The muddled conference tournament seeding races and battle for the at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament could get a lot clearer following tonight.
No. 2 BYU has a chance to move one step closer to winning its second consecutive MPSF regular season title as it plays host to No. 6 UC Santa Barbara. In addition out in the East Coast, Penn State looks to cement its hold on first-place in the EIVA and pick-up a conference home victory against Princeton.
Check out the top five college men’s volleyball matches to follow tonight.
1. No. 2 BYU (16-4, 16-2) vs. No. 5 UC Santa Barbara (14-6, 13-6 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Provo, Utah
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, In-match tweets
What to know: UC Santa Barbara is one of the last two teams in conference play to beat BYU on its home court. The only problem for the Gauchos with that stat is the victory came more than two years ago. BYU enters its final home weekend of the regular season on a 21-match home winning streak and has won 35 of its 36 conference matches at Smith Fieldhouse since losing to UC Santa Barbara in 2012. Along with its success at home, BYU All-American outside attacker Taylor Sander is second in the nation with a 4.59 kills per game average. The senior last week also set the BYU career record for kills during the rally scoring era. UC Santa Barbara, though, enters this match holding opponents to a conference-best .223 attack percentage. In addition, the Gauchos are tied for third place in the MPSF and four matches the first-place Cougars. BYU with six conference matches remaining needs to win three matches to clinch its second consecutive MPSF regular season title and home-court advantage throughout the MPSF Tournament.
2. Penn State (15-5, 6-1 EIVA) vs. Princeton (12-7, 7-2 EIVA)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in University Park, Pa.
Follow live: Gametracker, In-match tweets
What to know: Coach Mark Pavlik said during his weekly news conference Monday that his team isn’t viewing its upcoming match against Princeton as a chance to avenge an early-season loss to the Tigers. Instead, the coach said the home match more importantly is a must-win for Penn State to remain in control of its own fate in the EIVA regular season title race. Penn State is in first place in the EIVA but both Princeton and Harvard are within one match of the Nittany Lions. In addition, Penn State enters this match after upsetting No. 10 Lewis on the road last week. Outside attacker Aaron Russell also leads the conference with a 3.95 kills per game average, including having a season-high 22 kills in the victory against the Flyers. Princeton is on a five-match winning streak and has not lost a road match since early February. In addition, outside attacker Devin Stearns has at least 15 kills in the Tigers’ last two matches and led Princeton with 18 kills in the victory against the Nittany Lions earlier this season.
3. No. 3 Pepperdine (14-5, 14-5 MPSF) vs. No. 5 Stanford (14-7, 12-7 MPSF)
Match vitals: 5 p.m. in Palo Alto, Calif.
Follow live: Online video, In-match tweets
What to know: Stanford has a chance to finish the month undefeated and add even more chaos to the MPSF standings as it plays host to Pepperdine. The Cardinal is on a conference-best six-match winning streak to jump from being on the outside of the MPSF Tournament to fifth place and in contention for a possible at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. All-American outside attacker Brian Cook has double-digit kills in five matches during Stanford’s winning streak, including 16 kills in a four-game road victory against Pepperdine earlier this month. Pepperdine since that loss is on a five-match winning streak. With a win tonight, Pepperdine can also become the second team to clinch a berth in the MPSF Tournament. In addition, the Waves in the latest Off the Block bracketology are projected as one of the two teams receiving an at-large to the NCAA Tournament.
4. No. 4 Long Beach State (16-6, 13-6 MPSF) vs. No. 8 UC Irvine (15-9, 12-8 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Irvine, Calif.
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, In-match tweets
What to know: After UC Irvine narrowly beat it out for the NCAA Tournament at-large bid last season, Long Beach State has a chance squash any realistic shot the Anteaters have at an at-large bid this season. The defending NCAA Tournament champions UC Irvine is in eighth place in the MPSF and on the fridges of race for one of two at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. However, UC Irvine has won six of its last seven matches, including a four-game victory against Cal State Northridge on Wednesday. Long Beach State sitting in third place in the MPSF is in prime position to earn an at-large bid but has lost two of its last three matches. In addition, Long Beach State in both of its losses to Pepperdine and USC last week was held to less than a .200 attack percentage. All-American Outside attacker Taylor Crabb in the two losses also was the only 49ers to finish with double-digit kills.
5. St. Francis (9-10, 4-3 EIVA) vs. George Mason (10-10, 4-4 EIVA)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Loretto, Pa.
Follow live: Live stats, In-match tweets
What to know: It’s still about three weeks until the start of the EIVA Tournament, but this match will go a long way to determine if St. Francis or George Mason gets the final berth to the four-team conference tournament. St. Francis enters the home match with a half-match lead on George Mason for fourth place in the EIVA standings but is on a five-match losing streak. In addition, a victory for the Red Flashes would go a long way to helping the program earn their first trip to the postseason in three years. George Mason outside attacker Radoslav Popov has at least 20 kills in two of the team’s last three conference matches. The freshman also had a team-high 15 kills in a four-game home loss to St. Francis in February.