There are plenty of compelling matches this weekend across all levels of college men’s volleyball, both regular-season and in conference tournament play.
Check out the Off the Block National Matches of the Weekend for Big West, EIVA, and NCAA Division III.
Big West Matches of the Weekend
No. 1 Hawai’i (25-0, 8-0 Big West) vs No. 2 Long Beach (23-1, 8-0 Big West)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Long Beach, California
Follow live: Live stats, In-Match Tweets, Live Radio, Live Video (ESPN 3)
What makes this match so big: In a clash between the nation’s top two teams, the undefeated ‘Bows will take on the defending NCAA champions for the Big West regular season title in what many anticipate to be a preview of the NCAA title match next month (barring any upsets). The dominance of both teams cannot be overstated, as the unbeaten ‘Bows set a NCAA-record 74-set win streak this season while Long Beach State has only dropped two matches in their last 53 outings. Last year, Hawai’i was the lone blemish on the 49er’s otherwise perfect season as they defeated Long Beach in five at the Stan Sheriff Center. In a reversal of fortunes, the 49ers will look to return the favor against ‘Bows as they host them at the Walter Pyramid, where they defeated Hawai’i in the finals of last year’s Big West Tournament. Hawai’i leads the nation in a number of categories, including blocks per game (2.79), assists per game (13.75), attack percentage (.462), and kills per game (14.62). Long Beach isn’t far behind, as the 49ers are third in assists per game (12.66) and second in attack percentage (.423). While the Beach leads the nation in aces at 2.03 per game, they are only ranked 33rd in blocking at 1.81 blocks per game.
Hawai’i player to watch: Opposite Rado Parapunov, a five-time Big West Player of the Week this season, is averaging 4.43 kills per set on .484 hitting, good for second and third in the nation respectively. Last week, Parapunov recorded 40 kills against No. 3 UC Santa Barbara, logging 20 kills each match.
Long Beach State player to watch: Setter Joshua Tuaniga, the reigning AVCA Player of the Year, will be critical to the 49ers’ success as he looks to guide the offense against the nation’s top blocking team. Tuaniga was named the AVCA Player of the week earlier this season after helping the team reach a program record .655 attack percentage against Stanford.
EIVA Match of the Weekend
Princeton (13-12, 11-1 EIVA) vs. Saint Francis (15-11, 9-3 EIVA)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. on Friday in Princeton, New Jersey
Follow live: Live stats, In-match Tweets
What makes this match so big: Plain and simple – Saint Francis is the only team to have defeated Princeton in EIVA play this season. While the EIVA Tournament field is set, the seeding is not. The Tigers are in first place in the EIVA standings by two matches. Princeton needs just one win in order to secure the No. 1 seed in the EIVA Tournament, and the right to host the tournament at home. Princeton comes into match having won their last three matches, and their last five in conference play, while Saint Francis comes into the match having won their last four matches. Both teams will try to use their offense to secure a victory on Friday night. Princeton ranks second in the EIVA with 2.57 aces/game and a 0.275 attack percentage. On the other side, Saint Francis ranks second in the EIVA with 11.79 kills/game and 11.19 assists/game.
Princeton player to watch: Even if there is debate on what position he actually plays, and if he actually shows any emotion on the court, there is no debate that George Huhmann is Princeton’s go-to player. The middle attacker/opposite leads the Tigers with a 0.330 attack percentage and 4.01 points/game. He is also second on the team with 3.34 kills/game and 0.793 blocks/game. Huhmann has been named the EIVA Offensive Player of the Week twice this season, including last week where he tallied 40 kills, a 0.458 attack percentage, seven digs, and seven blocks.
Saint Francis player to watch: Outside attacker Michael Fisher has been named EIVA Offensive Player of the Week three times this season. Fisher leads the Red Flash with 0.304 aces/game, 4.37 kills/game, 4.96 points/game, and a 0.297 attack percentage.
NCAA Division III National Match of the Weekend
MIT (23-8, 5-4 UVC) vs. NYU (12-10, 6-3 UVC)
Match vitals: 5 p.m. on Friday in Caldwell, New Jersey
Follow live: Live stats, Live video
What makes this match so big: This is the 4/5 matchup in the quarterfinal round of the UVC Tournament. MIT is a stellar 9-1 in matches played on a neutral court, while NYU is just 1-1. The teams played earlier this year in New York, where Violets swept the Engineers in early February. NYU outhit MIT, .394 to .000, and out-blocked them 10 to 5. Individually, outside attacker Alex Li led all players with 11 kills. Going back to 2008, NYU holds a 5-3 edge over MIT in the series history. The team come into this match in different directions – the Violets have dropped their previous two matches while the Engineers have won their previous four. MIT leads the UVC with 10.95 digs/game and a 0.156 attack percentage; they also rank second in the conference with 2.13 blocks/game. The Engineers are led in digs/game by libero Thomas Nelson, who was named UVC Libero/Defensive Specialist of Year for the second time in his career on Wednesday. The one clear area where NYU has an advantage over MIT is in serving – NYU is third in the UVC at 1.66 aces/game, while MIT is second-worst at 1.49 aces/game.
MIT player to watch: Middle Attacker Skyler leads the Engineers with 0.956 blocks/game, 2.49 kills/game, and a 0.442 attack percentage (No. 5 in the nation). Kaufman was also named to the All-Conference Second Team on Wednesday.
NYU player to watch: Opposite Evan Lindley leads the UVC with 0.563 aces/game and leads the team with 3.57 points/game. He is also second on the team with 2.67 kills/game and a 0.386 attack percentage. On Wednesday, he was named to UVC first-team (along with middle attack Neil Ferraro).
Note: The NAIA is off this weekend, and their national men’s volleyball tournament will start on Tuesday, April 16.
You can find Off the Block’s conference tournament previews below:
ConfCarolinas Tournament quarterfinals preview
IVA Tournament semifinals preview
MIVA Tournament quarterfinals preview
MPSF Tournament quarterfinals preview