It’s a huge midweek night in college men’s volleyball with several matches that could have a significant affect on the conference tournament seeding and the race for the NCAA Tournament at-large bids.
No. 5 Stanford and No. 7 USC highlights the slate of matches as both teams continue to battle to earn a home postseason match in the MPSF Tournament. In addition out in the Midwest, Ball State will attempt to put an end to No. 1 Loyola’s perfect run in conference play.
Check out this special Thursday edition of the top college men’s volleyball matches to follow tonight.
No. 5 Stanford (14-7, 11-7 MPSF) vs. No. 7 USC (14-8, 13-8 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Palo Alto, Calif.
Follow live: Online video, In-match tweets
What to know: Two of the nation’s top setters and potential front-runners for the inaugural Lloy Ball Award will be go up against each in a pivotal late-season conference match. All-American setter Micah Christenson is leading the nation with a 11.82 assists per game average and most recently had a match-high 53 assists to help USC upset then-No. 2 Long Beach State last week. Stanford setter James Shaw is among the nation’s top five averaging 10.94 assists per game. Shaw earlier this month also earned National Player of the Week after leading Stanford to a rally-scoring era record .527 attack percentage in a sweep against USC. Both teams also enter this conference match needing a victory to improve its postseason seeding and remain in contention for a possible at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal is coming off of its bye week on a five-match winning streak and in a tie for sixth place in the MPSF. However, the Trojans are on a three-match winning streak and have a half-match lead over the Cardinal for fifth place.
No. 1 Loyola (19-1, 9-0 MIVA) vs. Ball State (17-5, 6-2 MIVA)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Chicago
Follow live: Gametracker, Online video, Radio feed, In-match tweets
What to know: Ball State has a chance to pull off one of its biggest upsets in program history, but in order to achieve that feat it will have to accomplish two things it hasn’t done since 1990s. The Cardinals enter this conference match having not won on the road against the Ramblers since 1999 and their last victory against a No. 1 ranked team coming in 1995. This match will also feature the two teams with longest active winning streaks in the nation. Loyola is on a program-record 17-match winning streak and has not lost since the opening week of the season, while Ball State enters on a 10-match winning streak. In addition, Ball State is coming off of a four-game victory against conference rival Ohio State on Sunday to remain in second place in the MIVA and move to 2.5 matches behind first-place Loyola. All-American middle attacker Kevin Owen in that victory finished with a season-high 16 kills and a .800 attack percentage. Loyola is leading the nation with a .382 attack percentage, including hitting above that season average in a four-game road victory against the Cardinals earlier this season.
IPFW (17-4, 6-3 MIVA) vs. Lewis (15-6, 5-3 MIVA)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Romeoville, Ill.
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, In-match tweets
What to know: The possibility of IPFW remaining in serious contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament hinges on its upcoming road trip against Lewis and Loyola. The Mastodons in the latest Off the Block bracketology were listed as one of the first four out in the race for the two at-large bids. In addition, IPFW is a half-match ahead of Lewis for third-place in the MIVA and can earn a home postseason match for the first time in seven years if it wins three of its final five conference matches. Outside attacker Andrew Sellan leads the Mastodons and is in the conference’s top 10 with a 3.06 kills per game average — including having double-digit kills in three matches during the team’s current four-match winning streak. Lewis outside attackers Geoff Powell and Greg Petty are tied for fourth in the conference each averaging 3.52 kills per game. This will also be the first meeting between the two teams since Mastodons upset the Flyers in five games February.
No. 9 UCLA (14-8, 11-7 MPSF) vs. Cal Baptist (4-19, 2-17 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Riverside, Calif.
Follow live: In-match tweets
What to know: UCLA will try to have a positive end to its disastrous March as it travels to play Cal Baptist. The Bruins within a span of a month lost from five of their last six matches, dropped out from second to sixth place in the MPSF standings and lost multiple starters due to injuries. UCLA is also coming off of a bye week and a week of no practices because of final exam week at the school. Despite the recent struggles, outside attacker Gonzalo Quiroga leads the conference with a 0.52 aces per game average and is in the conference’s top 10 averaging 3.73 kills per game average. Cal Baptist last season defeated UCLA twice. However, the Lancers are in 11th place in the MPSF and are on a seven-match losing streak.