The defending national champions UC Irvine will now have a chance to defend its title in the NCAA Tournament.
The men’s volleyball NCAA selection committee announced Sunday afternoon that the Anteaters will receive the only at-large bid as it unveiled the four-team bracket for the Division I-II national championships.
UC Irvine earned the No. 2 seed and will play the No. 3 seed Loyola in the NCAA semifinals at Thursday in Los Angeles. In addition, the MPSF Tournament champions BYU earned the No. 1 overall seed and was paired against the No. 4 seed Penn State in other semifinal on Thursday.
Despite losing to Long Beach State in the conference tournament semifinals, the Anteaters edged out the 49ers for the lone at-large bid because it held the advantage in the majority of the criteria categories used by the selection committee. In the latest Off the Block projections, UC Irvine when paired against Long Beach State held the edge in five of the eight criteria categories, including head-to-head record and record against teams qualified or under consideration.
This is the second time in the last four years that the Anteaters have earned the at-large bid after an early loss in the conference tournament. UC Irvine lost to USC in the 2009 MPSF Tournament but was still able to get the at-large bid and then went on to win its second NCAA championship in program history.
The Anteaters also won the nation championship as an automatic bid last season. UC Irvine in that championship run defeated Penn State in four games in the NCAA Tournament semifinals.
Penn State swept Harvard on Saturday to win its 15th consecutive EIVA championship and earn the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The Nittany Lions enter the Final Four having won nine of their last 10 matches. However, that only loss was a non-conference sweep against UC Irvine earlier this month.
BYU is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since winning the national championship in 2004. The Cougars were ranked No. 1 in the national coaches poll and national media poll throughout the majority of the season, and swept Long Beach State in its conference tournament championship Saturday to get an automatic bid to the tournament.
Loyola also earned an automatic bid and its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in program history after it upset the defending-MIVA champions Lewis in five games on the road. .
The NCAA Tournament will be played at UCLA. The winners of the Thursday’s semifinals will advance to the championship match at 9 p.m. (EST) Saturday.