One of the most prestigious annual non-conference tournaments will be revamped for the upcoming season featuring two first-time participants.
Hawai’i announced earlier this week that it will play host to Harvard, King and NCAA finalists Lewis at its home non-conference tournament the Outrigger Invitational.
This will be the first time that both Harvard and King will compete in the early-season round-robin tournament. King also will be the first Conference Carolinas school to participate in the 22-year history of the Outrigger Invitational.
The three-day Outrigger Invitational traditionally featured Hawai’i along with a team from the EIVA, MIVA and MPSF. The decision, though, to eliminate the additional MPSF from the tournament field comes one year after the men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament selection committee placed an increased emphasis on teams scheduling more non-conference matches.
Harvard will replace the traditional EIVA representative Penn State at the 2016 Outrigger Invitational. The defending-EIVA champions Nittany Lions had competed in all but one Outrigger Invitational since the tournament started in 1995.
The Crimson finished last season reaching the four-team EIVA Tournament for the fourth consecutive year.
King qualified for the Conference Carolinas Tournament last season for the first time in its program history. The Tornado also return a majority of starters for the upcoming season, including setter Nick Drooker who was named the 2015 Conference Carolinas Freshman of the Year.
Along with Harvard and King, the upcoming Outrigger Invitational will feature two of the six teams that reached the NCAA Tournament last season.
Lewis earned the No. 1 overall seed for the NCAA Tournament and came within a point of winning the national championship before losing a fifth-game overtime to Loyola in the NCAA Tournament finals. Among the starters returning for the Flyers, which last competed at the Outrigger Invitational in 2012, includes the 2015 Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. National Blocker of the Year middle attacker Bobby Walsh.
Hawai’i earned the final at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament last season — the first time in almost a decade it reached the NCAA Tournament. In addition, setter Jennings Franciskovic and outside attacker Kupono Fey return to the Rainbow Warriors after competing with the U.S. Men’s Junior National Team during the off-season.
Hawai’i has gone 2-1 at its home tournament the last two years and last won an Outrigger Invitational championship in 2010.