Volleyball today: USC-UCLA battle in beach, D-III men begin quarters

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Springfield's Luis Vega is the AVCA Division III player of the year/Springfield photo

In what is likely a preview of what’s to come in next week’s National Collegiate Beach Championship, No. 1 USC and No. 2 UCLA will play Friday in the Pac-12 Beach Volleyball Championship.

Both teams won twice on Thursday in the gathering at the University of Arizona, where the host team, ranked eighth, is also one of the four teams left alive and plays Washington on Friday.

The Big West starts its beach tournament on Friday with a field that includes No. 5 Long Beach State and No. 6 Hawai’i.

Speaking of beach, Thursday was when prospective 2017 tour players were to have signed their AVP contracts in order to register for AVP Huntington. We hope to get more clarity about that situation sooner than later and will post here when we do.

The men’s Division III tournament gets under way Friday in Springfield, Mass., with the first of four consecutive quarterfinal matches starting at 12:30 p.m. Eastern.

Pac-12 beach: Defending national-champion USC (32-0) and UCLA (28-3) play at 9 a.m. Pacific.

USC beat the Bruins 3-2 on March 4 and then 4-1 last Saturday. UCLA’s only other loss was to No. 3 Pepperdine.

Arizona (17-9) faces Washington (10-6) at 10, with the winner advancing to an 11:30 semifinal match against the loser of USC-UCLA. The final is at 1 p.m.

The team matches will be shown on the Pac-12 Network and it’s going to be a long day for some of the pairs, because the pairs championship then starts at 3 p.m.

USC swept Utah and Arizona State and did not lose a set. The USC No. 1 pair of Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes beat Utah’s Adora Anae and Dani Burton 21-15, 21-8 and then Arizona State’s Bianca Arellano and Whitney Follette 22-20, 21-14.

UCLA beat Washington and Arizona State, both times by 4-1.

One of the highlights of the day was a battles of twins as UCLA’s Nicole and Megan McNamara beat Arizona’s McKenna and Madison Witt  21-19, 21-18.

Washington got back into the mix by beating Oregon and Cal after losing to UCLA. Arizona beat Stanford 3-2 in the contenders bracket to stay alive.

Quite a few high-level indoors players were in the field, including from Stanford’s NCAA title team Kathryn Plummer, Jenna Gray and Morgan Hentz; Utah’s Anae and Carly Trueman; and Washington’s Crissy Jones, Tia Scambray and Courtney Schwan;

Click here for the Pac-12 tournament page.

Big West starts Friday: The six-team tournament is at Pismo Beach, Calif., and Long Beach State awaits the winner of the first match of the day between CSUN and Sacramento State, while Hawai’i gets the winner of Cal Poly versus CSU Bakersfield.

Hawai’i is the defending champion.

Click here for the Big West tournament page.

NCAA D-III men: Top-ranked Springfield (26-2) opens play on its home court against Hunter (28-6). Next up is Dominican (26-2) versus Stevens Institute (30-5), followed by Vassar (26-7) against defending national-champion SUNY New Paltz (25-8) and then Wentworth (27-6) plays Juniata (22-10).

The semifinals are Saturday with the championship match set for 4 p.m. Easter on Sunday.

Click here for Springfield College’s tournament page.

AVCA honors Springfield’s Vega: The Pride’s Luis Vega, a senior outside hitter from Puerto Rico, is the Division III national player of the year.

Vega ranks second in the country with a .463 hitting percentage and is fifth nationally in both kills per set (4.21) and points per set (4.95). He also has 121 digs, 37 blocks, and 36 aces.

Vega is the fourth Springfield player to take the honor in the 14-year history of the award. AJ Nally won in 2010, Cal Palumbo won in 2011 and Jimmy O’Leary won in 2014.

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