Series timeline: Recent No. 1 vs. No. 2 matches in NCAA men’s volleyball

Jonathan Bates | Off the Block associate editor

No. 1/1 Long Beach State and No. 2/2 UCLA will play each other on Saturday in the 10th match since 2012 between the top-two ranked teams in the nation.

In continuation of a story written by Off the Block editor Vinnie Lopes in 2011, here’s an updated list of recent regular matches featuring the top two NCAA men’s volleyball teams in the nation.

Jan. 6, 2012: No. 2 BYU vs No. 1 UC Irvine (at UC Santa Barbara)
Match Summary: This non-conference match was the first of the season for BYU, and the second for UC Irvine (the Anteaters opened their season a couple nights prior at home versus Cal Baptist). This match featured a high level of offense from both teams, especially for a January tilt as UC Irvine out-hit BYU .430 to .391 in a four-game victory.
Aftermath: Both the Anteaters and the Cougars would go on to win their other two matches at the 2012 UCSB/Asics Invitational. The Cougars and Anteaters would meet a week later for two matches in Irvine.


Jan. 13, 2012: No. 2 BYU at No. 1 UC Irvine
Match Summary: BYU All-American outside attacker, and future U.S. Olympian, Taylor Sander finished with a match-high 17 kills while hitting .727. The Orange County native also had three aces in a road sweep that included a third-game overtime.
Aftermath: The Anteaters and Cougars would face off 24 hours later, but this time it would prove to be a much more competitive.

Jan. 14, 2012: No. 2 BYU at No. 1 UC Irvine
Match Summary: BYU took the first two games, but then UC Irvine took the following two games before the Cougars prevailed in the fifth game 15-9. BYU was led by opposite Robb Stowell’s 21 kills and 18 kills from Taylor Sander. BYU out-hit UC Irvine, .406 to .336, and out-blocked the Anteaters, 12 to 7. The Anteaters strong serve kept them in the match, as they had 14 aces for the night. UC Irvine coach John Speraw used 14 different players during this five game match.
Aftermath: BYU would end the season at 24-7, and lose to Stanford in the MPSF Tournament semifinals. UC Irvine would lose three matches the rest of the season. 

March 10, 2012: No. 2 UC Irvine at No. 1 UCLA
Match Summary: In another five-game match, the Anteaters prevailed on the road at the Wooden Center. The Anteaters were paced by 21 kills each from Kevin Tillie and Carson Clark. The Bruins had three players with double-digit kills, and UCLA out-blocked UC Irvine 18.5 to 6.5. Ultimately, what proved to be the difference is a John Speraw signature characteristic — tough serving. The Anteaters had 10 aces, eight more aces than the Bruins.
Aftermath: The Bruins and Anteaters would play each two more times during the balance of the 2012 season, with the Bruins winning a few weeks later in Irvine, California. However, the Anteaters beat the Bruins in the MPSF Tournament quarterfinals en route to winning the 2012 NCAA championship. That conference tournament also was the final match for Hall of Fame coach Al Scates, who retired at the end of the season.

April 7, 2012: No. 2 UC Irvine at No. 1 USC
Match Summary: This would be first of three matches between the two MPSF foes during a span of less than two months. Tony Ciarelli had a match-high 20 kills and three aces for the Trojans, which won in four games. The Anteaters were by Carson Clark’s 17 kills and Jeremy Dejno’s 13 kills. While UC Irvine had more aces than USC (seven to four), the Trojans’ finished with 9.5 more aces (14 to 5.5).
Aftermath: The Trojans would drop the next two matches to the Anteaters (a five-game match three weeks later and then the NCAA Tournament finals.)

March 1, 2013: No. 2 BYU at No. 1 UC Irvine
Match Summary:
This five-game match featured three deuce sets, including one that went to overtime. The Cougars pulled out the reverse sweep, thanks to a career night from freshman opposite Ben Patch. Patch had 35 kills, just as many as the top players for UC Irvine had combined (Kevin Tillie with 20 and Zach La Cavera with 15). The Anteaters’ loss snapped a 11-match winning steak. The Cougars took control of the fifth set by taking an early 4-1 lead and then extended it to a 12-6 lead.
The Cougars would lose one more match the rest of the regular season. They would clinch the top seed in the MPSF Tournament, and win the tournament on their home court. The Anteaters would get their revenge by sweeping the Cougars in the NCAA Tournament finals.

March 9, 2015: No. 2 Lewis at No. 1 Loyola
Match Summary: Lewis defeated Loyola in four games to snap the Rambler’s 40 match win streak. Outside attacker Greg Petty led all players with 21 kills, while future U.S. Olympian Thomas Jaeschke paced Loyola with 17 kills. Lewis opposite Eric Fitterer had a career-best six aces, including back to back aces to end the match. The match featured 43 ties and 18 lead changes, and the fourth game alone had 21 ties and eight lead changes. Lewis also needed four match points to secure the road victory in overtime.
Aftermath: This match would become to be known as MIVAgeddon, as the two MIVA rivals would face three more times during season, including in the MIVA Tournament finals and the NCAA Tournament finals

Jan. 27, 2016: No. 2 Long Beach State at No. 1 UCLA
Match Summary: UCLA running a 6-2 offense overcame a two-game deficit to defeated Long Beach State and improve to 9-0 on the season. Freshman outside attacker TJ DeFalco led all players with 21 kills, but also had seven of the 49ers’ 19 service errors. The Bruins had five players with eight or more kills, led by 17 from Jake Arnitz. Freshman setter Micah Ma’a also had 13 kills and the match-winning ace.
Aftermath; The Bruins ended the season 25-7, losing to BYU in the MPSF Tournament finals and then losing to eventual national champion Ohio State in five games in the NCAA Tournament semifinals. UCLA had a combined 53 service errors in those two matches. Long Beach State also earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the semifinals before losing to BYU.

Jan. 7, 2017: No. 2 UCLA at No. 1 Ohio State
Match Summary:  All-American outside attacker Nicholas Szerszen finished with a match-high 17 kills in a four-game victory against the Bruins. This would be the Buckeyes’ 25th consecutive win, a streak that would extend to 42 matches before the team lost to UC Irvine in March. Outside attacker Jake Arnitz at 17 kills was the only UCLA player with double-digits kills, while the Buckeyes had three such players. The Buckeyes also had nine aces — five more than the Bruins.  
Aftermath: The Buckeyes would go on to lose only two matches during the entire regular season and repeat as NCAA champions. The Bruins would win their next seven matches, but suffered through an injury-plagued final three months of the season and lost in the MPSF Tournament quarterfinals.