NCAA Tournament first-round matches to follow tonight

Photo courtesy of UCLA athletics

The men’s volleyball NCAA Tournament and the road to the VolleyFour continues tonight. Check out both first-round matches and how to follow them live.

UCLA (24-7, 9-3 MPSF) vs. Harvard (13-13, 10-4 EIVA)
Match vitals: 7:30 p.m. in Los Angeles
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, Radio feed, In-match tweets (UCLA), In-match tweets (Harvard), In-match tweets (Off the Block)
How they reached here: Harvard won the EIVA Tournament for the first time in program history. UCLA earned one of the two at-large bids.
All-time series: UCLA leads 1-0
Last meeting: UCLA swept Harvard in March 2017.
Last NCAA Tournament meeting: First NCAA Tournament meeting
NCAA championships: UCLA (19); Harvard (0)
Last NCAA title: UCLA (2006); Harvard (never)
NCAA Tournament all-time record: UCLA (52-8); Harvard (0-0)
Next up on the bracket: Winner of this match plays the No. 2 seed BYU in the VolleyFour on Thursday.
What to know: Coach John Speraw isn’t a fan of bye weeks, especially heading into the NCAA Tournament. The UCLA coach said in an interview with Off the Block that he expects UCLA to be a little out-of-sync in its NCAA Tournament first-round match against Harvard following a 10-day layoff. The Bruins enter the NCAA Tournament on their home court second in the nation with a .350 attack percentage, including hitting at least .300 in nine of their last 10 matches. However, this will be the second time in the last three years that UCLA will play a NCAA Tournament match after a bye week. UCLA coming off of a 12-day layoff had a .399 attack percentage but committed 26 service errors in a five-game loss to Ohio State in the 2016 VolleyFour. All-American setter Micah Ma’a is in the nation’s top 10 with a 0.48 aces per game average and has multiple aces in nine consecutive matches. In his first season running a 5-1 offense, the Lloy Ball Award finalist also is fifth in the nation averaging 10.56 assists per game. With UCLA transitioning from a 6-2 to a 5-1 offense this season, Harvard was the only team in the nation running a 6-2 offense. Setters Marko Kostich and Matthew Ctvrtlik guided Harvard to a .403 attack percentage in four-game victory against Princeton in the EIVA Tournament finals. Similar to UCLA, Harvard enters its first NCAA Tournament match in program history following extended time off since its conference tournament. The Crimson rebounded from a 1-8 start to the season, which featured three losses to NCAA Division III teams, and ended the regular season tied for second place in the EIVA. Part of that mid-season turnaround resulted from All-EIVA outside attacker Brad Gretsch returning to the court after missing almost the entire first two months of the season. Gretsch is in the top three of the EIVA with both a 3.48 kills per game average and a .323 attack percentage. This match also will feature two of the top offensive middle attackers in the nation. UCLA All-American middle attacker Daenan Gyimah has a nation-best .535 attack percentage and in the MPSF Tournament had a combined 32 kills while hitting at least .500 in all three matches. In addition, Gyimah was named the 2018 Ryan Millar Award recipient as the nation’s top middle attacker. Harvard middle attacker Riley Moore is hitting .410 with double-digit kills in six matches. Moore also had 11 kills on a .625 attack percentage in a victory against Penn State in the EIVA Tournament semifinals.

Ohio State (24-5, 11-3 MIVA) vs. UC Irvine (21-9, 6-4 Big West)
5 p.m. in Los Angeles
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, In-match tweets (Ohio State), In-match tweets (UC Irvine), In-match tweets (Off the Block)
How they reached here: Ohio State won the MIVA Tournament to earn the conference’s automatic bid and then swept King in the NCAA Tournament play-in match. UC Irvine earned one of the two at-large bids.
All-time series: UC Irvine leads 7-4
Last meeting: UC Irvine swept Ohio State in March 2017
Last NCAA Tournament meeting: UC Irvine swept Ohio State in the 2009 NCAA Tournament semifinals.
NCAA championships: Ohio State (3); UC Irvine (4)
Last NCAA title: Ohio State (2017); UC Irvine (2013)
NCAA Tournament all-time record: Ohio State (14-22); UC Irvine (8-2)
Next up on the bracket: Winner of this match plays the No. 1 seed Long Beach State in the VolleyFour on Thursday.
What to know: There is no huge mystery to Ohio State’s serving strategy. The challenge is trying to contain one of the most aggressive serving teams in the nation. The two-time defending national champions Ohio State enters its NCAA Tournament first-round match against UC Irvine second in the nation with a 1.84 aces per game average. Ohio State also has at least seven aces in each of its four postseason matches, including nine aces in a sweep against Loyola in the MIVA Tournament finals. All-American outside attacker Nicolas Szerszen leads the MIVA and is third in the nation with a 0.59 aces per game average and has multiple aces in five consecutive matches. The French native and 2018 International Player of the Year finished with a match-high four aces along with 14 kills on a .619 attack percentage as Ohio State swept King in the NCAA Tournament play-in match on Thursday. Szerszen, the 2017 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, has a combined 85 kills while hitting .371 in six career NCAA Tournament matches. He also is in the nation’s top 15 during his senior season with a 3.72 kills per game average. However, UC Irvine in its most recent meeting against Ohio State last season held Szerszen to seven kills on less than a .100 attack percentage and ended the Buckeyes’ program-record 42-match winning streak. The Anteaters enter their first NCAA Tournament in three years after earning the final at-large bid. Middle attacker Scott Stadick has a nation-best 153 blocks and was voted the Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. National Blocker of the Year. The All-American sophomore also is fourth in the nation with a .418 attack percentage and had double-digit kills in three of the Anteaters’ final four regular season matches. This first-round match will feature two of the top offensive teams in the nation. Ohio State All-MPSF setter Sanil Thomas has a nation-best 11.22 assists per game average and guided the offense to the nation’s third-best attack percentage at .345. In addition, the Buckeyes have hit at least .300 in all but three matches since the start of March. UC Irvine is fifth in the nation hitting .332 but was held to a .208 attack percentage in a four-game loss to Hawai’i in the Big West Tournament semifinals. All-American opposite Karl Apfelbach also is in the nation’s top 10 with a 3.80 kills per game average.