Postseason Rankings: Top 10 conference tournament semifinal matches

Photo courtesy of Saint Francis athletics

It will be another year of waiting before the next college men’s volleyball postseason because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, that doesn’t stop looking back at some of the best postseason matches in recent history.

Check out the top 10 conference tournament semifinal matches during the NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball 25-point rally scoring era as ranked by Off the Block.

No. 10 best conference semifinal match

No. 2 seed Erskine vs. No. 3 seed Mount Olive
2015 ConfCarolinas Tournament

Outside attacker Mike Michelau led all players with a season-high 27 kills on a .302 attack percentage as Erskine defeated Mount Olive 26-28, 25-23, 25-22, 19-25, 15-12. The ConfCarolinas Player of the Decade had four kills in the fifth game, including two kills as part of a 3-0 run to close out the match and propel the defending conference champions back to the ConfCarolinas Tournament finals. Setter David Grandy guided Erskine to a match-best .368 attack percentage in a decisive game that featured the score being tied 12 times. Grandy finished with 65 assists and led the Fleet to out-hit the Trojans .301 to .261. Despite the loss, middle attacker Andrew Sydow had a team-high 16 kills and zero errors on a .667 attack percentage.

No. 9 best conference semifinal match

No. 2 seed Stanford vs. No. 3 seed BYU
2012 MPSF Tournament

Middle attacker Eric Mochalski delivered the match-winning ace to cap off a 20-point overtime as Stanford defeated BYU 25-21, 17-25, 25-19, 35-33. This was Stanford’s sixth match-point in a fourth game that was tied 28 times and had 16 lead changes. Mochalski finished the match with three aces and added seven kills on a .545 attack percentage. Stanford had three players with double-digit kills, including outside attacker Brian Cook who had 16 kills. In addition, two of those kills came with the Cardinal facing a game-point in the fourth-game overtime. BYU All-American outside attacker Taylor Sander in the loss had a match-high 27 kills on a .327 attack percentage along with 10 digs.

No. 8 best conference semifinal match

No. 2 seed Coker vs. No. 3 seed Alderson Broaddus
2018 IVA Tournament semifinals

Coker was down to six active players for its postseason roster because of injuries — but it still had opposite Joao Victor Santos. Santos finished with both a match-high 32 kills on a .400 attack percentage and 13 digs as Coker defeated Alderson Broaddus 25-21, 20-25, 21-25, 25-22, 19-17. The Cobras fought off four match-points before Santos in overtime had back-to-back blocks to win the match. Along with Santos, outside attacker Gabriel Castro had 16 kills while hitting .433 in the comeback victory.

No. 7 best conference semifinal match

No. 1 seed Ohio State vs. No. 4 seed Ball State
2017 MIVA Tournament

The defending NCAA champions Ohio State erased a 7-2 deficit in the decisive fifth game to beat its rival Ball State 25-14, 25-23, 23-25, 23-25, 15-13. Setter Christy Blough had three blocks in the final game, including a block for the match-winning point. Despite the Buckeyes having a .560 attack percentage in the 11-point opening-game win, the team hit no better than .226 in each of the final four games. Ball State and Ohio State had a combined 25 blocks with the Buckeyes holding the Cardinals to a .176 attack percentage.

No. 6 best conference semifinal match

No. 1 seed USC vs. No. 4 seed UC Irvine
2012 MPSF Tournament

All-American outside attacker Kevin Tillie punctuated the end of postseason comeback with his match-high 23rd kill as UC Irvine rallied from a two-game deficit to beat the MPSF regular season champions USC 24-26, 23-25, 25-16, 28-26, 15-9. Tillie had four kills in the decisive game and finished the match with a .372 attack percentage. Along with Tillie, middle attacker Scott Kevorken led all players with eight blocks and had nine kills and zero errors on a .750 attack percentage. The Anteaters overcame committing 26 service errors — 16 more errors than the Trojans. UC Irvine also out-hit USC .290 to .194, including limiting the Trojans to a negative attack percentage in the third game and a .053 attack percentage in the final game.

No. 5 best conference semifinal match

No. 2 seed George Mason vs. No. 3 seed Harvard
2013 EIVA Tournament

Middle Caleb Zimmick had the match-winning ace in a fifth-game overtime to secure one of the biggest comeback postseason victories in Harvard’s program history. The Crimson rallied from an 11-6 deficit and fought off two match-points to force overtime to beat the Patriots 25-23, 26-28, 17-25, 25-22, 19-17. Zimmick along with his overtime ace had 13 kills on a .579 attack percentage and a match-high seven blocks. In addition, Zimmick had two kills with Harvard facing match-points during the eight-point overtime. This victory marked the second time that Harvard had advanced to the EIVA Tournament finals.

No. 4 best conference semifinal match

No. 2 seed Lewis vs. No. 3 seed Grand Canyon
2017 MIVA Tournament

Opposite Matthew Kinnebrew led all players with five kills in the fifth game and had a team-high 14 kills for the match as Grand Canyon upset Lewis 25-27, 25-18, 18-25, 25-19, 16-14. With this victory, the Antelopes reached the MIVA Tournament finals for the first and only time in their program history. Grand Canyon led 13-10 in the fifth game before Lewis, which was held to a .095 attack percentage in the final game, went on a 4-0 run to set-up a match-point. The Antelopes fought off the match-point, and in overtime a kill from Kinnebrew set up their successful match-point opportunity. Grand Canyon out-hit Lewis .320 to .268 and finished with 10 aces — seven more aces than the Flyers. This also was the first time in five postseason meetings that the Antelopes defeated the Flyers.

No. 3 best conference semifinal match

No. 1 seed BYU vs. No. 4 seed UCLA
2013 MPSF Tournament

BYU in front of a home crowd of more than 3,000 people rallied from a two-game deficit to beat UCLA 23-25, 21-25, 25-18, 26-24, 15-10. The Cougars trailed 7-1 in the fourth game before rallying to beat the Bruins in overtime and force a decisive game. With the fifth game tied at 9-9, BYU closed out the match on a 6-1 run to advance to the MPSF Tournament finals for the first time since 2008. The Cougars held the Bruins to a zero attack percentage in the fifth game and out-hit UCLA for the match .322 to .307. The Cougars finished with 22.5 blocks, including middle attacker Devin Young having a match-high 10 blocks. Outside attacker Josue Rivera also added six blocks and led BYU with 19 kills on a .483 attack percentage. All-American outside attacker Gonzalo Qurioga in the loss had 22 kills and was one of four Bruins with double-digit kills.

No. 2 best conference semifinal match

No. 2 seed UC Irvine vs. No. 3 seed Long Beach State
2013 MPSF Tournament

It took eight match-points and one of the longest fifth-game overtimes in MPSF Tournament history for Long Beach State to knock off the defending NCAA champions UC Irvine. All-American outside attacker Taylor Crabb had two kills in the 14-point overtime and finished with a match-high 23 kills on a .362 attack percentage as Long Beach State beat UC Irvine 25-22, 22-25, 20-25, 25-15, 22-20. The Beach in the comeback victory had a season-high 19 blocks with freshman middle attacker Taylor Gregory contributing a match-high 11 blocks. Both Crabb and Gregory also had the match-winning block in overtime to secure Long Beach State’s first berth to the MPSF Tournament finals since 2006. UC Irvine played the majority of the match without All-American outside attacker Kevin Tillie, who left the court with an injury late in the opening game. Tillie, though, returned midway through the fourth game and had four kills in the fifth game.

No. 1 best conference semifinal match

No. 1 seed Penn State vs. No. 4 seed Saint Francis
2016 EIVA Tournament

Saint Francis put an end to one of the longest conference championship runs in college men’s volleyball. The Red Flash on the road overcame an opening-game overtime loss to beat the 17-time defending EIVA champions Nittany Lions 27-29, 28-26, 25-22, 25-23. Opposite Jeff Hogan led all players with 22 kills on a .306 attack percentage, including a game-high six kills in the fourth game to secure the upset. Middle attacker Mike Marshman also had 11 kills on a .625 attack percentage and the game-winning ace in the second-game overtime to help jump start the Red Flash’s comeback. Saint Francis began the 2016 season 0-37 all-time against Penn State but finished with both a regular season win and this postseason win against its in-state rival. Despite losing to George Mason in the EIVA Tournament finals, Saint Francis achieved the feat of being the first team since 1998 to beat Penn State in the EIVA Tournament.