Off the Block announces college men’s volleyball national matches of weekend

Photo courtesy of Hawai’i athletics

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. 2 Hawai’i (10-0, 0-0 Big West) vs. No. 3 UC Irvine (13-2, 2-0 Big West)
Match vitals:
7 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Irvine, California
Follow live: Live stats, Live video
What makes this match so big: The two teams involved in one of the biggest NCAA Tournament selection controversies will meet for the first time since the events of last year. UC Irvine narrowly edged out Hawai’i for the final at-large bid to the 2018 NCAA Tournament, despite having a lower RPI ranking, strength of schedule and losing the season series. While the Rainbow Warriors are one of the two remaining undefeated teams in the nation, this two-match series will be the first time all season they play a top-five nationally ranked team. Hawai’i leads the nation with a .482 attack percentage, including setting a program single-match record hitting .667 in a sweep against Lincoln Memorial earlier this month. UC Irvine is fourth in the nation with a .332 attack percentage and has hit more than .300 in five consecutive matches. The Anteaters also enter this series on a seven-match winning streak that included a four-game victory against No. 4/4 Pepperdine.
Hawai’i player to watch: Opposite Rado Parapunov is second in the nation with a .533 attack percentage. In addition, Parapunov had a season-high 17 kills in a sweep against No. 8/8 Stanford  earlier this month.
UC Irvine player to watch: All-American middle attacker Scott Stadick is fourth in the country averaging 1.373 blocks per game. He also has double-digit kills in four matches during the Anteaters’ seven-match winning streak.

NCAA Division III National Match of the Weekend

No. 11 Endicott (9-2) vs. No. 15 Elms (15-3)
Match vitals:
11 a.m. Saturday in Beverly, Massachusetts
Follow live: Live stats, Live video
What makes this match so big: Elms or Endicott has been crowed the NECC champion every year since 2012. Both teams enter this match tied for first place and undefeated in conference play.
Endicott has won its last seven matches, including sweeping the last six. The team also is third in the nation with 2.60 aces per game game and second in attack percentage at .334. Elms is on a five-match winning streak — sweeping all of those matches. In addition, Elms ranks top 10 nationally in digs per game average, attack efficiency, and kills per game average. One of the biggest gaps between the teams is their strength of schedule. Endicott has the fourth-toughest schedule per the NCAA, while Elms ranks 60 out of 102 teams.
Endicott player to watch: Outside attacker Bryn Lipton leads the Endicott and is fifth nationally with a 0.73 aces per game average. He also has a .321 attack percentage and a 2.97 kills per game average.
Elms player to watch: Opposite Jovanny Torres leads Elms averaging 0.38 ace per game, 1.94 digs per game and a 3.46 kills per game. His brother, outside attacker Jeremy Torres, is second on the team with a .266 attack percentage  and 3.40 kills per game average.

NAIA National Match of the Weekend

No. 2 Lourdes (10-2) vs. No. 6 Aquinas (18-0)
Match vitals:
7 p.m. Friday in Sylvania, Ohio
Follow live: Live stats, Live video
What makes this match so big: If being a match-up of top-six teams isn’t enough, both teams are undefeated in NAIA play. Both of Lourdes’ losses were to NCAA Division I-II teams (McKendree and Lindenwood). Eight of Lourdes’ nine NAIA wins have been sweeps while Aquinas has pulled off that feat 14 times this year. In addition, 11 of the 12 players with highest attack percentages in the WHAC come from these two teams. While both the Saints and the Gray Wolves are ranked in the nation’s top five in the major offensive categories, Aquinas has the advantaged defensively. Aquinas has the most blocks in the nation, while Lourdes ranks 17th best. The Saints are also the second-best team in the nation in digs.
Lourdes player to watch: Outside attacker Ricardo Gehrke ranks eighth nationally with a 3.97 kills per game average and is also among the national leaders hitting .317.
Aquinas player to watch: Outside attacker Ruben Lopez leads the team and is in the nation’s top 20 with both a 3.30 kills per game average and a 0.25 aces per game average. He is also hitting .333 — good for 32nd best in the nation.