After more than four months and 400 matches, determining the two teams in the national championship will come down to one night and two matches.
The No. 1 seed USC will try to reach its second national championship match in three years as it plays the No. 4 seed UC Santa Barbara in the opening NCAA semifinals match at 7 p.m. Thursday in University Park, Pa. In addition, the No. 2 seed Penn State, which is hosting the NCAA Tournament, and the No. 3 seed Ohio State will renew one of the oldest men’s volleyball rivals in the other NCAA semifinals match at 9 p.m. Thursday.
Check the NCAA Tournament matches to follow tonight.
NCAA Tournament semifinals
No. 1 seed USC (23-3, 20-2 MPSF) vs. No. 4 seed UC Santa Barbara (17-14, 11-11 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in University Park, Pa.
Follow live: Gametracker, Online video, In-match Tweets, Live blogging
Season series: USC leads UC Santa Barbara 2-1
Last time in Final Four: USC 2009; UC Santa Barbara 1988
What to know: Five days after playing for the MPSF championship, USC and UC Santa Barbara will play for a spot in the national championship game. UC Santa Barbara defeated three top-five ranked teams in the conference tournament to become one of the lowest seeds in MPSF history to receive the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. In their championship match victory, outside attacker Jeff Menzel had a match-high 28 kills as the Gauchos out-hit the Trojans .395 to. .315. Menzel finished the conference tournament with a combined 78 kills in the three matches and was the MPSF Tournament MVP. In addition, UC Santa Barbara coach Rick McLaughlin and Menzel said Wednesday that they are looking forward to trying to upset the Trojans again. USC won the MPSF regular season title and became the first team since UCLA in 1996 to be ranked No. 1 from the preseason through the end of the regular season. The Trojans had three All-American selections this season, including outside attacker Murphy Troy who was named the National Player of the Year on Thursday. Troy finished the regular season in the nation’s top 15 for kills per game average, aces per game average and attack percentage.
No. 2 seed Penn State (24-6, 10-0 EIVA) vs. No. 3 seed Ohio State (24-6, 11-1 MIVA)
Match vitals: 9 p.m. in University Park, Pa.
Follow live: Gametracker, Online video, Radio feed, In-match Tweets, Live blogging
Season series: Tied at 1-1
Last time in Final Four: Penn State 2010; Ohio State 2010
What to know: Two of the most storied athletics departments in the Big Ten will meet in the men’s volleyball Final Four for the second time in the last four years. The last time these two teams played in the Final Four, Penn State defeated Ohio State and went on to win the 2008 national championship — its second title in program history. This time the match will be played Penn State’s home court as the school is hosting the NCAA Tournament. Penn State went undefeated in the EIVA Tait Division for the third consecutive season and won its 13th consecutive conference championship Saturday. Ohio State defeated Loyola in its conference championship match Saturday to become the first team since Ball State in the 1960s to win four consecutive MIVA championships. This will be the third time Ohio State and Penn State have played each other this season. However, neither coach is putting too much stock into those matches. What Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said was both teams at their best and worst, Ohio State swept Penn State in February while the Nittany Lions defeated the Buckeyes in four games in April. The NCAA semifinals match will also feature two All-American setters. Ohio State setter Steven Kehoe, a First-Team All-American, led the MIVA with a 11.45 assists per game average, while Penn State setter Edgardo Goas, a Second-Team All-American, led the EIVA with a 11.07 assists per game average.