Pepperdine to continue series vs. former MPSF foes UC Irvine, UCSB

The longstanding series for Pepperdine against UC Santa Barbara and UC Irvine will both remain intact for the upcoming season, despite no longer being in the same conference.

Pepperdine as part of recently releasing its 2018 schedule that it agreed to a home-and-home series with both of the new Big West men’s volleyball teams.

Throughout the majority NCAA men’s volleyball history, Pepperdine, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara all have been members of the same conference. The Gauchos and Anteaters, though, as Big West schools and the conference adding men’s volleyball departed the MPSF at the conclusion of the 2017 season.

Pepperdine and UC Santa Barbara remains one of the longest annual series in college volleyball dating back to 1971. In addition, the Waves and Anteaters have played each other every year since 1987.

The Waves will play home matches against the Anteaters on Jan. 13 and the Gauchos on Jan. 20 as part of a three-match homestead to open the season. It also will concluded each home-and-match series with road matches versus UC Irvine on Feb. 14 and UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 21.

These will be the only Big West teams that the Waves play in the first season following the MPSF split.

Both Pepperdine and UC Irvine finished last season ranked in the top 10 of both the national coaches poll and national media poll.

The Waves return a majority of starters from last year’s team, including All-MPSF outside attacker David Wieczorek. Wieczorek was among the national leaders last season with a 3.86 kills per game average and was voted the Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Fan Choice National Player of the Year.

Pepperdine also will have a new head coach for the upcoming season. David Hunt was promoted for assistant coach to head coach following the offseason retirement of Hall of Fame coach Marv Dunphy

UC Irvine ended last season advancing to the MPSF Tournament semifinals and narrowly missed the final at-large bid to the six-team NCAA Tournament. The Anteaters will have to replace multiple All-American starters from last year’s team but return Freshman All-American middle attacker Scott Stadick.

UC Santa Barbara joins the Big West after finishing last season in ninth place in the MPSF and did not qualify for the conference tournament for the first time in almost five years.

Along with these non-conference matches, Pepperdine will have home matches against Princeton on Feb. 3 and Loyola on March 10. It also will travel to Virginia in January for a non-conference tournament with matches against the Ball State and the host school George Mason.

Among the former conference opponents not featured on Pepperdine’s upcoming schedule includes Hawai’i, CSUN and the defending MPSF champions Long Beach State.

This will be the first time since 1970, the inaugural season of volleyball as a NCAA sanctioned sport, that Long Beach State and Pepperdine will not play each other.