The end of the regular season is here and the finale has the potential for plenty of drama.
No. 2 UC Irvine and Penn State will met in a possible preview to the Final Four, while Cal State Northridge and Hawai’i continue their push to clinch the final berth in the MPSF Tournament. In addition, Pfeiffer will attempt to repeat as conference champions as it plays Limestone in the Conference Carolinas Tournament championship match.
Check out the top-five men’s volleyball matches from around the nation to follow tonight.
1. No. 2 UC Irvine (21-6, 18-6 MPSF) vs. Penn State (19-6, 11-1 EIVA)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Irvine, Calif.
Follow live: Live stats, In-match Tweets
What to know: The last time UC Irvine and Penn State played each other the Anteaters won in four games to advance to the NCAA championshipmatch. Almost one year later, the two teams will meet again in non-conference play in what could be a preview of a Final Four match. UC Irvine enters the final weekend of the regular season having already clinched the No. 2 seed for the upcoming MPSF Tournament. The team is also one of the front-runners for the lone at-large bid to the four-team NCAA Tournament if it can’t win its conference tournament. Penn State last weekend clinched the program’s 29th EIVA regular season championship and the right to play host to the EIVA Tournament in two weeks. The Nittany Lions are on a four-match winning streak, but have struggled at times in non-conference play this season. Penn State has lost four of its last five non-conference matches and is 1-1 against the MPSF this season — beating Hawai’i and losing to UCLA at the Outrigger Invitational in January. UC Irvine has not lost a home non-conference match in almost 10 years. In addition, outside attacker Kyle Russell was named the AVCA National Player of the Week on Tuesday after having a career-high 14 kills to help UC Irvine beat Stanford last weekend to extend the team’s winning streak to four matches.
2. No. 10 Loyola (19-8, 10-3 MIVA) vs. Ball State (19-5, 8-5 MIVA)
Match vitals: 7:30 p.m. in Muncie, Ind.
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, Radio feed, In-match Tweets
What to know: The two teams with the longest active winning streaks in the nation will play each other as Ball State and Loyola meet in a critical match for conference tournament seeding. Ball State enters its regular season finale in third place and on an 11-match winning streak — tying the program’s record for the longest winning streak in the last 20 years. BallState also upset No. 9 Lewis in four games on Thursday to clinch the No. 4 seed and a first-round home match for the MIVA Tournament. However, it will likely have to beat Loyola to get the No. 3 seed. The Ramblers are on a nine-match winning streak and can get at least a share of the MIVA regular season championship if they beat the Cardinals. With one match left, Loyola and Lewis are tied for first-place in the MIVA. Due to the Flyers owning the head-to-head tiebreaker, for Loyola to have a chance to get the No. 1 seed for the MIVA Tournament it needs Lewis to lose to IPFW in its season finale Saturday.
3. No. 1 BYU (21-4, 20-3 MPSF) vs. No. 9 Stanford (15-11, 12-11 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Palo Alto, Calif.
Follow live: Gametracker, Online video, In-match Tweets
What to know: Two of the potential leading candidates for the AVCA Newcomer of the Year award will square off against each other as Stanford and BYU close out their regular seasons. BYU freshman outside attacker Ben Patch is in the nation’s top 25 with a 3.48 kills per game average, while Stanford freshman setter James Shaw is among the nation’s top 10 averaging 10.46 assists per game. This will be the second meeting between the two teams this season. Patch had a match-high 26 kills to help the Cougars defeat the Caridnal in five games in February. Shaw in that loss also had a career-high 60 assists. BYU enters this weekend having already clinched the No. 1 seed and home court throughout the MPSF Tournament. Stanford defeated No. 7 Cal Baptist in five games on Friday to clinch the No. 6 seed for the MPSF Tournament.
4. Pfeiffer (16-8, 13-3 CC) vs. Limestone (15-13, 9-7 CC)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Misenheimer, N.C.
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, In-match Tweets
What to know: The first conference champion of the season will be decided as Pfeiffer and Limestone meet in the Conference Carolinas Tournament championship match. The defending-conference champions Pfeiffer entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed and swept the No. 3 seed Lees-McRae in the semifinals on Wednesday to advance to the championship match. Outside attacker Caleb Brophy in the semifinal victory had a match-high 18 kills. Brophy, the 2013 Conference Carolinas Player of the Year, began this week fifth in the nation averaging 4.01 kills per game. The No. 4 seed Limestone reached the championship match after beating Erskine in the quarterfinals and upsetting the No. 1 seed Mount Olive on the road in the semifinals. If Limestone beats Pfeiffer, it would be the team’s first conference championship in program history. The winner of the Conference Carolinas Tournament will not receive an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Division II conference will be eligible for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament beginning next season.
5. No. 4 Long Beach State (21-7, 17-6 MPSF) vs. Cal State Northridge (11-14, 9-14 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Long Beach, Calif.
What to know: Cal State Northridge will have to upset Long Beach State to be assured a postseason berth and avoid one of the biggest late-season collapses in recent MPSF history. The Matadors had a chance in its last four matches to clinch a spot in the eight-team MPSF Tournament and has lost all four of those matches. Cal State Northridge’s four-match losing streak has included loses to Pacific and USC — two teams eliminated from postseason contention — and blowing a one-game lead to Pepperdine in a five-game loss. If Cal State Northridge can’t beat Long Beach State, it still can reach the postseason despite being on a five-match losing streak. However, it would need Hawai’i to lose to last-place UC San Diego. Long Beach State enters its regular season finale having already clinched the No. 3 seed for the MPSF Tournament. The 49ers, though, need to beat the Matadors to stay within reach of BYU and UC Irvine for a potential at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
BEST OF THE REST
Hawai’i vs. UC San Diego
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in San Diego
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, In-match Tweets
What to know: Hawai’i will have a chance to make postseason on the final day of the regular season, but it must beat UC San Diego and get help. Despite being without outside attackers JP Marks and Sinisa Zarkovic because of injuries, the Warriors beat the Tritons in four games on Friday to keep their postseason hopes alive. The two teams will now conclude its two-match series with Hawai’i needed in a victory and a Cal State Northridge loss to clinch a postseason berth. Outside attacker Brook Sedore in the series opener had a match-high 19 kills against UC San Diego. Hawai’i has not reached the postseason 2011 when it advanced to the MPSF Tournament semifinals.