Now Long Beach State, UCLA and Penn State have to wait.
Two of them will get at-large bids Sunday when the NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball tournament bracket is announced.
Five other teams clinched their spots Saturday by winning their respective conference tournaments and the automatic bids that go with them:
Conference Carolinas — North Greenville beat Mount Olive in five
Big West — Hawai’i swept Long Beach
EIVA — Princeton beat NJIT in four
MIVA — Ball State swept Purdue Fort Wayne
MPSF — Pepperdine beat Stanford in five
Bracket announcement Sunday
Not only does the NCAA has to choose two at-large teams for the seven-team field, it has to seed them all and set the bracket. The two lowest-seeded teams will have an opening-round match with the winner advancing to the two-match quarterfinals.
The bracket announcement will be made on NCAA.com at 1 p.m. Eastern Sunday.
The NCAA RPI is not the only criteria, but Long Beach State is No. 1, Penn State No. 2, and UCLA No. 5. UCLA is the host team for the NCAA Championship and its RPI took a hit when the program made a trip to Georgia to play first-year SIAC programs to help grow the sport.
For comparison, Long Beach was 8-3 against the top 10 teams this season, Penn State was 1-3 and UCLA was 4-2.
The five-member committee includes Stanford coach John Kosty, Hawai’i athletic director David Matlin, Princeton executive associate director of athletics Anthony Archbald, MIVA commissioner Tim O’Brien and King coach Ryan Booher.
Top-seeded North Greenville, with its Puerto Rican contingent leading the way, is in the NCAA field for the first time. The Crusaders from South Carolina (20-5) beat third-seeded Mount Olive (16-7) on its home court 25-22, 23-25, 25-16, 21-25, 15-7.
Gregory Torres, a freshman from Puerto Rico, led North Greenville with 25 kills. He had five errors in 46 attacks to hit .435 and added an assist, four aces, three blocks and 10 digs. Diego Rosich, a sophomore from Puerto Rico, had 16 kills, two assists, an ace, three blocks and 12 digs. Michael de la Cruz, another freshman from Puerto Rico, had 15 kills, an assist, an ace, three blocks and three digs. Sergio Carrillo, a senior from Puerto Rico, had a kill in four errorless tries, 55 assists, a solo block and 13 digs. His team hit .304 and had six aces and 19 errors.
Mount Olive’s Tobi Azeez had 18 kills, hit .302, and the Australian junior had two assists, a block and two digs. Pedro Gonzalez had 13 kills with no errors in 20 attacks to hit .650 and had three digs and six blocks, three solo. Luke Visgitis had nine kills, an assist, 14 digs and six blocks, but no aces and nine errors. Trevor Treser had 17 digs and an assist. Mount Olive hit .281 and had two aces and 25 errors.
When they played at Long Beach earlier this month, Long Beach won both matches. But Saturday, with 6,636 in the Stan Sheriff Center, Hawai’i (24-5) swept visiting Long Beach (20-5) by the slimmest of margins 27-25, 28-26, 25-23.
Hawai’i, which finished its home season 18-0, got 16 kills each from its Greeks. Dimitrios Mouchlias had 16 kills, an assist, an ace, two digs and five blocks, one solo. Spyros Chakas had 16 kills, hit .483, and had two assists, no aces and five errors, a block and four digs. Chaz Galloway had seven kills, two blocks and five digs, and Guilherme Voss had seven kills with one error in 15 attacks, a dig and five blocks. Jakob Thelle had two kills, 43 assists, a block and 11 digs and Brett Sheward had nine digs and two assists. The Rainbow Warriors hit .368 and had three aces and 14 errors.
Hawai’i is the defending NCAA champion.
Long Beach was led again by Alex Nikolov, who had 19 kills and hit .286. He added two aces, five digs and four blocks, one solo. Spencer Olivier had eight kills with two errors in 16 attacks, an assist and three digs. Aidan Knipe had 33 assists, a block and eight digs. His team hit .275 and had three aces and nine errors.
Long Beach State won the NCAA title in 2018 and 2019.
Ben Harrington went off for 24 kills while hitting .476 and Princeton (15-12) is back in the NCAA field for the first time since 2019 after its 23-25, 27-25, 27-25, 25-18 victory over NJIT (17-11) at Penn State.
Harrington, a sophomore from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, had four errors in 42 attacks, an ace, seven digs and three blocks, one solo. James Hartley had 12 kills, an assist, four blocks and five digs. Parker Dixon had nine kills, hit .412, and added an assist, two aces, two blocks and five digs. Princeton hit .328 and had five aces and 14 errors.
NJIT, ending its best season in 15 years, got 19 kills from Julian Meissner, who had an assist, six blocks and five digs. Three players had 10 kills each, Jens Feldthus, Martin De Chavarria and Alessandro Negri. NJIT hit .250 and had two aces and 14 errors.
Ball State (23-3) is back in the NCAA field for the first time since 2002.
Ball State was the team to beat all season in the MIVA and the host Cardinals left no doubt with their 28-26, 25-20, 25-16 over visiting Purdue Fort Wayne (17-13).
Kaleb Jenness, a senior from Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, led with 18 kills as he hit .421 after having two errors in 38 attacks. He added two assists, an ace, four digs and six blocks, one solo. Angelos Mandilaris, the Greek graduate-student transfer from Barton, added 14 kills as he hit .314 and had three blocks and seven digs (Barton of Conference Carolinas went 0-20 this season). Quinn Isaacson had four kills in five attempts, 40 assists, two aces, two blocks and nine digs. Colin Ensalaco had nine digs and an assist. Ball State hit .308 and had five aces and eight errors.
Purdue Fort Wayne, which lost to Ball State in four to end the regular season, scored two upsets in the MIVA tourney by knocking out McKendree and Loyola Chicago. Against Ball State this time, the Mastodons hit .232 and had no aces and nine errors. Jon Diedrich led with 10 kills, a block and six digs. Vicente Ibarra had nine kills, two blocks, and four digs.
Pepperdine (19-9) beat Stanford (14-14) at UCLA 25-20, 25-19, 22-25, 22-25, 15-12 to win the crown for the first time since 2019.
Spencer Wickens, a graduate-student from Irondequoit, New York, led a balanced attack with 16 kills, three assists, an ace and seven digs. Alex Gettinger had 15 kills, hit .370, and had three assists, no aces and five errors, and eight digs. Jaylen Jasper had 14 kills, an assist, five blocks and 10 digs. Anderson Fuller had 10 kills, hit .438, and had three digs and three blocks, one solo. Bryce Dvorak had three kills, 50 assists, an ace, a block and six digs, and Trey Cole had 11 digs and four assists. The Waves hit .300 and had four aces and 18 errors.
Stanford ended a remarkable season after nearly having the program disbanded last year. While the Cardinal came back, one of the players it lost was Jasper, who leads Pepperdine in kills. But Stanford, the No. 5 seed in the MPSF tourney, knocked off fourth-seeded Grand Canyon and top-seeded UCLA. Against Pepperdine, Will Rottman continued his strong postseason play with 22 more kills, an ace against six errors, a block and six digs. Kevin Lamp had 14 kills, an assist, no aces and seven errors, three digs and five blocks, one solo. Nathan Lietzke had two kills, 46 assists, nine digs and five blocks, two solo. His team hit .291 and had one aces and 24 errors.
Stanford was the lowest seed to reach the MPSF final since 2011. This is Pepperdine’s match-clinching point, shot by Rob Espero:
Independent Volleyball Association
Lincoln Memorial, which was ranked briefly in the early season finished ranked No. 10 in the NCAA RPI, ended its season 20-7 with a sweep of Daemen (16-6). Five Railsplitters had five or more kills, 11 by Justin Sharfenaker. He had no errors in 19 attacks, three blocks and six digs.
Lincoln Memorial won the IVA crown for the fourth year in a row.
The independents don’t get an automatic bid but are, assumedly, eligible for at-large NCAA consideration.
PLEASE JOIN THE TEAM!
Keep free volleyball journalism free by becoming a VolleyballMag.com Sustaining Member: https://volleyballmag.com/sustaining-membership/
Or make a contribution through Venmo @VolleyballMag