NCAA men’s play-in preview: BYU-Barton, Penn State-Hawai’i

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Hawai'i's James Anastasstiades motivates his team before playing BYU in the MPSF tournament/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Is this the year a Conference Carolinas team wins a set? That and the AVCA men’s All-Americans and coaches of the year in this NCAA report.

The National Collegiate Men’s Volleyball Championship begins Tuesday night at Ohio State with two play-in matches when third-seeded BYU of the MPSF takes on Conference Carolinas-champion Barton, the sixth seed.

Then, fourth-seeded Penn State, which won the EIVA, plays Hawai’i of the MPSF.

In 2014, the NCAA tournament field was expanded from four to six, which meant that two teams got the top seeds and moved into the semifinals.

This year, the No. 1 seed belongs to defending-champion Ohio State, the home team, while Long Beach State is seeded second. They await Tuesday’s winners and play Thursday.

All three previous Conference Carolinas entrants have played in play-in matches.

The first Conference Carolinas team to get in was Erskine, which lost  to Stanford 25-14, 25-16, 25-16.

In 2015, Pfeiffer got about as close as you can to winning a set before falling to Loyola, the eventual national champion, 25-20, 33-31, 25-15.

And last year Erskine made it again but lost to Long Beach State 25-14, 27-25, 25-20.

Both of Tuesday’s matches can be seen on live streams.

The first one will be shown through Ohio State’s website:

http://www.ohiostatebuckeyes.com/collegesportslive/?media=552926

And the nightcap through Hawai’i’s website:

http://hawaiiathletics.com/watch/?Live=86&type=Live

Thursday’s matches have Long Beach playing the BYU-Barton winner at 6, with Ohio State getting the Hawai’i-Penn State winner at 8.

Saturday’s 7 p.m. final will be shown on ESPN2 and the Watch ESPN app.

Brenden Sander attacks for BYU in the MPSF tournament/Ed Chan, VBshots.com
Brenden Sander attacks for BYU in the MPSF tournament/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

BYU (24-4) vs. Barton (23-5), 6 p.m. Eastern: BYU, which lost to Ohio State in last year’s championship match, tied with Long Beach at 16-2 atop the MPSF.

BYU’s roster is loaded, led by senior outside hitter Jake Langlois. He averages 3.83 kills per set while hitting .367.

Junior opposite Ben Patch has battled injuries but when on is as good as there is. He played in about half the team’s sets this season but still averaged 4.51 kills and hit .356. Throw in juniors Price Jarman and Brenden Sander and the Cougars are pretty stout. Their only losses were at then No. 11 Loyola in early January, to visiting then-No. 7 UC Irvine in late January, at top-ranked Long Beach on March 25 a night after winning there, and then to Hawai’i in the MPSF semifinals.

Barton has its first honorable-mention All-American in Greek sophomore outside Vasilis Mandilaris. He averages 3.32 kills per set and hits .337. His freshman brother, Angelos, averages 3.45 kills and hits .337.

Barton had a tough time outside the league this season, getting swept by Ohio State and Saint Francis of the EIVA. However, the Bulldogs took George Mason of the EIVA to five.

Barton has won nine matches in a row and 15 of 16. In the CC tournament, it beat Erskine, Limestone, and Mount Olive to clinch the league’s automatic bid.

This is the first meeting between the teams.

Hawai'i's Stijn van Tilburg attacks against Long Beach State/Ed Chan, VBshots.com
Hawai’i’s Stijn van Tilburg attacks against BYU/Ed Chan, VBshots.com

Hawai’i (26-5) vs. Penn State (21-10), 8 p.m. Eastern: This has the earmarks of a potentially great battle. UH is making its fifth NCAA tournament appearance and second in the last three seasons.

These two teams also met in a play-in match in 2015 and Penn State advanced. Neither team made the 2016 field.

The Rainbow Warriors are led by Dutch sophomore opposite Stijn van Tilburg and senior setter Jennings Franciskovic. van Tilburg averages 4.26 kills per set, and hits .380. Franciskovic averages 10.19 assists and has put Hawai’i in a position to hit .322, fifth best in the nation. Senior outside Kupono Fey adds 2.42 kills per set.

Penn State has dealt with more injuries this season than veteran coach Mark Pavlik can ever recall, but when the Nittany Lions are healthy — which they pretty much are now — they’re pretty tough.

They are led on offense by a senior, outside Chris Nugent, and a freshman, opposite Calvin Mende. Nugent averages 3.12 kills per set, hits .312 and has 24 service aces. Mende averages 3.23 kills and hits .300. Junior outside Aldan Albrecht adds 2.73 kills.

Penn State won its 33rd EIVA (formerly ECVL) regular-season title and then won the EIVA tournament for the 30th time.

AVCA All-Americans: Three teams pretty much dominated.

Long Beach State had four first-teamers, while Ohio State and Hawai’i had two each on the 10-player first team.

Long Beach had four more on the second team, while Ohio State and Hawai’i had two more.

The first team included, from Long Beach, TJ DeFalco, the MPSF player of the year, Amir Lugo-Rodriguez, Andrew Sato and Josh Tuaniga. Ohio State had MIVA POY Nicolas Szerszen and Miles Johnson, while Hawai’i had van Tilburg and Franciskovic. Also on the team were Loyola’s Jeff Jendryk and BYU’s Langlois.

Click here for the full list, including both teams and the honorable mentions.

The AVCA voting committee included chairperson Dan Friend (Lewis); Jay Hosack (George Mason), Danny Goncalves (NJIT), Mike Rumbaugh (Saint Francis), Ryan Perotte (Fort Wayne), Mark Hulse (Loyola-Chicago), Alan Knipe (Long Beach State), Charlie Wade (Hawai’i), Jeff Nygaard (USC), David Heller (Mount Olive), Brandon Skweres (Limestone), Ryan Booher (King).

AVCA honors Long Beach coaches: Alan Knipe has been selected the 2017 USMC/AVCA Division I-II Men’s National Coach of the Year, while his associate head coach, Tyler Hildebrand, has been tabbed the AVCA Division I-II Men’s National Assistant Coach of the Year.

Knipe also won the award in 2004. Hildebrand played for him from 2004-2006.

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