Most intriguing non-conference matches for 2020 college men’s volleyball season

Photo courtesy of UCLA athletics and Don Liebig

Never underestimate the importance of non-conference matches.

While these matches will not determine a conference champion, they play a critical role in determining a conference’s RPI ranking and how a team fares in vital criteria categories the selection committee uses to determine the NCAA Tournament field.

Check out this breakdown of the most intriguing college men’s volleyball non-conference matches to follow during 2020 season.

Match Date Quick breakdown
BYU vs. Lewis Jan. 4 Both the Cougars and Flyers are the preseason favorites to win their conference championship. This could turn into a preview of a NCAA Tournament match at the end of the season.
UCLA vs. Princeton Jan. 6 Princeton for one of the first times in its program history will have a home match against West Coast team. Oh, and it’s a match-up between two top-10 ranked teams.
Urbana vs. Ohio State Jan. 7 There are now two NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball teams in Ohio with Urbana entering its inaugural season.
King vs. Tusuclum Jan. 8 Tusculum’s inaugural match will be against an in-state rival. The growth of men’s volleyball in Tennessee is for real.
McKendree vs. CSUN Jan. 9 McKendree could make a case to be nationally ranked for the first time in program history if it beats CSUN in its season opener. That also would be another big step in showing the MIVA’s overall depth.
Lewis vs. UC Irvine Jan. 9 Two of the best middle attackers in the nation will square up against each other — Lewis’ Tyler Mitchem and UC Irvine’s Scott Stadick.
Belmont Abbey vs. Ball State Jan. 10 Belmont Abbey outside attacker Liam Maxwell averaged a nation-best 4.51 kills per game last season. Maxwell will face historically one of the top defensive teams in the country during the opening week of the season.
Penn State vs. BYU Jan. 10-11 Penn State is finally healthy after an injury plagued 2019 season. They will need everyone at full strength going into one of the toughest road environments in college men’s volleyball for this two-match series.
Stanford vs. George Mason Jan. 11 Stanford opposite Jaylen Jasper versus George Mason opposite Hayden Wagner — who will be the first to 30 kills.
Penn State vs. Loyola Jan. 17 Loyola has won eight of its last nine meetings against Penn State since 2014 and will be eyeing another signature non-conference win.
Hawai’i vs. Lewis Jan. 17 It’s a rematch of the 2019 NCAA Tournament semifinals and could be a preview of a 2020 NCAA Tournament match.
USC vs. Long Beach State Jan. 17 Both teams have a significant amount of turnover to their starting lineups, but it’s still a revenge match for Long Beach State after losing to USC for its only regular season loss in 2019.
Purdue Fort Wayne vs. UC Santa Barbara Jan. 17 In the last 10 years, preseason expectations have never been higher for both of these programs. One team will finish this match with an early season signature win.
Hawai’i vs. Lincoln Memorial Jan. 20 Lincoln Memorial, an independent team from a small town in Eastern Tennessee, getting Hawai’i to come to its gym for a non-conference match is a big deal — regardless of how the match ends.
BYU vs. UC Irvine Jan. 22 It’s an old school MPSF rivalry that has now moved onto the non-conference slate. UC Irvine leads the series 3-1 since departing the MPSF.
Ball State vs. George Mason Jan. 23 This annual non-conference match tends to get overlooked but is highly competitive with it going to a decisive fifth-game twice since 2016.
Saint Francis vs. King Jan. 24 The next step for the growth of the ConfCarolinas is pulling off big non-conference wins. This will be a competitive match win King having a chance versus a likely top-four EIVA program.
Penn State vs. UCLA Jan. 24 All-American middle attacker Daenan Gyimah had 11 kills and zero errors while hitting .733 as UCLA swept Penn State last year.
Pepperdine vs. Long Beach State Jan. 25 It’s not only a rematch of the 2019 NCAA Tournament semifinals but the first regular season match between the two programs since the split of the MPSF and Big West.
UC Irvine vs. Concordia-Irvine Jan. 30 Concordia-Irvine pulled off one of the upsets of 2019. This will be the first meeting since that upset and the first of three meetings between the two teams in 2020.
Lewis vs. Barton Jan. 31 This is the biggest non-conference match of the season for the defending ConfCarolinas champions Barton.
BYU vs. UC Santa Barbara Jan. 31-Feb. 1 The Gauchos swept the two-match series against the Cougars in 2019. Now the non-conference series moves back to the Smith Fieldhouse. BYU is 21-6 at home in the last two years, including splitting a two-series against UC Santa Barbara in 2018.
Penn State vs. Ohio State Feb. 1 Kevin Burch will get his first experience of the Big Ten brethren rivalry as the new Ohio State head coach.
UCLA vs. Long Beach State Feb. 1 Not a lot of starters remain on the rosters of either team from their NCAA Tournament finals meeting. The bad news for Long Beach State is All-American middle attacker Daenen Gyimah is still playing for the Bruins.
Lindenwood vs. CSUN Feb. 7-8 This will be the second time the two teams have played each other and the first time Lindenwood will have a home match against CSUN.
UC Santa Barbara vs. Ohio State Feb. 7 Ohio State is not ranked in the preseason national coaches poll for one of the first times in recent history. The Buckeyes at home will get a chance for a signature non-conference win and to climb the rankings.
Long Beach State vs. Ohio State Feb. 8 This match could just be dubbed the Reloading Bowl with both teams replace multiple All-American starters from recent years.
St. Francis-Brooklyn vs. Saint Francis Feb. 8 St. Francis-Brooklyn is entering its inaugural season. This match, though, is the easiest to predict this season — Francis will win.
Harvard vs. Mount Olive Feb. 8 Mount Olive has an all-time winning record against Harvard — that’s not a typo. However, the Crimson swept the Trojans in their meeting last year.
King vs. Lincoln Memorial Feb. 14 This is emerging as one of the most competitive in-state rivalries in college men’s volleyball. The annual winner of the home-and-home series even gets a professional wrestling inspired championship belt.
Hawai’i vs. Stanford Feb. 14 This match-up has the potential to feature two of the top liberos in the nation. Hawai’i libero Gage Worsley won the 2019 Erik Shoji Award, while Stanford redshirt freshman Justin Lui spent the offseason playing for the Canadian Men’s Junior National Team.
UC Santa Barbara vs. UCLA Feb. 19 The teams will once again have a home-and-home series after splitting their matches last season. The Gauchos, though, have been limited to three road wins at UCLA during the rally scoring era.
UCLA vs. CSUN Feb. 28 CSUN had a huge upset in 2019 as it knocked off UCLA. The Matadors will try to make it back-to-back years of upsetting the Bruins.
BYU vs. Hawai’i March 5 Hawai’i on the road swept BYU last season. The Cougars will now travel to avenge the loss in what could be a match-up between the nation’s top-two ranked teams.
UC Irvine vs. Grand Canyon March 7 Antelope Gymnasium is one of the best home court advantages in the nation.Couple that with a young and improving Grand Canyon squad and there is a chance of a big upset.
Ohio State vs. NJIT March 12 It’s the second all-time meeting between the two teams and the first time NJIT will have a home match in the series.
Lincoln Memorial vs. Ball State March 13 Opposite Evan Cory was among the nation’s leaders in kills and aces last season. In addition, the Railsplitters are poised to breakthrough at some point and get the program’s first signature win versus a MIVA team.
Hawai’i vs. Pepperdine March 17 Hawai’i is ranked No. 1, but Firestone Fieldhouse has been a house of horror for the Rainbow Warriors losing six of their last seven matches at the venue dating back to 2012.
Princeton vs. Lewis March 18 Lewis is undefeated in the all-time series and dropped one set in the four previous meetings.
UC Irvine vs. George Mason March 22 This is the final big non-conference match for George Mason before playing host to the NCAA Tournament.