After four months of play, the NCAA Tournament is here and by the end of the night only two teams will still have chance at winning the national championship.
The NCAA Tournament semifinals begin tonight with UC Irvine and Loyola playing each other in a potentially historic match for both schools. In addition, in the semifinal nightcap two conference champions Penn State and BYU will met with a spot in the national championship match on the line.
Check out the NCAA Tournament semifinal matches to follow tonight.
No. 1 seed BYU (25-4, 21-3 MPSF) vs. the No. 4 seed Penn State (23-7, 13-1 EIVA)
Match vitals: 8 p.m. in Los Angeles
Follow live: Gametracker, Online video, In-match Tweets
Last NCAA Tournament appearance: BYU (2004); Penn State (2012)
Last NCAA Tournament title: BYU (2004); Penn State (2008)
Last time they played each other: BYU swept Penn State in April 2012
What to know: Coach Mark Pavlik said earlier this week that he knows BYU has several advantages over his Penn State team but the future Hall of Fame coach also knows his team may have the biggest advantage: experience. The Nittany Lions are making their 15th consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament, while only one BYU player was even in high school the last time BYU reached the NCAA Tournament in 2004. Both teams enter the NCAA Tournament semifinals after winning their conference championships last weekend. BYU after rallying to beat Hawai’i and UCLA in five games in the first two rounds of its conference tournament swept Long Beach State in the MPSF Tournament championship match for its first conference title in nine years. Penn State did not lose a game during the EIVA Tournament and had a season-low one combined attack error in the first two games of its sweep against Harvard in the EIVA Tournament championship match. This NCAA Tournament semifinal match will also feature two conference player of the year selections. BYU outside attacker Taylor Sander was named the 2013 MPSF Player of the Year after finishing in the nation’s top five with a 3.82 kills per game. In addition, Penn State sophomore outside attacker Aaron Russell earned 2013 Co-EIVA Player of the Year honors and was among the conference leaders with a 3.57 kills per game average and .309 attack percentage. For more on this match, click here to view the Off the Block NCAA Tournament semifinals video prematch show.
No. 2 seed UC Irvine (23-7, 18-6) vs. No. 3 seed Loyola (22-9, 10-4 MIVA)
Match vitals: 6 p.m. in Los Angeles
Follow live: Gametracker, Online video, Radio feed, In-match Tweets
Last NCAA Tournament appearance: UC Irvine (2012); Loyola (never)
Last NCAA Tournament title: UC Irvine (2012); Loyola (never)
Last time they played each other: UC Irvine swept Loyola in 2009
What to know: It would be tough to find two teams on more opposite sides of the NCAA Tournament historical spectrum than UC Irvine and Loyola. The Anteaters are two wins away from becoming the third men’s volleyball program to win back-to-back NCAA championships and the first team to accomplish the feat since UCLA in 1995-96. However, UC Irvine will first have to get a semifinal victory against Loyola, which is making its first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history. Loyola rallied from a one-game deficit to defeat Lewis in five games in the conference championship match Saturday to win its first MIVA title in school history. Loyola All-American outside attacker Joseph Smalzer in the victory had a match-high 20 kills. Along with being the 2013 MIVA Player of the Year, Smalzer also has a nation-best 74 aces and was named the 2013 Off the Block/Springbak Inc. National Server of the Year. UC Irvine is attempting to become the second at-large team in the last 10 years to win the NCAA Tournament — but the only at-large team to win it during that time span was the Anteaters in 2009. For more on this match, click here to view the Off the Block NCAA Tournament semifinals video prematch show.