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. 1 Long Beach State (17-0, 2-0 Big West) vs. No. 3 UC Santa Barbara (15-3, 2-0 Big West)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday in Santa Barbara, California
Follow live: Live stats, Live video
What makes this match so big: Two of the nation’s hottest teams will conclude their home-and-home series as No. 3/3 UC Santa Barbara plays host to No. 1/1 Long Beach State. The 49ers enters the series opener on Thursday undefeated at 17-0 and have only dropped one game all season. Dating back to last season, the defending NCAA champion 49ers are riding a 21-match win streak. The Gauchos are on a 12-match win streak, a program record in the rally-scoring era, and have not lost a match since Jan. 16. As the underdogs coming into the match, the question will be whether or not the Gauchos can keep up with the 49ers’ offense. Long Beach State is hitting .451, good for second in the nation and only behind Hawaii, which has yet to drop a game this season. Moreover, the 49ers are the nation’s most potent team from the service line as they boast a NCAA-best 2.21 service aces per game average. UC Santa Barbara is ninth in the nation in hitting percentage (.321) and serving (1.71 per game average).
Long Beach State player to watch: All-American setter Josh Tuaniga recently racked up his 4,000th career assist and led Long Beach State to a program record hitting percentage of .655 in a sweep of No. 8/8 Stanford on Friday. He also was named on Tuesday the AVCA National Player of the of the Week.
UC Santa Barbara player to watch: Outside attacker Corey Chavers is having an All-American caliber year with a team-leading 245 kills at a 3.66 kills per game average.
NCAA Division III National Match of the Weekend
Hunter (12-5, 4-0 CUNYAC) vs. St. Joseph’s (11-2, 0-0 Skyline)
Match vitals: 2 p.m. Saturday in New York City
Follow live: Live stats, Live video
What makes this match so big: Both teams received votes in this week’s Division III national coaches poll. Hunter is 2-3 in its last five matches after winning 10 straight matches. St. Joseph’s only losses have been to then-No. 1 Springfield and NCAA Division I-II team Sacred Heart. The Skyline with a combined .325 winning percentage is ranked last in Division III for conference overall winning percentage. Conversely, the CUNYAC is in the middle of the pack at .485. St. Joseph’s is 3-2 on the road, while Hunter is 4-1 at home. The Hawks won the previous two meetings in 2017 and 2018. St. Joseph’s leads the Skyline in assists per game average (10.27), blocks per game average (1.47), attack percentage (0.215) and kills per game average (10.98 per game). Hunter ranks second in the CUNYAC in assists per game average (10.30), blocks per game average (1.79) and kills per game average (11.28). St. Joseph’s will try to use its service game (2.02 aces per game average) to counter Hunter’s second-best in the nation opponent attack percentage (.102).
Hunter player to watch: Opposite Qendrim Shala was named the CUNYAC Player of the Week last week in part due to his combined 42 kills in two matches. He ranks in the top 50 nationally in attacks per game average (8.26 per game) and kills per game average (3.21 per game).
St. Joseph’s player to watch: Outside attacker Paul Curraro is 12th in nation with a .397 attack percentage. He leads the Eagles with .51 aces per game average and 2.91 kills per game average. Curraro also had a combined 28 kills, six aces, and 14 digs in two victories – over No. 14 Juniata and Wentworth.
NAIA National Match of the Weekend
No. 5 Park (11-3) vs. No. 8 Hope International (10-3)
Match vitals: 1 p.m. Saturday in Marshall, Missouri
Follow live: Live stats
What makes this match so big: No. 8 Hope International will travel outside of the West Coast for the first time this season and conclude its Midwest road trip against a nationally ranked team. Hope International and No. 5 Park will play each other in their tournament finale of the Viking Madness Tournament at Missouri Valley College. Despite a winning record and a national ranking, Hope International is winless this season against top-10 ranked teams. This non-conference match will feature two of the top offenses in the nation. Park is fifth in the NAIA with .279 attack percentage, while Hope International is sixth hitting at .270. In addition, setter Luciano Bucci guided Park to a .302 attack percentage as the team swept No. 7 Ottawa (Kansas) on Friday for its fourth win in the last five matches. That victory also was the third time in the last five matches that the Pirates finished with more than a .300 attack percentage.
Park player to watch: Middle attacker Felipe Guirau is fourth in the NAIA with a 1.09 blocks per game average. He also had a match-high 16 kills on a .344 attack percentage in a sweep against Ottawa (Kansas) on Friday to earn the NAIA National Attacker of the Week for the second consecutive week.
Hope International player to watch: Middle attacker Chase Larson leads the NAIA with a 1.22 blocks per game average. In addition, Larson had a eight blocks — his second-most blocks in a match this season — as Hope International lost to Ottawa (Arizona) in five games last week.