There are some big storylines that will played-out during one of college men’s volleyball’s biggest annual non-conference tournaments.
Everything from UCLA trying to accomplish a feat never achieved to all four teams attempting to pick-up signature non-conference victories highlight the storylines as the 20th annual Outrigger Invitational begins Thursday in Honolulu.
Check out the storylines to following during the upcoming 2014 Outrigger Invitational.
1. UCLA eyes possible historic four-peat in Hawaii
A record will be on the line this weekend as UCLA attempts to become the first program to win the Outrigger Invitational in four consecutive years. The Bruins return to the Outrigger Invitational having won the non-conference tournament the last three seasons. In addition, UCLA during that three-year stretch is 8-1 at the annual event with its lone loss coming last year in the tournament-finale against Hawai’i. The Bruins have won a record eight championships in their 13 appearances at the Outrigger Invitational.
2. Returning Rainbow Warriors
Starting outside attackers Brook Sedore and Sinisa Zarkovic both return for Hawai’i after leading the Rainbow Warriors last season to their first postseason appearance in two years. Sedore led Hawai’i in 2013 with a 2.96 kills per game average and was among the MPSF leaders with 45 aces. Zarkovic in his first college season was second on the team averaging 2.90 kills per game and earned MPSF All-Freshman honors. Both Sedore and Zarkovic are among the five returning starters for the Rainbow Warriors. In addition, the two outside attacker could be poised for a big offensive season and be contention for their first all-conference selections.
3. Penn State and NCAA Tournament implications
Penn State has yet to play a match and the NCAA Tournament is four months away, but how the Nittany Lions’ fare at the Outrigger Invitational could play a big role in the NCAA Tournament brackets. The Outrigger Invitational will be one of two West Coast road trips this year for Penn State, which has won 15 consecutive EIVA championships. If Penn State is able to win the EIVA later this season to reach the NCAA Tournament, signature non-conference victories from the Outrigger Invitational could help propel the Nittany Lions to a high seed and possible bye until the NCAA Tournament semifinals. Penn State also could still be in the hunt for one of two at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament even if it did not win the EIVA because of non-conference victories at the Outrigger Invitational.
4. Ohio State starting setter situation
The Buckeyes will likely use multiple starting setters throughout the Outrigger Invitational. Ohio State coach Pete Hanson said in a preseason interview with Off the Block that he intends to start Peter Heien or Christy Blough on a match-by-match basis during the regular season. Heien was the Buckeyes’ starting setter for the last two year and ended his 2013 sophomore season second in the nation with a 10.97 assists per game average. Blough begins his college career after earning high school First-Team All-American honors last year and being a two-year captain for the U.S. Boys’ Youth National Team.
5. Penn State and UCLA 20 years later
There could not be a more fitting way for Penn State to open its 2014 season than by playing UCLA. In a season that marks the 20-year anniversary Penn State defeating UCLA in the 1994 NCAA finals to become the first non-West Coast team to win a national title, the two teams will meet to open the Outrigger Invitational. This will be only regular season meeting between the two programs on the 20-year anniversary of the 1994 NCAA finals. However, both teams were among the preseason favorites to reach the six-team NCAA Tournament.