With Hawai’i and host Long Beach State winning their Big West Conference tournament semifinals and King of Tennessee and Barton winning Conference Carolinas penultimate tournament contests, the stage now is set today to determine five of the seven teams that will compete in the upcoming NCAA Division I-II men’s tournament at UCLA starting May 1.

On Saturday, five teams will earn automatic bids into the seven-team field with two at-large bids also at stake. The NCAA men’s selection show takes place Sunday at 1 p.m. Eastern at www.NCAA.com.

In addition to Long Beach State and Hawai’i squaring off for the Big West title at the Walter Pyramid at 7 p.m. (Pacific) and King and Barton playing for the Carolinas crown at King in Bristol, Tennessee (6:30 p.m., Eastern), Ohio State hosts Loyola-Chicago for the MIVA title (7 p.m., Eastern), while Princeton and Harvard are the main event in the all-Ivy League EIVA final at George Mason (7 p.m., Eastern). The MPSF finale features BYU hosting UCLA (4:30 p.m., Mountain).

The Big West Conference and CCSA beach tournaments are in full swing where play continues today, including the Big West semifinals where national No. 2 Pepperdine looks to advance to Sunday’s final in Santa Monica, California.

Big West Conference: Long Beach State left little doubt in its 25-23, 25-13, 25-17 win against CSUN.

The 49ers moved to 25-1 by never hitting below .400 in a set. Junior Setter Josh Tuaniga set Long Beach State to a .414 hitting percentage (9 errors on 70 swings). CSUN, which ended the year 16-11, hit .139 in the contest. Tuaniga had 27 assists, while Kyle Ensing had 10 kills and hit .350. TJ DeFalco had nine kills, while Bjarne Huus had eight kills. DeFalco had four of the squad’s season-high 10 service aces. Long Beach State swept a foe for the 18th time this season.

“It was very typical of a tournament of playoff game in the sense both teams came out fired up to play,” Long Beach State coach Alan Knipe said. “I thought CSUN did a good job of bringing energy with their serve and I thought we missed just a few too many in that first set. We didn’t miss them by that much and the guys made a small adjustment, did a great job and it was a big factor throughout the rest of the match. ”

Even though we didn’t score a lot of real points in that first set I really was impressed that they kept their composure late to execute throughout that first set. We got going with our block and defense as it went on.”

Knipe lauded the play of Tuaniga.

“I thought Josh did a great job of running a balanced offense tonight and getting all our guys involved,” he said. “It’s a big win for us and we look forward to being in the first Big West tournament final.”

And Knipe knows his team will have to be ready to fire on all cylinders against Hawai’i.

“It’s more about some of the adjustments we can make on both sides of the ball,” he said. “We know they are going to come out and play well. They are a good team. They played great against Irvine and they are going to play great (Saturday). And that’s what it should be. The Big West is the best conference, they are all in on volleyball, the best volleyball they possibly have, and teams playing high-level volleyball should be what the conference is all about. Hawai’i is playing well at the end of the season and there is a lot to play for. I can’t imagine anyone’s not going to be motivated to go out and play hard right now.”

The two teams split a recent two-match set in Honolulu with Hawai’i winning the second match in five and handing the 49ers their only loss of the season thus far.

“I know it’s really boring, but it’s really about serve-receive, staying disciplined with our blocking and defense with the plan of attack on the service line,” said Knipe. “We feel like we didn’t execute down the stretch, but that’s a credit to Hawai’i being real physical. They are really aggressive right now and feeling good about your game. You have to believe all the work you have done from fall to now is what makes you good. It’s a heck of a lot more about us believing in what we do and executing how we want to play than it is about magical adjustments.”

Arvis Green’s nine kills led CSUN.

Hawai'i-Hawaii-UH-Rainbows Warriors-Wahine-Big West volleyball, Larry Tuileta, Rado Parapunov, Sam Worsley
Hawai’i celebrates their berth in the finals of the inaugural Big West championship/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Hawai’i, the No. 2 seed in the inaugural Big West tournament, improved to 19-7 with a 25-16, 25-23, 20-25, 25-18 win over UC Irvine in the other semifinal.

Hawai’i hit .356 in the match and held a 53-41 kills advantage. Rado Parapunov led the Rainbow Warriors with 15 kills, four aces and four blocks. Stijn van Tilburg had 11 kills, four blocks and an ace, while Brett Rosenmeier had 10 kills and one ace. Dalton Solbrig finished with nine kills and five blocks.

“We started out serving well,” said Hawai’i coach Charlie Wade. “Everybody took their turns from the service line. We put a bunch of pressure on them early and we kind of caught them off guard. We were able to hang on and win the second set. It wasn’t really pretty for either team defensively through the first two sets.”

Wade was prepared for an Irvine comeback.

“We knew they would come back,” he said. “They came out in the third set and jumped all over us early. In the fourth, Joe (Worsley) had a really nice turn to start us off. We hit 63 percent in the fourth set. We were glad to see our efficiency get back because at the end of the day we pretty much ended up at what our number is for the year.”

Wade said today’s final against Long Beach State won’t contain too many secrets.

“This time of year we’re pretty familiar with these guys,” he said. “I mean, they’ve known each other since they were 14 or 15 years old playing against each other. You’re pretty familiar with what’s going on. You’re just looking at what their tendencies are and this time of year you’re pretty much just throwing the stats out the window. Just being in the moment at this point, we’re just letting the guys play. We are who we are. You’re not changing a whole lot. You’re not getting much better at anything. You just line it up and see if your guys are going to be better on any given night.”

Conference Carolinas: No. 1 seed King downed No. 4 Belmont Abbey 25-12, 25-19, 25-27, 25-15 to move to the Conference Carolinas title match. King is now 22-5. Jeff Sprayberry had 19 kills to lead King. Jon Wheaton had seven blocks, while Kiel Bell had 17 digs. Nick Drooker had two aces. Liam Maxwell’s 19 kills was tops for Belmont Abbey. Brennan Davis had 14 digs. Abbey qualified for the CC tournament for the second time in the program’s six-year history.

King will face Barton, which was a 27-25, 24-26, 25-20, 25-19 winner over Mount Olive. Barton improved to 21-7. Barton is in the CC final for the third year in a row. Vasilis Mandilaris and Angelos Mandilaris each had 15 kills, while Aleksa Brkovic had 14 kills. Justice Lord added seven kills and hit .600, while Nick Leary had nine kills and hit .533. Setter Oscar Fiorentino had 53 assists. Tim Wiese had 13 digs. Robert Poole (12 kills) and Bret Rutledge (10 kills) led the way for Mount Olive.

West Coast Conference Beach: Four teams advanced to today’s semifinals of the WCC tournament held at Ocean Park Beach in Santa Monica, California.

Today’s matches feature Pepperdine facing Saint Mary’s at 9 a.m. (Pacific) and Loyola Marymount battling Pacific at 10:30 a.m.

Top-seed Pepperdine, ranked No. 2 in the country, dispatched No. 4 Pacific 5-0. No. 3 Saint Mary’s downed No. 6 Portland 5-0 and Loyola Marymount 3-2. LMU, the No. 2 seed, swept No. 7 Santa Clara 5-0 and No. 5 San Francisco 5-0.

Pacific was a 4-1 winner over San Francisco and also earned a 4-1 win against Portland.

CCSA Beach: The CCSA beach tournament kicked off Friday in LakePoint, Georgia.

In Pool A, No. 1 seed Florida State swept both its matches. The Seminoles were 5-0 winners against UNC-Wilmington and Florida Atlantic.

No. 4 LSU also is 2-0 thus far, but needed a tad more time to get to that point. The Tigers were 3-2 winners over Georgia State in a match that came down to Court 4 where Emmy Allen and Megan Davenport won in three.

LSU then scored another 3-2 win against UNC-Wilmington. CCSA Pair of the Year Claire Coppola and Kristen Nuss won 21-16, 21-19.

No. 5 Georgia State won 4-1 against Florida Atlantic. Four of the five contests here were decided in three sets.

Over in Pool B, No. 2 South Carolina and No. 3 Florida International both went 2-0 in pool play. The Gamecocks swept UAB 5-0 and then edged Tulane by a 3-2 count. Shannon Williams and Ali Denney won in three on Court 2 to decide it.

Florida International swept UAB 5-0 and then got past Tulane 3-2. Lina Bernier and Erika Zembyla were Court 2 winners in the deciding contest. In this match, Tulane’s Maddy Mertz collected her 100th career win.

College of Charleston won 3-2 against UAB.

Pool play continues today in Georgia.

Atlantic Sun Conference Beach: Play in the Atlantic Sun tournament kicks off this morning in DeLand, Florida at the Cooper Beach volleyball courts. Stetson (27-8 overall, 10-0 ASUN) is the No. 1 seed, while Florida Gulf Coast is No. 2 and North Florida is the No. 3 seed. Mercer is the No. 4 seed and Jacksonville is fifth.

NCAA Division III men’s tournament: The NCAA Division III men’s tournament reaches the quarterfinal round today with four contests. Matches include Springfield College (28-2) hosting Lancaster Bible (22-4); Vassar (22-7) hosting Kean (34-2); Stevens Institute (25-4) hosting Stevenson (22-8); and Carthage (24-1) hosting Dominican (25-7).



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