Quick-hit guide to MPSF Tournament semifinal matches

Photo courtesy of USC athletics

Jonathan Bates | Off the Block Associate Editor

The MPSF Tournament semifinal match-ups are set. Check outthe quick-hit guide of what to know about each second-round match.

No. 1 seed Pepperdine (20-6, 9-3 MPSF) vs. No. 5 seed BYU (13-11, 6-6 MPSF)
Match vitals: 5 p.m. on Thursday in Malibu, California
Follow live: Live stats, In-match tweets
Season series: Tied 1-1 (Pepperdine swept BYU on Feb. 6 in Malibu; BYU won in four games on March 16 in Provo)
Last MPSF Tournament title: Pepperdine (2008); BYU (2018)
Stats to know: Pepperdine is a perfect 12-0 at home this season, while BYU just won their first away match versus a conference foe at Stanford last Saturday in #CincoSets. The teams have played 65 matches against one another, and BYU holds a match edge in the series all time. The Cougars are 11-24 all time in Malibu. The last time the two teams played in a MPSF Tournament match was in the 2008 finals, where the No. 5 seeded Waves defeated the No. 2 seeded Cougars in #CincoSets in Long Beach. The host, Pepperdine, will come into the match rested as they had last weekend off. Both teams will feature star power, as Pepperdine outside attacker David Wieczorek was named back-to-back conference Player of the Year last week, while BYU outside attacker Davide Gardini was named conference Freshman of the Year. Pepperdine opposite Michael Wexter and BYU opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez were also named to the MPSF First-Team. The Cougars will try to use their block to neutralize the Waves attack, as BYU leads the MPSF with 2.48 blocks per game. On the other side of the net, Pepperdine leads the conference with 12.58 assists per game, 9.22 digs per game, 13.47 kills per game, and a .343 attack percentage. In the Feb. 6 match, the Waves outserved the Cougars, 13 to 3, but the BYU won the rematch on account of their superior block (18 to 7).

No. 2 seed UCLA (19-8, 8-4 MPSF) vs. No. 3 seed USC (17-9, 7-5 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7:30 p.m. on Thursday in Malibu, California
Follow Live: Live stats, In-match tweets
Season series: Tied 1-1 (UCLA swept USC on Feb. 24 at UCLA; USC won in #CincoSets on April 6 at USC)
Last MPSF Tournament title: USC (2009); UCLA (2006)
Stats to know: The ugly incident the followed USC’s April 6 victory is still being talked about in men’s volleyball circles, so there is going to be a lot of intrigue with this already hotly contested rivalry match. USC is 4-1 on neutral courts, while UCLA is 2-0. Both teams lost their only match in Malibu this year. The last time the Trojans and Bruins played an MPSF Tournament match was back in 2011 where USC defeated UCLA in four games. UCLA holds a 97-44 edge in the all-time series. UCLA (19) and USC (4) have combined for 23 of the 47 NCAA Tournament titles. UCLA leads the conference with 1.73 aces per game, led by setter Micah Ma’a’s .634 aces per game. Ma’a also leads the Bruins with 8.14 assists per game and 1.98 digs per game, while also recording the only triple-double in Division I/II this season (at BYU on March 14). UCLA middle attacker Daenen Gyimah joined Ma’a on the MPSF First-Team, while the Trojans were represented by opposite Ryan Moss and outside attacker Jack Wyett on the team. Both teams rank in the lower third of the nation in both blocks per game and digs per game, so it should be an offensive showdown. In the Feb. 24 match, the Bruins overwhelmed the Trojans with a dozen aces, while the Trojans won the rematch on the strength of their block (8 to 3).

Winners of both MPSF Tournament semifinal matches will play on Saturday night in Malibu in the Championship match.