One of the biggest men’s volleyball non-conference tournaments will have a different look from previous seasons in 2012.
Hawai’i coach Charlie Wade said Thursday that UCLA, Lewis and Springfield College will play in the 2012 Outrigger Invitational in January. It is the first time in the 17-year history of the Hawai’i home tournament that Springfield College will play in it and the first time for Lewis since 2005.
“There is no shortage of teams that want to come out here and play in Hawaii,” Wade said. “It’s going to be fun to play them, and it’s going to be fun for our fans to see some nice teams come out that they don’t normally get to see.”
The four-team tournament traditional includes Hawai’i and a team from the MPSF, MIVA and EIVA.
Lewis finished last season No. 13 in the final coaches poll and lost to the NCAA champions Ohio State in the MIVA Tournament semifinals.
Wade said he has tried in recent years to rotate one spot in the tournament between the top MIVA teams. Ball State, Ohio State and Loyola have all played in the Outrigger Invitational since the last time Lewis played in the tournament.
Springfield College ended its final season in the EIVA losing the EIVA championship match in April to Penn State, which won the conference title for the 13th consecutive year. The Pride will play in a Division III conference in 2012 to compete for the inaugural NCAA Division III men’s volleyball championship.
Springfield representing the East Coast instead of Penn State marks the first time since the inaugural Outrigger Invitational in 1995 that the Nittany Lions will not play in the tournament.
“It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get Penn State, but I know [Springfield coach] Charlie [Sullivan] and he has a nice program,” Wade said.
Penn State coach Mark Pavlik said Monday that his team was unable to play in the Outrigger Invitational this upcoming season because of a scheduling change to the tournament.
The Outrigger Invitational unlike previous years will be played Thursday through Saturday during the third week of the regular season, instead of the first or second week.
Moving the tournament back one week resulted in it coinciding with the opening week of Penn State’s spring semester.
Penn State’s policy requires student-athletes to not miss more than 75 hours of class time because of travel during a semester. A full day of missed class in this system is considered nine missed hours.
The two school days the players would miss because of Outrigger Invitational would have put Penn State above the allotted amount of missed class time, Pavlik said.
“We are going to miss it and are disappointed. I have always told Charlie that if they feel Penn State can add to the tournament and help with it that we can come,” Pavlik said. “This was simply a matter of the dates didn’t jive.”
With the tournament moving back a week, Hawai’i will open the regular season with a two-match home series against UC San Diego before playing the Outrigger Invitational.
This change of opening its season before the Outrigger Invitational comes one year after Hawai’i went 0-3 in its home tournament, including a three-game loss to unranked Ball State.
“All the other teams had played before that tournament and we didn’t have that,” Wade said. “We were rustier, and in our opener against Ball State we hit a million balls out of bounds.”
The Warriors recovered from its 0-3 start to the season to finish the year in fifth place in the MPSF and No. 8 in the final coaches poll. Hawai’i returns four starters from last season, including First-Team All-American outside attacker Jonas Umlauft who led the nation in kills per game average.
UCLA will return to the Outrigger Invitational for the second consecutive season after going undefeated and winning the 2011 tournament. The Bruins ended last season in top 10 of the final coaches poll and lost in the MPSF Tournament quarterfinals.
This upcoming season will be final Outrigger Invitational for UCLA’s Hall of Fame coach Al Scates. Scates, the winningest coach NCAA volleyball history and the only coach in Bruins program history, announced in May that he would retire following the 2012 season.
Wade said he has made an effort in his three years as the Hawai’i’s head coach to have UCLA participate in the tournament. The coach also said he is glad Scates and UCLA will be a part of the 2012 Outrigger Invitational.
“My first call when I got this job was to Al Scates to try get them to our tournament,” Wade said. “He adds a lot to it.”