UC Irvine playing nine road matches in the final six weeks of the regular season highlights the team’s upcoming schedule as the Anteaters on Thursday released its 2012 regular season schedule.
UC Irvine ended last season No. 4 in the final coaches poll and advanced to the MPSF Tournament semifinals. Coach John Speraw has three starters returning for the 2012 season, including All-American outside attacker Carson Clark.
Check out the five things to take away from UC Irvine’s schedule for the 2012 season.
Five things to know about the schedule
1. Finishing on the road
UC Irvine will spend the majority of the season’s second half away from the Bren Center. The Anteaters have nine road matches and two home matches during the final six weeks of the regular season. Five of these nine road matches will be against teams that finished last season in the top 10 of the national rankings, including playing Stanford, UC Santa Barbara and UCLA in a span of seven days. The Anteaters in recent years have been able to close out their regular season on winning streaks. UC Irvine last season entered the MPSF Tournament on a six match winning streak and won four its final five regular season matches in 2010.
2. No MIVA and EIVA
For the first time in more than five years, UC Irvine will not play a regular season non-conference match against a team from the EIVA or MIVA. The Anteaters have traditionally played the top EIVA and MIVA teams, including last year when it traveled to Penn State and played a home match against Ohio State. Both the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes won their conferences and reached the Final Four. UC Irvine will play four non-conference matches, including three at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational. In addition, the Anteaters final non-conference match will be the first week of the regular season at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational.
3. Potential Final Four matchup
The NCAA men’s volleyball selection committee will likely have an eye on an early season series in Irvine, Calif., that could have large ramifications come the NCAA Tournament. UC Irvine will play a match a two-match home series against BYU in the second week of the regular season — the only two times the teams will meet in the regular season. BYU and UC Irvine will likely be two of the early favorites to win the 2012 MPSF championship and make the Final Four. Both teams have All-Americans returning and finished last season ranked in the top five of the final coaches poll. One of the seven criteria the NCAA selection committee uses to determine the NCAA Tournament field and seeding is head-to-head matchup. If both teams are in the running for the at-large bid or fighting for tournament seeding, expect for these two January matches to play a role in the committee’s decision.
4. Season opener vs. Cal Baptist
UC Irvine season opener against Cal Baptist will also be the first match of the 2012 NCAA men’s volleyball season. The match marks the ninth consecutive year that UC Irvine and Cal Baptist have played their season opener against each other. The Anteaters are 6-2 in these matches, but lost last year’s season opener to Cal Baptist in five games. Following that season opener, the Anteaters went 4-6 in January before closing out its season 15-6, while the Lancers ended its season winning the NAIA championship. This year’s season opener between UC Irvine and Cal Baptist will have one significant difference — the Lancers will no longer be a NAIA team. Cal Baptist in June received provisional status as a NCAA Division II member, and the match against UC Irvine will the Cal Baptist men’s volleyball team first match as an NCAA member.
5. UC Santa Barbara Invitational
UC Irvine in the upcoming season will continue its tradition of playing in the UC Santa Barbara Invitational. The Anteaters will play three matches during the two-day tournament Jan. 6-7. UC Irvine last season went 2-1 at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational, including victories against Cal Baptist and Cal State Northridge, to end the tournament in fifth place. The team has finished in fifth place the last two seasons at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational and has not finished higher than fourth place in the last four years. The complete tournament field for the UC Santa Barbara Invitational has not been released.
UC Irvine regular season schedule
7 p.m. Dec. 29 vs. Brandon (Exhibition)
2 p.m. Dec. 31 vs. Alberta (Exhibition)
7 p.m. Jan. 4 vs. Cal Baptist
Jan 6-7 at UC Santa Barbara Invitational
7 p.m. Jan. 13 vs. BYU*
7 p.m. Jan. 14 vs. BYU*
5 p.m. Jan. 21 vs. UC San Diego*
7 p.m. Jan. 25 vs. Pepperdine*
7 p.m. Jan. 27 vs. USC*
10 p.m. Feb. 10 at Hawai’i*
8 p.m. Feb. 12 at Hawai’i*
7 p.m. Feb. 17 vs. Stanford*
5 p.m. Feb. 18 vs. Pacific*
7 p.m. Feb. 22 vs. Cal State Northridge*
7 p.m. Feb. 24 vs. Long Beach State*
7 p.m. March 2 at Pacific*
7 p.m. March 3 at Stanford*
7 p.m. March 7 at UC Santa Barbara*
7 p.m. March 10 at UCLA*
7 p.m. March 14 at Cal State Northridge*
7 p.m. March 17 at Long Beach State*
7 p.m. March 30 vs. UC Santa Barbara*
7 p.m. March 31 vs. UCLA*
7 p.m. April 5 at Pepperdine*
7 p.m. April 7 at USC*
7 p.m. April 14 at UC San Diego*
*Denotes MPSF match
All times PST