NCAA volleyball: five teams qualify for men’s championships, Pepperdine wins WCC beach champs

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LBSU's TJ DeFalco makes a flying save/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Five down, two to go.

We know five teams are extending their seasons with a trip to UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles for the NCAA Division I-II men’s tournament.

Pauley plays host to the NCAA Division I-II men’s finals May 1-5 where those five teams cemented bracket spots thanks to conference-tournament play wrapping up Saturday across the country.

Who is in? Long Beach State certainly is after winning the Big West Conference tournament title at home against Hawai’i. Two-time defending national champion Ohio State is back on the big stage after defeating Loyola-Chicago for the MIVA crown. BYU got it done in front of its home crowd, winning the MPSF crown over UCLA. Harvard got past fellow Ivy League entrant Princeton to win the EIVA title at George Mason and King out of Tennessee is the Conference Carolinas champion after scoring a victory against Barton.

Who could be in? Smart money has the runners-up of the Big West (Hawai’i) and MPSF (UCLA) joining the field when it is announced today at 1 p.m. (Eastern) at NCAA.com.

Saturday also had plenty of collegiate beach conference-tournament action in the CCSA, West Coast Conference and Atlantic Sun. Pepperdine won the WCC title for a third year in a row, while the semifinals and finals in the CCSA take place today and play in the A-SUN tournament also wraps up in Florida.

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LBSU’s Josh Tuaniga was named Big West tournament MVP/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Big West: Top-ranked Long Beach State was a 25-23, 25-14, 25-19 winner against No. 6 Hawai’i in the first Big West Conference title match at Walter Pyramid in Long Beach.

The 49ers are making their fifth NCAA appearance under coach Alan Knipe and 10th overall. Long Beach State moved to 26-1 overall and recorded its second undefeated season at home with a 12-0 mark.

“This was very typical playoff/championship match where it was real close in the first set,” Knipe said. “I thought Hawai’i did an exceptional job of serving in the first set and we had to make some good adjustments to deal with the heat they bringing and stop overpassing the ball a bit.

“We were passing the ball really well, making really great contact of our platforms, but a little bit too tight for Josh to deal with sometimes, some were even over. I thought once we were settled down in that area, and I think we did, I don’t think we passed any over after that. We really got our offense going and then once again when we got our servers in stride, we got separation in every set because all our guys contributed from behind the end lines, including the guys off the bench.”

Knipe said playing Hawai’i twice the previous week was helpful. “We just got done playing 10 sets a week ago so I think we were able to pick up a few of their tendencies, but the key was we were able to get them out of system,” he said. “We can talk about it all night about how many balls we blocked, but if (Hawai’i setter Joe) Worsley is at the net running his offense, it’s a long stretch. They have a lot of athletes on that team, a lot of size and physicality, but if he’s running around past the 10-foot line setting those guys, we’re going to get some opportunities to block some balls. And we have to do it. I think our guys did a great job doing that. We were significantly better in out-of-system blocking defense tonight than any point when we were in Hawai’i.”

Junior setter Josh Tuaniga guided the 49ers to a .369 attack percentage and had 32 assists. He was named the tournament MVP.

TJ DeFalco and Kyle Ensing combined for 16 kills, while senior outside hitter Bjarne Huus had seven kills and hit .583. Nick Amado added six kills, while Simon Anderson had four kills. Long Beach State registered 10.5 total blocks.

Hawai’i was limited to a .152 hitting percentage. Rado Parapunov had 10 kills to lead Hawai’i. Brett Rosenmeier had eight kills.

“I was a little concerned in warmup tonight. I’ve been doing this a long time and with the travel sometimes you start to see signs of fatigue,” Hawai’i coach Charlie Wade said. “In warmups today it looked like we had heavy legs. It looked like we were leading with our arms and not moving our feet and not quite getting to the ball the way I’m used to seeing. And it’s not a huge difference, it’s a relatively small difference.

“If you look at the first set, it’s pretty close. Statistically we were right there. We had a few unforced transition hitting errors. I thought we had a lot of nice touches and if we had closed out the first set things would have been different. And in the second set they went on some nice service runs early, and once they get a lead, Josh can start being creative, and doing whatever he wants, and it was kind of the same scenario in the third set.”

MPSF:  BYU heads to Los Angeles after a come-from-behind 17-25, 25-21, 25-18, 25-21 victory over UCLA in the MPSF title match at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo, Utah.

“It was an exciting match to be a part of,” said BYU coach Shawn Olmstead. “Congrats to our opponent UCLA for being here. They battled. It was a hard-fought volleyball match and more than anything I am excited for this team. I am super happy for them. They have put in a lot of work for this moment.”

Brenden Sander led BYU with 18 kills, five blocks and two aces. Gabi Garcia Fernandez followed with 12 kills, seven digs, four blocks and two aces. Leo Durkin had 37 assists, while Zach Hendrickson had a career-high 11 digs. BYU moved to 22-6 with the win.

Jake Arnitz was one of three UCLA players with double-digit kills. He led the way with 11, while Daenan Gyimah and Christian Hessenauer each had 10. Micah Ma’a had 30 assists. Hessenauer had nine digs. UCLA hit .348 in the opener, but then faded to .172, .192 and .133 the rest of the way.

MIVA: Two-time defending national-champion Ohio State has a chance to make it three. The Buckeyes were 25-20, 25-23, 25-19 winners against Loyola-Chicago in the MIVA final at home in St. John’s Arena in Columbus, Ohio.

Ohio State now has won 17 MIVA titles. The win against Loyola gave coach Pete Hanson his 700th career win.

Ohio State’s Nicolas Szerszen was named the tournament’s most outstanding player. That’s his second MIVA MOP award and third time appearing on the all-tournament team. He was joined on the all-tournament team by teammates Jake Hanes and Sanil Thomas.

Hanes led Ohio State with 13 kills. Szerszen had 12 kills and hit .417, while Maxime Hervoir had 11 kills. Thomas had 40 assists. Szerszen and Hervoir each had nine digs. Ohio State hit .500 in the third set.

Collin Mahan and Ricky Gevis were Loyola’s all-tournament selections. Mahan’s nine kills led Loyola. Gevis had seven kills and Garrett Zolg had 23 assists. Avery Aylsworth had 10 digs.

EIVA: The all-Ivy League final at George Mason saw Harvard down Princeton 25-20, 26-24, 17-25, 25-23 to earn its first EIVA title and trip to the NCAA tournament. It was Harvard’s third win of the season against Princeton. Harvard moved to 13-13 overall, while Princeton finished 13-16.

Harvard hit .517, .412 and .406 in three of the four sets. Brad Gretsch and Erik Johnsson led Harvard with 16 kills each. Johnsson hit .560. Trevor Dow had 12 kills and no errors on 15 attempts to hit .800. Marko Kostich had 30 assists, while Matthew Ctvrtlik had 26 assists. Chase Howard finished with 11 digs, while Kostich had nine and Gretsch had eight.

George Huhmann’s 19 kills on 43 swings (.302) led Princeton. Parker Dixon added 15 kills (.333) and Greg Luck had 14 kills while hitting .407. Princeton lost despite hitting .355. Harvard hit .403 in the match.

Conference Carolinas: King out of Bristol, Tennessee earned its first NCAA tournament berth by defeating Barton 25-10, 25-21, 25-21 in the Conference Carolinas finale. King moved to 23-5.

King’s Jeff Sprayberry was named the tournament’s most outstanding player and was joined on the all-tournament team by Kiel Bell and Nick Drooker.

Sprayberry finished with 14 kills, while Bell had seven and Sean Luhmann had five. Drooker dished out 30 assists and also had six digs. Leo de Quadros had nine digs and Bell added seven. Jon Wheaton had seven block assists.

Aleksa Brkovic had nine kills to lead Barton, which was held to an .036 hitting percentage in the contest.

NCAA Division III men: The field for the NCAA Division III men’s tournament has been reduced to four.

In quarterfinal action Saturday, Springfield College swept Lancaster Bible 3-0. Vassar was a 3-1 winner over Kean, while Stevens Institute was a 3-1 winner over Stevenson. Dominican (Illinois) downed tournament host Carthage 3-1 in Kenosha, Wisconsin.

This sets up national semifinals on April 27 with Springfield (29-2) taking on Vassar (23-7) at 5 p.m. (Eastern), and Stevens Institute (26-4) facing Dominican (26-7) at 7:30 p.m.

The winners battle April 28 at 7 p.m., for the NCAA Division III title.

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The Pepperdine Waves take a dip following their WCC beach championship/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

West Coast Conference Beach: No. 2 Pepperdine remained unbeaten in West Coast Conference tournament play and swept its way to its third straight title Saturday at Ocean Park Beach in Santa Monica, California.

In Saturday’s action, Pepperdine downed Saint Mary’s 5-0. Loyola Marymount was a 4-1 winner against Pacific. Saint Mary’s then defeated Loyola Marymount 3-2 and Pepperdine downed Saint Mary’s 5-0 to win the title and a berth in the NCAA tournament.

Pepperdine improved to 15-0 in the three years the WCC tournament has been in existence.

Retiring Pepperdine coach Nina Matthies was asked after the match if this title means more than the others.

“No, I think they all have been cumulative,” said Matthies who was honored for her decorated coaching career in a ceremony after the tournament. “They’ve been really great. I do think the conference has gotten better and we’ve been working so hard this year with our kids. I just wanted to celebrate with them and I wanted to celebrate with everybody here. It’s all good.”

CCSA Beach: The top four seeds in the CCSA tournament advanced to Sunday’s semifinals in LakePoint, Georgia.

No. 1 Florida State defeated LSU 4-1 Saturday morning and then downed Georgia State 5-0 to finish pool play with a 4-0 mark.

LSU needed a win against Florida Atlantic in the afternoon to secure its spot in the semifinals. The Sandy Tigers did just that with a 4-1 win.

In Pool B, South Carolina secured the top spot in the group with a pair of tough victories. The Gamecocks downed College of Charleston 3-2 and then went the distance again in a 3-2 win against Florida International.

Florida International swept UAB in the final match in Pool B to book its spot in the semifinals.

Today, Florida State faces Florida International in one semifinal, while South Carolina and LSU will lock horns in the other with the winners squaring off for the CCSA title. The Seminoles are in search of a third-straight conference title.

Atlantic Sun Beach: Today’s semifinals of the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament in DeLand, Florida feature No. 1 Stetson playing No. 3 North Florida first with the winner advancing to the A-SUN title match. The second match Sunday pits No. 2 Florida Gulf Coast against No. 5 Jacksonville. The winner of that contest faces the loser of the Stetson-North Florida match for a chance to enter the A-SUN final at 3 p.m. today.

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