Top 5 storylines to follow at the Outrigger Invitational

There are more than enough intriguing storylines this year for one of the oldest and most prestigious non-conference tournaments in NCAA men’s volleyball history.

Hawai’i, No. 9 Lewis, Springfield and No. 3 UCLA will begin play today at the three-day Outrigger Invitational in Honolulu. Each team will play each other once in tournament’s round-robin format and will conclude with a nationally televised match between UCLA and the host school Hawai’i.

Check out the top five storylines to follow during the Outrigger Invitational.


1. Defending champs UCLA going for seventh title
No. 3 UCLA will attempt to win a record seven Outrigger Invitational championships in Hall of Fame coach Al Scates’ final time at the non-conference tournament. The Bruins are the defending tournament champions after going undefeated at the Outrigger Invitational last season. With the championship last season, UCLA tied Hawai’i at six for the most Outrigger Invitational championships. The Bruins are also one of the winnigest teams in this tournament’s history. UCLA in its 11 appearances at the Outrigger Invitational is 27-5 — the best all-time winning percentage of any college team in the tournament’s history. In addition, the Bruins enter this year’s tournament after they finished in second place at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational last week.

2. New team coming to the island
For the first time since 1995, a team besides Penn State will represent the East Coast at the Outrigger Invitational. Springfield will make its first appearance in the 18-year history of the non-conference tournament. Springfield last year reached the EIVA championship match before leaving the conference in the summer to compete for the inaugural Division III national championship this season. The Pride will also be the first Division III team to compete in the Outrigger Invitational in recent years. Springfield last season was 10-9 against current Division I-II teams, including defeating George Mason in the EIVA Tournament semifinals.

3. What Hawai’i team will show up
Coach Charlie Wade opted to move the Outrigger Invitational back one week to the second week of the regular season so Hawai’i wouldn’t have to open its season with its home tournament. A big reason for this change was because Hawai’i went 0-3 to open its season at the 2011 Outrigger Invitational — the first time it went winless at the tournament. After their two-match series last week, though, the Warriors were left with more questions than answers entering the Outrigger Invitational. Hawai’i split its two-match series against UC San Diego — sweeping the series-opener and then getting swept less than 24 hours later to end the series. Hawai’i in its victory against UC San Diego had a .306 attack percentage but hit .156 in the loss.

4. Stopping the Petty brothers
Lewis’ Jay Petty and Greg Petty are not only best brother outside attacker combination in the nation — kind of win that one by default. They also may be one of the best outside attacker combinations in the MIVA. Jay Petty has a team-high 3.33 kills per game average through the No. 9 Flyers’ first two matches of the season, including a match-high 21 kills in an upset victory against No. 10 Pepperdine on Saturday. In addition, Greg Petty leads the Flyers with seven aces and had five aces in the team’s season-opener. Lewis split its two-match series against Pepperdine to start the season and moved into the top 10 of the national media poll and coaches poll earlier this week.

5. National television exposure
The final match of the tournament between UCLA and Hawai’i will be televised live nationally on Fox College Sports at 9 p.m. (PST) Saturday. This is one of the first times in recent years that a Outrigger Invitational match will be nationally televised. It is also the final Hawai’i match of the season that will air live on Fox College Sports. The cable network aired Hawai’i’s match last week against UC San Diego. In addition, the Warriors and Bruins match will be the only nationally televised men’s volleyball match during the weekend.

TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
4 p.m. Thursday — No. 3 UCLA vs. No. 9 Lewis
7 p.m. Thursday — Springfield at Hawai’i
4 p.m. Friday — No. 3 UCLA vs. Springfield
7 p.m. Friday — No. 9 Lewis at Hawai’i
4 p.m. Saturday — No. 9 Lewis vs. Springfield
7 p.m. Saturday — No. 3 UCLA at Hawai’i
*All times HAST