Check out the NCAA Tournament opening-round matches to follow tonight and how to follow them live.
Long Beach State (20-4, 9-1 Big West) vs. Grand Canyon (22-7, 6-6 MPSF)
Match vitals: 5 p.m. in Fairfax, Virginia
Follow live: Live stats, Live video
How they get here: Long Beach State earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament after losing in the Big West Tournament semifinals.
All-time series: Long Beach State leads 1-0
Last meeting in series: Long Beach State swept Grand Canyon in 2019
NCAA Tournament appearances: Long Beach State (1970, 1973, 1990, 1991, 1999, 2004, 2008, 2016, 2017 2018, 2019, 2022, 2023); Grand Canyon (2023)
NCAA Tournament record: Long Beach State (18-10); Grand Canyon (0-0)
NCAA championships: Long Beach State (1991, 2018, 2019); Grand Canyon (none)
Long Beach State player accolades this season: Mason Briggs (First-Team All-American, All-Big West); Spencer Olivier (Second-Team All-American, All-Big West); Sotiris Siapanis (Second-Team All-American, All-Big West); Simon Torwie (Second-Team All-American All-Big West); Connor Bloom (Big West All-Freshman)
Grand Canyon player accolades this season: Jackson Hickman (Second-Team All-American) Christian Janke (Second-Team All-MPSF); Rico Wardlow (Second-Team All-MPSF); Cameron Thorne (MPSF All-Freshman Team)
What to know: Jackson Hickman and Christian Janke are used to hearing all the doubters. Both Grand Canyon outside attackers said during the team’s media availability Wednesday that they heard everything this season from how Antelopes shouldn’t be ranked so high to how they should not have received an at-large bid. Hickman and Janke will now have an opportunity to further silence any naysayers. Grand Canyon making its NCAA Tournament debut will face Long Beach State in the opening round. Hickman leads the Antelopes and is in the MPSF’s top 10 with a 3.06 kills per game average on a career-best .343 attack percentage. Janke also has double-digit kills in five of the teams last eight matches, including 10 kills and hitting .444 against UCLA in the MPSF Tournament semifinals. Grand Canyon enters the NCAA Tournament with the third-best attack percentage in the nation at .348 – .008 percentage points better than Long Beach State. The Beach, though, is the second-best blocking team in the nation averaging 2.83 blocks per game. Middle attacker Simon Torwie leads the country with a 1.60 blocks per game average and has at least five blocks in 15 matches. Along with Torwie, All-American libero Mason Briggs leads the Big West and is fifth in the nation with a 2.36 digs per game average. Briggs, who spent the offseason playing with the U.S. Men’s National Team, has double-digit digs in 15 matches this season. Even Long Beach State’s top offensive player is one of the top defensive players in the Big West. Outside attacker Sotiris Siapanis is in the conference’s top 10 averaging both 1.72 digs per game and a team-high 3.21 kills per game average. Siapanis had double-digit kills in six Big West matches, including a season-high 19 kills on a .531 attack percentage in March. The offseason transfer from Ohio State, though, was limited to seven kills and zero attack percentage in the team’s loss to UC Irvine in the MPSF Tournament semifinals.
Penn State (26-3, 10-0 EIVA)Ohio State (23-9, 11-3 MIVA)
Match vitals: 7:30 p.m. in Fairfax, Virginia
Follow live: Live stats, Live video
How they reached the NCAA Tournament: Penn State defeated George Mason and Princeton in the EIVA Tournament to earn the conference’s automatic bid. Ohio State won the MIVA Tournament to earn the conference’s automatic bid and then swept King in the NCAA Tournament first opening-round match on Sunday.
All-time series: Penn State leads 82-49-1
Season series: Tied at 1-1
Last meeting in series: Ohio State beat Penn State in five games
NCAA Tournament appearances: Penn State (1981, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2021, 2023); Ohio State (1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1993, 2000, 2001, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2023)
NCAA Tournament record: Penn State (17-32); Ohio State (17-23)
NCAA championships: Penn State (1994, 2008); Ohio State (2011, 2016, 2017)
Penn State player accolades this season: Cole Bogner (EIVA Player of the Year, First-Team All-American, First-Team All-EIVA); Ryan Merk (EIVA Freshman of the Year, First-Team All-EIVA); Toby Ezeonu (First-Team All-American, First-Team All-EIVA); Cal Fisher (Second-Team All-American, First-Team All-EIVA); Michal Kowal (First-Team All-EIVA); Owen Rose (First-Team All-EIVA); Brett Wildman (Second-Team All-EIVA)
Ohio State player accolades this season: Jacob Pasteur (MIVA Player of the Year, First-Team All-American, First-Team All-MIVA); Shane Wetzel (MIVA Newcomer of the Year, Second-Team All-MIVA); Cole Young (First-Team All-MIVA)
What to know: The status of Penn State’s All-American middle attacker remains uncertain entering its biggest match so far this season. Coach Mark Pavlik said Wednesday that Toby Ezeonu will be a match-time decision to play against Ohio State in the NCAA Tournament opening round. Ezeonu suffered a lower leg-body injury in the team’s EIVA Tournament semifinals win against George Mason and did not play in the EIVA Tournament finals. The middle attacker is second in the nation with a .497 attack percentage and fifth in the EIVA averaging 0.89 blocks per game. Ezeonu also had a combined 17 kills on a .520 attack percentage and seven blocks in two regular season matches against the Buckeyes. Ohio State advanced to play its fellow Big Ten school following a sweep against King in the NCAA Tournament first opening-round match on Sunday. Outside attacker Jacob Pasteur in the victory led all players with 17 kills and had a season-high .667 attack percentage. This was the third consecutive postseason match that Pasteur had more than 15 kills. Pasteur, who spent the offseason playing overseas with the U.S. Men’s National Team, entered the NCAA Tournament among the national leaders with a 3.86 kills per game average. In addition, Pasteur had 12 kills in a five-game upset victory against then-No. 1/1 Penn State in March. Ohio State in that most recent meeting had back-to-back aces from Cole Young on the final plays of the match to complete the upset.