will be streamed on via the Penn State video. BYU awaits the LBSU/Erskine winner, while UCLA plays the Ohio State/GMU winner.

The national championship match will be played on Saturday at 8 p.m. Eastern, 5 p.m. Pacific and televised by ESPN2.

The Beach is making its eighth NCAA postseason appearance and first since 2008. LBSU has advanced to the NCAA finals six times with one national title coming in 1991, when current head coach Alan Knipe was a starting middle blocker for the 49ers.

Erskine is making its second NCAA Tournament appearance in three years as it swept Barton College in the finals of the Conference Carolinas Tournament to earn the league’s automatic bid.

This is the first-ever meeting between Long Beach State and Erskine. The two teams have three common opponents this season. The Beach is 2-1, and the Flying Fleet are 2-2 in those matches. Both squads fell to Ohio State and defeated Mount Olive, which is a member of the Conference Carolinas. LBSU also defeated Lewis in four, while Erskine was swept by the Flyers.

Long Beach is led by freshman outside TJ DeFalco, who was named an AVCA All-American on Monday.

The Flying Fleet rank first in the nation with 13.71 kills and 9.70 digs per set. Senior outside hitter Mike Michelau, who was recently named the Conference Carolinas Player of the Year, has paced Erskine with 4.53 kills per set. Junior outside hitter Roberto Perez Vargas has also registered 4.04 kills per set, while senior libero Michael Schneck is averaging 2.98 digs per set.

Ohio State is led by first-team All-American Nicolas Szerszen, a sophomore outside.

The Buckeyes have won the last 13 meetings with George Mason, last dropping a match to the Patriots back in 2009. During the recent victorious stretch, Ohio State has surrendered just eight sets overall. The all-time series is much closer, however, as OSU owns a 29-25 edge. The Buckeyes notched a sweep (25-22, 25-19, 25-22) over GMU earlier this season

Mountain Pacific Sports Federation winner BYU split the regular-season series with Long Beach but has never faced Erskine. The Cougars have defeated UCLA three times this season, including in the MPSF Championship. BYU also beat George Mason earlier this year but has yet to play Ohio State.

UCLA returns to the NCAA championships for the first time since it captured the program’s 19th title with a 3-0 win at Penn State in 2006. The Bruins own a 25-6 record this season under fourth-year head coach John Speraw which includes the most wins since that 2006 season produced 26 victories. Coach Speraw (UCLA ’95) won three NCAA titles as the head coach (2012, 2009, 2007) at UC Irvine. He also earned three titles as an assistant coach to Al Scates while at UCLA (1996, 1998, 2000) and two more as a player for Scates (1993, 1995).

The Bruins head into this year’s tournament having won 12 of their last 15 matches. The three setbacks in that stretch have all come at the hands of top-seed BYU. Ohio State, the winner of the Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (MIVA) title (five set win over Lewis), owns a 28-2 record this season and has won 20 consecutive matches. Its last loss came in a five-set decision to Ball State on February 6. George Mason won the Eastern Intercollege Volleyball Association (EIVA) in a four sets over St. Francis. The Patriots are 18-11 this year and will be making their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1988.

UCLA played both the Buckeyes and the Patriots earlier this season. The Bruins opened the season at George Mason on January 5 and registered a 3-0 win. Two nights later, UCLA defeated OSU 3-1 in a tournament played at Penn State.


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