Conference tournament men’s volleyball matches to follow tonight

Three of the four spots to the NCAA Tournament will be decided by the end of the night.

Conference Championship Saturday is here as the EIVA, MIVA and MPSF all conclude their conference tournaments with the championship matches tonight. The winners of these three matches will receive automatic bids to the men’s volleyball Final Four, while the final spot, the at-large bid, will be decided Sunday by the selection committee.

Check out the conference tournament matches from around the nation to follow tonight.


MPSF TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH

No. 1 seed BYU (24-4, 21-3 MPSF) vs. No. 3 seed Long Beach State (24-7, 18-6 MPSF)
Match vitals:
7 p.m. in Provo, Utah
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, In-match Tweets
Season series: Tied at 1-1 (Long Beach won in five games in February; BYU won in three games in March)
Last MPSF Tournament title: BYU (2004); Long Beach State (never)
What to know: A spot in the NCAA Tournament may not be the only thing on the line in this conference championship match. Long Beach State outside attacker Taylor Crabb and BYU outside attacker Taylor Sander both enter as two of the perceived front-runners for the National Player of the Year and have chance on the biggest stage of the season to sway any undecided voters. Crabb leads the MPSF and is third in the third in the nation with a 4.13 kills per game average, including having a match-high 23 kills in the Long Beach State’s semifinal victory against UC Irvine on Thursday. Sander is in the nation’s top five with a 3.85 kills per game average and at the end of the regular season was named the 2013 MPSF Player of the Year. BYU even if it loses in the championship match has likely assured itself a spot in the four-team NCAA Tournament as the lone at-large bid, according to the latest Off the Block bracketology projections. A victory, though, would make the Cougars the second No. 1 seed since 2005 to win the MPSF Tournament. Long Beach State despite its five-game overtime victory against UC Irvine in the semifinals will likely need to win the conference championship match to clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament. If the 49ers loses it may still have a chance at the at-large bid, but latest projections shows UC Irvine holding a slight edge of Long Beach State for the at-large bid.


MIVA TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH

No. 1 seed Lewis (20-9, 10-4 MIVA) vs. No. 2 seed Loyola (21-9, 10-4 MIVA)
Match vitals:
7 p.m. Saturday in Romeoville, Ill.
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, In-match Tweets
Season series: Tied at 1-1 (Lewis won in four games in February; Loyola won in four games in March)
Last MIVA Tournament title: Lewis (2012); Loyola (never)
What to know: Lewis is one more victory away from successfully defending its conference championship but will have to beat its long-time in-state rival Loyola to complete the repeat. For the third time the conference’s 53-year history, two Illinois schools will meet in the championship match as the Flyers play host to the Ramblers. Despite Lewis having a home match, both team’s fan bases will be well represented in a potential sold-out Neil Carey Arena that seats 1,100 people. Loyola announced Friday that it will bus students to the road match and all the student buses were sold out. This match will also feature two of the conference’s top outside attackers . Loyola outside attacker Joseph Smalzer, the 2013 MIVA Player of the Year, leads the conference with a 3.80 kills per game average. Smalzer also earned the 2013 Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. National Server of the Year after having more than 60 aces during the regular season. Lewis outside attacker Geoff Powell was among the conference and national leaders with a 3.66 kills per game average, including having 13 kills in the team’s sweep against Grand Canyon in the semifinals. Both Smalzer and Powell on Thursday were also named Second-Team All-Americans.


EIVA TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH

No. 1 seed Penn State (22-7, 13-1 EIVA) vs. No. 3 seed Harvard (18-8, 10-4 EIVA)
Match vitals:
7 p.m. in University Park, Pa.
Follow live: Gametracker, Pay-per-view online video, In-match Tweets
Season series: Tied at 1-1 (Penn State won in five games in January; Harvard won in three games in February)
Last EIVA Tournament title: Penn State (2012); Harvard (never)
What to know: The last time Harvard and Penn State met the Crimson pulled off one of the biggest wins in their program history as they swept the Nittany Lions, snapping their 60-match conference winning streak dating back to 2008. Harvard will now play Penn State in the EIVA championship match with a chance to continue its underdog run and win its first conference title. Harvard enters the championship after rallying from one-match deficit to defeat George Mason in a fifth game overtime Thursday in the conference tournament semifinals. Outside attacker DJ White in the victory led the Crimson with 15 kills. In addition, White in the victory against Penn State earlier this season was coming off of an injury had a match-high 13 kills against the Nittany Lions. Penn State since that loss to Harvard has won 12 consecutive EIVA matches. In addition, the Nittany Lions are on a NCAA-record 36-match conference tournament winning streak with its last loss coming 1998. That season was also the only time coach Mark Pavlik has not guided the Nittany Lions to spot in the Final Four.