It’s still January but there are plenty of match-ups tonight that could be previews of matches four months from in the NCAA Tournament.
No. 15 Penn State will attempt to get its first win of the season and avenge a NCAA Tournament semifinal loss last season as it plays host to No. 1 Loyola. In addition, No. 3 UC Irvine and No. 5 USC will meet each other with first place in the MPSF on the line.
Check out the top college men’s volleyball matches from around the nation to follow tonight.
No. 3 UC Irvine (6-1, 2-0 MPSF) vs. No. 5 USC (4-0, 3-0 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Irvine, California
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, In-match tweets
What to know: Two of the most efficient offenses at the start of the MPSF season will face each other as No. 3 UC Irvine plays host to No. 5 USC. Both teams have more than a .325 attack percentage in their last two conference matches. USC also was errorless and hit .650 in the opening game of a sweep against UC San Diego on Thursday. With that victory, the Trojans moved into sole possession of first place in the MPSF and are only remaining undefeated team in the conference. In addition, All-American setter Micah Christenson has at least one ace in each match so far this season. UC Irvine enters on a conference-best six-match winning streak, including beating Cal Baptist in four games on Tuesday. The Anteaters out-hit the Lancers .381 to .156, and Preseason All-American opposite Zack La Cavera had a match-high 19 kills. This was also the fourth consecutive match that La Cavera finished with double-digit kills.
No. 1 Loyola (3-0, 0-0 MIVA) vs. No. 15 Penn State (0-4, 0-0 EIVA)
Match vitals: 6 p.m. in University Park, Pennsylvania
Follow live: Live stats, In-match tweets
What to know: All No. 15 Penn State has to do to avoid setting the program’s longest losing streak during the rally scoring era is beat the team with the longest active winning streak in the nation. Penn State enters its home opener against No. 1 Loyola on a four-match losing streak. The only other time in the rally scoring era that the Nittany Lions lost four straight matches was in 2006 when they recovered from their early season losing streak to reach the NCAA Tournament championship match. Pen State All-American outside attacker Aaron Russell finished with a combined 52 kills in two losses last week, including a career-high 32 kills in a five-game loss to Ball State. The defending-NCAA champions Loyola is on a 28-match winning streak dating back to last season. Preseason All-American outside attacker Cody Caldwell also has at least 15 kills in two of the Ramblers’ first three victories this season. This will also be a rematch of the 2014 NCAA Tournament semifinals, which Loyola won in five games.
No. 4 BYU (3-1, 2-0 MPSF) vs. No. 8 UC Santa Barbara (4-2, 0-2 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Santa Barbara, California
Follow live: Live stats, In-match tweets
What to know: Expect for there to be plenty of blocks as No. 4 BYU and No. 9 UC Santa Barbra open a two-match weekend series. UC Santa Barbara middle attacker Jake Staahl is second in the conference with a 1.38 blocks per game average, while middle attacker Ryan Hardy has a 1.20 blocks per game average. In addition, the Gauchos are the only team to have two players in the top five of the MPSF for blocks per game average. BYU middle attacker Michael Hatch last season was one of three finalists for the Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. National Blocker of the Year and added two blocks in a sweep against then-No. 4 UCLA last week. First-year starting middle attacker Joseph Gross also had a season-high 10 blocks in a five-game upset victory against No. 2 Lewis in the opening week of the season. UC Santa Barbara will play this conference homer opener after losing two road matches against No. 8 Hawai’i. However, the Gauchos are undefeated at home this season and have won 14 of their last 15 home matches dating back to last season.
McKendree (0-3, 0-2 MIVA) vs. Graceland
Match vitals: 2 p.m. in Parkville, Missouri
Follow live: In-match tweets