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Hawai’i, UCLA, Penn St., Ohio St., King win NCAA men’s volleyball conference titles

Two-time defending champion Hawai’i, UCLA, Penn State and Ohio State made it easier for the NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball committee.

There were no upsets Saturday in the four conference finals where teams are under consideration for at-large bids.

That leaves adding two at-larges to the NCAA Championship bracket of seven teams and, most logically, that will be Long Beach State and Grand Canyon/or BYU. GCU, ranked in the NCAA RPI won both MPSF meetings with BYU this season. 

That remains to be seen later Sunday, especially since NCAA committees in all sports have been known to throw surprises when least expected. But in this case, the only surprises — if there are any — should come in the form of seeding.

UCLA swept Stanford to win the MPSF, Hawai’i beat UC Irvine in four to win the Big West, Penn State swept Princeton to win the EIVA, Ohio State beat Ball State in four to win the MIVA, and King won a wild one in five over North Greenville to win Conference Carolinas.

The seven-team tournament at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, that includes three play-in matches to get to the May 4 semifinals, will be announced on a live show on NCAA.com that is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. Eastern Sunday. 

NCAA.com, which will stream the three play-in matches, quarterfinals and semifinals, had not updated its men’s volleyball page since Hawai’i defeated Long Beach State in the 2022 national-title match. Finally Saturday night it made reference to the Sunday show. 

The national-championship match is May 6 on ESPN2 with the best volleyball-announcing tandem in the business, Paul Sunderland and Kevin Barnett, on the call.

Breaking it down

After Sunday’s announcement show, VolleyballMag.com’s Rob Espero will join editor Lee Feinswog for a Zoom with selected NCAA coaches in the field and others offering their analysis. Our lineup includes UCLA coach John Speraw, Penn State coach Mark Pavlik, Ohio State coach Kevin Burch, and, as analysts, Loyola Chicago coach John Hawks and Lincoln Memorial coach John Cash.

We will not have anyone from defending-champion Hawai’i. As a team spokesman told us, the Rainbow Warriors won’t even be sticking around Irvine to watch the show because they’ll be on a plane back to Hawai’i.

Our Zoom will post by mid-afternoon.

Hawai’i wins the 2023 Big West title/Jim Wolf photo

Big West

Hawai’i (28-2) won its 11th in a row by sweeping UC Irvine 25-18, 21-25, 25-13, 25-22 to become the first team to win back-to-back Big West Championship tournament titles.

Dimitrios Mouchlias led the Rainbow Warriors with 17 kills, hitting .387, and had an ace, six blocks and six digs. Chaz Galloway added 13 kills, hit .417, and had two assists, an ace, six blocks and eight digs. Spyros Chakas struggled with seven errors, but had nine kills, two assists, two aces, two blocks and 10 digs.

“We came out pretty focused and played pretty good,” UH coach Charlie Wade said. He pointed out that his team made four serving errors and six attack errors in the first set “and stlll won pretty handily.”

“When our serving is rolling it kind of defines who we are.” 

Hawai’i hit .330 and had six aces and 15 serving errors. Jakob Thelle had two kills in three errorless tries, 47 assists and five blocks. Brett Seward had nine digs.

Jakob Thelle celebrates with Hawai’i fans in Irvine/Jim Wolf photo

Hawai’i, which beat UCI for the 14th time in a row, became the first Big West team to win both the regular season and tournament titles in the same year since Long Beach State in 2018.

UCI, playing at home before a crowd of 4,064 (many rooting for Hawai’i), ended its season 18-11 after playing in the Big West final for the first time. The Anteaters hit .160 — its third lowest of the season — and had four aces and 13 errors. Hilir Henno led with 17 kills, an ace, three assists, a block and five digs. Francesco Sani had 13 kills, two assists, two aces, five blocks and six digs. Cole Gillis had five kills, an ace, three blocks and a dig. Maxim Grigoriev had no kills but eight blocks, one solo. Joe Karlous had 27 assists, two blocks and six digs. 

UCI’s Hilir Henno is no match for the Hawai’i triple block of Dimitrios Mouchlias, left, Guilherme Voss, center, and Chaz Galloway/Jim Wolf photo

MPSF

UCLA (29-2) made a strong case for getting the No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament with its 25-22, 25-21, 25-23 win at Stanford (15-13).

The Bruins, who won their 10th match in a row, hold the top spot in the NCAA RPI, followed closely by Penn State and Hawai’i. 

UCLA wins the 2023 MPSF title

Merrick McHenry had 10 kills with no errors in 12 attacks, four blocks and a dig. Ido David had seven kills, an ace, three blocks and five digs, and Ethan Champlin had seven kills, two assists, an ace, five digs and four blocks, one solo. Andrew Rowan had two kills in as many tries, 34 assists, three aces, a solo block and three digs. His team hit .373 and had five aces and 18 errors. 

UCLA is at the 29-victory mark for the first time since it went 29-5 when it won the 2000 NCAA title. This was also UCLA’s 20th sweep of the season and most since the 1988 Bruins had 20 sweeps.

Stanford hit .173 and had seven aces and 14 errors. Will Rottman led with 13 kills, two aces and five digs. Four of his teammates had four kills each for Stanford’s other 16 kills.

MIVA

Ohio State (22-9) won the tournament for the 18th time and first since 2018 with its 27-25, 25-17, 19-25, 25-19 victory at Ball State. 

Ohio State wins the 2023 MIVA title

Jacob Pasteur had 19 kills, seven in the first set, to go with a block and six digs. Ohio State hit .363 and had six aces and 19 errors, six by Pasteur.

Shane Wetzel had 16 kills, hit .333 and added an assist, an ace against five errors, three blocks and three digs. Pasteur had six of his kills in the fourth set and Wetzel five as their team had 19 kills with one error in 30 attacks. 

Cole Young had 10 kills with one error in 14 attacks, an ace and a dig. Jack Stevens added nine kills with one error in 18 swings and added two blocks and nine digs, and Justin Howard had seven kills with one error in 15 attacks. He also had two digs and six blocks, one solo. 

Michael Wright had two kills, 54 assists, three aces, two blocks and nine digs, and Thomas Poole had seven digs and an assist.

Defending-champion Ball State’s season ended 20-9. The Cardinals hit .275 and had two aces and 11 errors.

Kaleb Jenness led Ball State with 16 kills and hit .400 after having two errors in 35 attacks. He added an assist, three blocks and seven digs. Tinaishe Ndavazocheva had 16 kills, one assist, two aces, three blocks and three digs. Vanis Buckholz had six kills with no errors in 12 attacks and five blocks. David Flores had a kill, 37 assists, two blocks and nine digs. Lukas Pytlak had nine digs and four assists.

EIVA

Penn State (26-3) won its 35th EIVA tourney title with its 25-14, 25-18, 25-22 sweep of visiting Princeton.

Cal Fisher led Penn State with 12 kills, two aces, five digs and three blocks, one solo. Fisher, who was injured early and finally got on the floor eight matches into the season in February, had a season-high 23 kills in the semifinals against George Mason. 

Penn State wins the 2023 EIVA title/Mark Selders photo

Brett Wildman adeded eight kills, an assist, an ace, two blocks and four digs. He had five kills and hit .500 in the third set. Michal Kowal finished with six kills, an ace and two digs. 

Cole Bogner had two kills in as many tries, 25 assists and six digs. His team, which won its eighth match in a row, hit .324 and had five aces and 14 errors. 

Princeton ended its season 14-12. The Tigers got off to a rough start in January and stood 2-5 after seven matches. They were 4-8 after back-to-back losses at Penn State in mid-February before winning 10 of 13 before Saturday. 

Against Penn State, Princeton hit .054 with four aces and 17 errors. Brady Wedbush led with seven of the Tigers’ 24 kills.

Conference Carolinas

Warren Davis had 29 kills and third-seeded King knocked off another higher-seeded team, this time top-seeded North Greenville. Now the Tornado (16-15) are going to the NCAA tournament for the second time.

King wins the 2023 Conference Carolinas title

King, which swept second-seeded Erskine in the semifinals, had to go the distance to beat defending-champion North Greenville (19-8) 25-19, 22-25, 25-22, 30-32, 15-12. Davis’ kill total was a career high and he added two assists, two blocks and 12 digs. Jackson Carroll had 15 kills, hit .406, and had two assists, four blocks and four digs. Kellan Kennedy had 13 kills, hit .500, and had an ace, two digs and a career-high 11 blocks, two solo. AJ Drooker had seven kills, five blocks and 11 digs. Jack Sarnowski had two kills, 59 assists, an ace, two blocks and 10 digs, and Justin Sawyer had 12 digs and two assists.

King, which had a season-high 15 blocks, hit .280 and had six aces and 11 errors.

King is back in the NCAA field for the first time since 2018 when it lost to Ohio State.

North Greenville hit .237 and had four aces and 15 errors. Michael de la Cruz led with 20 kills, an assist, three blocks and three digs. Emanuel Adames had 16 kills, hit .520, and had five blocks and two digs. Diego Rosich had 15 kills, an assist, an ace, nine digs and four blocks, two solo. Jacob Brown had nine kills, two blocks and 10 digs. Jorge Riesgo had a kill, 61 assists, seven digs and two blocks, one solo.

LIU wins the 2023 NEC men’s championship

NEC

Third-seeded LIU (19-11) won the inaugural conference title with a 25-23, 25-22, 25-20 victory over top-seeded Saint Francis (PA).

Livan Moreno had 12 kills, hit .409 and had four digs. Caden Satterfield had 11 kills, hit .429 and had two blocks and two digs. Luke Chandler had 10 kills, three blocks and four digs. Arthur Sueur had five kills in eight errorless attacks, both of his team’s aces, four blocks and a dig. Gio Collazo had 12 digs and an assist.

Luca Holanda had 35 assists, a block and six digs. His team hit .341 and had those two aces and 11 errors. 

SFU, which ended its season 15-12, hit .29 and had no aces and 17 errors. Blake Liprando led with 11 kills, eight digs and two blocks, one solo. Thomas Leahey, Trevor Lewis and Andrew Deardorff had nine kills each.