Three of the four Saturday men’s NCAA Division I-II volleyball showdowns are set.
Top-ranked Long Beach State will play No. 4 Hawai’i, which not only beat No. 3 BYU but swept the Cougars, in Saturday’s MPSF championship match. Long Beach swept No. 5 UC Irvine.
The EIVA final has No. 13 Penn State playing Saint Francis. Both won Thursday.
The MIVA title tilt was already set, with No. 2 Ohio State readying for No. 14 Grand Canyon.
And Friday in the Conference Carolinas, which also gets an automatic bid into the NCAA field of six, King plays host to Mount Olive in one semifinal and Barton entertains Limestone in the other. The CC final is also Saturday.
In NCAA beach volleyball, top-ranked USC won twice Thursday and the CCSA (Coastal Collegiate Sports Association) and West Coast Conference begins their postseason tournaments Friday.
There’s also an FIVB beach event in China, where three USA teams are in the rounds of 16.
MPSF: Hawai’i to face Long Beach State
The Rainbow Warriors opened play at the Pyramid by taking it to BYU 25-22, 25-23, 25-22.
It left Hawai’i 26-4 overall and BYU 24-4. Nothing is guaranteed, but it’s hard to imagine BYU not getting one of the two NCAA at-large bids.
“I’m super proud of my guys to stay focused on the process,” said Hawai’i coach Charlie Wade, whose team was swept in both regular-season meetings with BYU.
Both teams were extremely sharp offensively. Hawai’i hit .506, while BYU hit .512.
Kupono Fey led Hawai’i with 16 kills on 28 swings, hit .464, and had one of his team’s four aces, seven digs and four blocks.
“Today was great teamwork. We’re all passing well, and want to stay aggressive, Fey said.
“That’s what we want. That’s what we play for, tight sets. That’s what the coaches prepare us for, that’s what we’re practicing for.”
Fey had three late kills and his ace as the Warriors closed out on the match on a 10-4 run.
Teammate Stijn van Tilburg had 12 kills and hit .333 to go with three blocks. Hendrik Mol added eight kills with no errors and hit .615. He had three of his team’s nine service errors, but five blocks.
“We’ve evolved as a team, certainly,” Wade said. “We have the ability to change speed, change depth, or target a guy. Tonight the mindset was more ‘We’re just going to bomb it’, not matter who plays it, we’re just going to keep pressure on them.
“They are remarkable out of system attacking team, they’re even better in system. It’s a calculated risk, as the match wore on, not only did we serve well, but we’re productive serving, really efficient. Not too many guys missed. You have guys coming back and trying to score, our serving subs, especially Rado (Parapunov), impacted the match. We got a real point every game when he served, in a match this tight, that’s a big advantage.”
Jake Langlois led BYU with 15 kills as he hit .426. Ben Patch had 14 kills and hit .385 and Brenden Sander had 11 kills, hit .319, and had all three of his team’s aces. He also had five digs.
“Congrats to Hawai’i for advancing,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said. “They put a bunch of pressure on us from the service line. We just couldn’t get our team in system. Our hitters had to battle through that. They made good touches defensively and were in good spots. I think it started from the pressure of them serving. Hawai’i deserves to advance and get another chance to play.”
Long Beach State blasted UC Irvine 25-10, 25-22, 25-19, leaving the winners 26-3 and into the title match and the Anteaters 20-7 and likely on the outside looking in at the NCAA final six.
“I don’t know how it will play out,” said UCI coach David Kniffin, noting his team’s tough schedule that included a victory at Ohio State. The Anteaters lost all three of their matches to Long Beach.
“I can appreciate where the question is coming from. We set the season up in September to play the toughest schedule that we could.”
If the UCI season is over, it marks the end of a tremendous career for Tamir Hershko, who led the Anteaters with nine kills on a night when his team hit just .112. The only time UCI hit worse this season was the last time it played at Long Beach State, hitting .105.
What’s more, UCI had just three total blocks, including a solo by Thomas Hodges. He had seven kills but hit .000.
Conversely, Long Beach State had 10 total blocks, led by seven assists and a solo by Amir Lugo-Rodriguez.
“They play steady. They do really well with their blocking, they’ve got pretty soft hands,” Kniffin said. “When they’re not blocking the ball at you hard, if it hits their block at all, it seems to slow down and doesn’t take an aggressive direction change into the stands, like some of the more ridge it blocks you see out there.
“So the hope is to out physical them and get above them sometimes. We’ve got guys capable of doing that. So, we expected a transition game tonight. I honestly thought we would be a better transition team than that. So, we were prepared for that. I would say that’s their block.”
Kyle Ensing and TJ DeFalco led Long Beach with 10 kills each. Ensing hit .529 and had eight digs and block. DeFalco hit .240, had three digs and four blocks, one solo.
“It was a very typical MPSF match against a great opponent,” said Long Beach coach Alan Knipe, whose team hit .284. “They’re a great serving team, there’s a lot of physical guys on that team, incredibly well coached, we’re certainly happy to get the win tonight. I thought our guys were certain ready to play, excited to play, I thought it was a high-level game.”
Long Beach, 15-0 at home this season, got six kills from Andrew Whitt.
Neither Long Beach State — all but a lock for an at-large bid — nor Hawaii — which likely put itself in the at-large driver’s seat — have ever won the MPSF title. Both teams move to the Big West Conference next season.
In their two regular-season matches this season, in Long Beach on January 18 and 20, Long Beach won 3-2 and 3-0.
“When you prepare for a tournament like this you have to prepare for the team you’re going to play first, but, with the quick turnaround, you have to also be able to put some things in place and you have to have a chance to watch them,” Knipe said.
“Whether it was Hawaii or BYU, it was going to be a really good team. They’re certainly playing with a lot of energy and they blocked balls tonight and served tough. It’s going to be a really great match. We expect Hawaii to come in and play great — and they should, it’s the conference final.”
EIVA: Penn State to play Saint Francis
Saint Francis won the first semifinal by ousting Sacred Heart 25-16, 21-25, 25-16, 25-20. SFU improved to 16-4, while Sacred Heart’s season ended 15-11.
Saint Francis got 14 kills from Michael Fisher, who hit .440, had seven digs and one of his team’s four aces. He also had four of its 17 errors. Stephen Braswell had 12 kills and hit .370. He had an ace, three errors, three digs and two blocks. And Jeff Hogan had 10 kills, six digs and two blocks.
Their team hit .323 and held Sacred Heart to a a .121 percentage. That included seven block assists by Tony Nicotra and six by Daniel Ford as their team had a season high 13 total blocks.
Saint Francis, which beat Penn State in the 2016 semifinals, lost to George Mason in last year’s EIVA title match.
Sacred Heart’s Christopher DeLucie led the Pioneers with 10 kills but hit .067. He had two of his team’s four aces, but five of its 17 errors.
Penn State beat Princeton 25-23, 25-19, 25-23 and improved to 20-10. Princeton’s season ended 12-14.
Chris Nugent led Penn State with 15 kills and hit .560. He had three of his team’s four aces and three of its 11 service errors, five digs and a block. Calvin Mende added nine kills and five blocks, two solo. And Aidan Albrecht had eight kills and hit .400 to go with four digs and three blocks.
“The game plan was carried out to a T offensively and defensively we threw together a great plan,” Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said. “I think we left a couple of points out there early but we were just feeling things out.
“Our outsides got some good swings in tough situations and our passing allowed us to run that offense. All in all a good first semifinal and we’ll see what we have to do against Saint Francis on Saturday.”
This season, Saint Francis lost at Penn State in three and then beat the Nittany Lions in Loretto, Pa., 3-2 on February 11.
Princeton, whose only senior starter was setter Jonah May, got 12 kills apiece from Parker Dixon and George Huhmann.
“Congratulations to Princeton for the year that they had,” Pavlik said. “With the youth that they have they’re going to be a pain in my side over the next two to three years.”
USC notches takes two: The Trojans are 28-0 after beating No. 5 Long Beach State 4-1 and Cal Bakersfield 5-0 to win for the 58th time in a row.
The No. 5 pair was the only match in which Long Beach won a set when Jenelle Hudson and Megan Kruidhof beat Jenna Belton and Jo Kremer 14-21, 21-19, 15-10.
At No. 1, Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes were pushed past the limit in the first set but beat Nele Barber and Rachel Nieto 23-21, 21-13.
Bakersfield, which dropped to 1-15, managed to get to 18 points in one of the sets.
CCSA: The gathering in Cartersville, Ga., includes No. 4 Florida State and No. 12 South Carolina in one pool and No. 7 LSU, No. 9 Georgia State and No. 15 Florida Atlantic in the other. Play continues Saturday with the semifinals and final on Sunday. Click here for the CCSA tournament website.
West Coast: The tournament at Ocean Park Beach in Santa Monica includes No. 2 Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount, Pacific, Portland, Saint Mary’s, San Francisco and Santa Clara. The Waves have a bye into the second round and await the winner of Pacific and Portland in the double-elimination format. The final is Saturday. Click here for the WCC tournament website.
Pro beach volleyball
FIVB Xiamen Three Star: Brittany Hochevar and Emily Day are in the 16-team elimination bracket in China after beating Germans Sandra Ittlinger and Teresa Mersmann 21-17, 22-20. They play the Finnish pair of Riikka Lehtonen and Anniina Parkkinen, a team that has to lead the tournament in names with consecutive vowels.
Two other USA women’s pairs were eliminated Thursday, Kim DiCello and Emily Stockman and Caitlin Ledoux and Kendra VanZwieten.
Two USA men’s teams are in the round of 16. Trevor Crabb and Sean Rosenthal advanced by beating Belgians Dries Koekelkoren and Tom van Walle and will play Júlio César Do Nascimento Júnior, a Brazilian, and Qatar’s Ahmed Tijan.
Ryan Doherty and Avery Drost advanced by taking out Jian Bao and Likejiang Ha of China 21-19, 21-15 and face Australians Christopher McHugh and Damien Schumann.