Top 5 college men’s volleyball matches to follow tonight

After an eight-month wait, the first weekend to the college men’s volleyball season is finally here.

The first weekend of the regular season begins with a marquee match-up as No. 3 BYU travels to take on No. 7 Loyola. In addition, out in the West Coast the UC Santa Barbara Invitational starts with exhibition pool-play matches.


Check out the top five college men’s volleyball matches to follow tonight.

1. No. 3 BYU (0-0) vs. No. 7 Loyola (1-0)
Match vitals:
7 p.m. in Chicago
Follow live: Gametracker, Online video, In-match tweets
What to know: Loyola one day after upsetting No. 1 UC Irvine will now try to pull off another upset on its home court as it plays host to No. 3 BYU. Outside attacker Joseph Smalzer in the five-game victory against the Anteaters had a match-high 15 kills. The Preseason All-American and 2013 Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. National Server of the Year also added a match-high three aces to help the Ramblers win their first match against a No. 1 ranked team in five years. This will be BYU’s season opener as it begins a two-match Midwest road trip. The Cougars return several starters from last year’s team that reached the NCAA finals — including outside attacker Taylor Sander, the 2013 Volleyball Magazine National Player of the Year. The Cougars, though, will be without All-American opposite Ben Patch who left the team to begin a two-year mission.

2. No. 2 UCLA vs. No. 4 Long Beach State
Match vitals:
4:15 p.m. in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Follow live: In-match Tweets
What to know: This match result won’t count towards either teams’ overall season record, but it could easily set the tone for Long Beach State and UCLA as they vie for the MPSF championship this season. The Bruins and 49ers will close out the pool-play round of the UC Santa Barbara Invitational. The annual non-conference changed its tournament format for this season with the pool-play matches being a best-of-three games and considered exhibition matches by the NCAA. Both UCLA and Long Beach State received first-place votes in the national preseason coaches poll and return a majority of starters after finishing last season ranked in the nation’s top five. The two teams also had a combined five Preseason All-Americans, including Long Beach State outside attacker Taylor Crabb and UCLA outside attacker Gonzalo Quiroga.

3. No. 5 Stanford vs. No. 8 UC Santa Barbara
Match vitals:
4:15 p.m. in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Follow live: In-match tweets
What to know: Two of the top freshmen setters in the nation last season will go up against each other to close out the pool-play round of the UC Santa Barbara Invitational. Both UC Santa Barbara setter Jonah Seif and Stanford setter James Shaw were named to the Lloy Ball Award watch list in December and earned All-MPSF Freshmen Team honors last season. Seif ended the 2013 season leading all freshmen in the nation with 1,097 assists, while James Shaw last year finished leading all freshmen in the nation with a 10.48 assists per game average. In addition, both teams returns a majority of starters after they reached the MPSF Tournament last season.

4. No. 14 Cal State Northridge vs. UC San Diego
Match vitals:
4:15 p.m. in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Follow live: In-match tweets
What to know: The surprise team of the 2013 UC Santa Barbara Invitational will once again return to the non-conference tournament. UC San Diego last season at the event upset nationally ranked Lewis to reach the third-place match and then almost upset Long Beach State before losing in five games. The Tritons will complete the four-match pool-play round against the Matadors. Cal State Northridge and UC San Diego enter this season after being picked to finish outside of the postseason in the MPSF preseason coaches poll. However, both programs historically have fared well at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational.

5. No. 15 Cal Baptist vs. Pacific
Match vitals: 4:15 p.m. in Santa Barbara, Calif.
Follow live: In-match tweets
What to know: The final start of a season for Pacific begins at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational. The Tigers enter 2014 after the university announced in October that it would dissolve the men’s volleyball program at the end of the season because of budgetary reasons. Pacific in its final UC Santa Barbara appearance will close out the pool-play round against Cal Baptist. Cal Baptist had a near polar opposite off-season than Pacific as the Lancers became a full member of the NCAA Division II and are now postseason eligible.