There are plenty of compelling matches this weekend across all levels of college men’s volleyball.
Check out the Off the Block National Matches of the Weekend for NCAA Division I-II, NCAA Division III and NAIA men’s volleyball.
NCAA Division I-II National Match of the Weekend
No. 6/6 UCLA (10-4, 2-0 MPSF) vs. No. 14 USC (7-6, 1-2 MPSF)
Match vitals: 5 p.m. Sunday in Los Angeles (UCLA)
Follow live: Live stats, Radio feed, In-match tweets, Live video (Pac-12 Network)
What makes this match so big: Sure, No. 6/6 UCLA has the higher national ranking and reached the NCAA Tournament finals last season. That means nothing when it comes to this rivalry — prime example, the last meeting. UCLA and USC will meet for the first time since the Trojans upset the Bruins in a late-regular season match in 2018. The Bruins enter this rematch third in the nation with a .336 attack percentage. Despite having lost two of its last three matches, UCLA still remains undefeated in MPSF play. USC is in a stretch of four consecutive road matches and lost the first two of those matches last weekend. In addition, the Trojans are winless in road matches and undefeated at home so far this season.
UCLA player to watch: Along with guiding the UCLA offense to one of the country’s best attack percentages, All-American setter Micah Ma’a leads the MPSF and is fourth in the nation with a 0.65 aces per game average. He also has a combined seven aces in the team’s last two MPSF matches.
USC player to watch: Outside attacker Gianluca Grasso has double-digit kills in three consecutive matches, including a season-high 19 kills on a .441 attack percentage in a loss to No. 8/8 Stanford last week. The senior also had a team-high 20 kills and two aces in the Trojans’ five-game upset victory against the Bruins last season.
NCAA Division III National Match of the Weekend
No. 8 SUNY-New Paltz (9-4) vs. MIT (9-2)
Match vitals: Noon Sunday in New Paltz, New York
Follow live: Live stats, Live video
What makes this match so big: This is a rescheduled UVC conference match for both teams that will be coming off playing two matches the day before. SUNY New Paltz has won the last five meetings in the series with its last loss to MIT occuring in 2014. Both teams are ranked in the top-10 nationally in kills per game. SUNY New Paltz is second in the nation with 12.89 kills per game, while MIT is ranked eighth at 12.54 kills per game. The Engineers also rank in the top three in the UVC in digs per game (9.67) and attack percentage (0.277). MIT has won its last four matches, while SUNY New Paltz has gone 2-3 in its last five matches. The battle will be of contrasting strengths as MIT is the better defensive team having the edge in blocks and digs per game. SUNY New Paltz is the better offensive team with more aces and kills per game.
SUNY New Paltz player to watch: Outside attacker Nick Smith (2018 all-conference) leads the Hawks with a 3.46 kills per game average, while ranking second in attack percentage (.379) and aces per game (0.33). Smith has reached double-digits in kills in 10 of the 12 matches he has played in this season.
MIT player to watch: Middle attacker Skyler Kaufman (2018 all-conference honorable mention) is second in the nation in attack percentage at .510, while also leading the team averaging 0.75 blocks per game and 2.39 kills per game. In his last match, Kaufman had 11 kills while attacking at 0.579 efficiency in a five-game win versus Wentworth.
NAIA National Match of the Weekend
No. 2 Lourdes (8-2) vs. No. 10 St. Xaiver (10-2)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday in Sylvania, Ohio
Follow live: Live stats, Live video
What makes this match so big: No. 10 St. Xavier will not only attempt to get its first all-time win against No. 2 Lourdes, but will try to pull off one of its biggest wins in program history. Lourdes enters this home match on a four-match winning streak and earned the program’s highest all-time ranking in the latest NAIA coaches poll. In addition, the Gray Wolves are one of three NAIA teams in the nation with more than a .300 attack percentage. St. Xavier jumped into the top-10 coaches poll for the first time this season following a victory against Cardinal Stritch on Monday. The four-game victory extended its winning streak to eight matches.
Lourdes player to watch: Setter Henrique Gehrke leads the NAIA with an 11.30 assists per game average. He also has guided Lourdes to more than a .300 attack percentage in all four matches during its current winning streak.
St. Xavier player to watch: Freshman outside attacker Kyle Springer is leading St. Xavier with a 3.39 kills per game average and has double-digit kills in each of the last four matches. He also had 18 kills and three aces in a road victory against NCAA Division II opponent Quincy earlier this season.