Top 5 men’s volleyball matches to follow tonight

It is not as big as No. 1 USC playing No. 2 BYU next weekend, but there is definitely an appeal to tonight’s men’s volleyball matches.

All around the nation there is intrigue as two of the top five nationally ranked teams play each other in California, while No. 9 Penn State and George Mason meet in Virgina to play for sole possession of first place in the EIVA. In addition, off the court there is some intrigue on whether a MIVA coach will continue to bench his former All-American middle attacker.

Check out the top five men’s volleyball matches to follow tonight.

1. No. 3 UC Santa Barbara (10-6, 8-5 MPSF) vs. No. 5 Stanford (11-4, 8-4 MPSF)
Match vitals:
10 p.m. at Stanford, Calif.
Follow live: Gametracker
What to know: Three of the nation’s top 15 players in kills per game average will be on the court in this match. Both UC Santa Barbara outside attackers Jeff Menzel and Cullen Irons are tied for 13th averaging 3.98 kills per game. The Gauchos are also the only team in the nation with two players in top 20. Outside attacker Brad Lawson, the reigning MPSF Outstanding Player of the Year, leads Stanford and is 11th in the nation with a 4.15 kills per game average. In addition, both teams are coming off four-game victories Friday. UC Santa Barbara defeated Pacific, and Stanford beat No. 8 UCLA.


2. No. 9 Penn State (12-3, 5-0 EIVA) vs. George Mason (11-3, 6-0 EIVA)
Match vitals:
7 p.m. in Fairfax, Va.
Follow live: Live stats, In-match tweets
What to know: The two remaining undefeated teams in the EIVA will play each other for sole possession of first place. Penn State has won 11 consecutive EIVA regular season titles and has not lost a conference match that counted in the standings in almost three years. However, the last team to beat Penn State: George Mason in March 2008 in Fairfax, Va. Patriots outside attacker Mark Jones is third in the nation with a 4.77 kills per game average. In addition, Nittany Lions outside attacker Joe Sunders is second in the nation with a 5.02 kills per game average but has missed two of the last three matches because of academic reasons.

3. Ball State (7-6, 2-3 MIVA) vs. Quincy (8-7, 1-3 MIVA)
Match vitals:
7:30 p.m. at Muncie, Ind.
Follow live: Live stats, Radio feed, In-match tweets
What to know: Ball State swept Quincy on Friday in the first part of their two-match weekend series, but the most interesting thing to come from that match wasn’t on the court. Ball State coach Joel Walton benched his former All-American middle attack J.D. Gasparovic because of the senior’s recent play. It was the first time Gasparovic was healthy and did not play in a match since January 2008, when he was a freshman. Gasparovic in 12 matches this season is averaging 1.51 kills per game and has a .287 attack percentage — both below his career average. Walton said following the match Friday that he thinks Gasparovic will respond well to being benched and would not be surprised if he got into a better offensive rhythm the rest of the season.

4. No. 8 UCLA (8-9, 3-8 MPSF) vs. Pacific (6-10, 2-8 MPSF)
Match vitals:
10:30 p.m. at Stockton, Calif.
Follow live: Gametracker
What to know: Playing last-place Pacific is not a guaranteed MPSF win for UCLA. UCLA continued its free fall in the conference standings with its loss to Stanford on Friday and has now lost seven of its last eight MPSF matches. In addition, the last time these two teams played the Tigers defeated the Bruins — ending their two year, more than 40 match conference losing streak. Pacific has already doubled its MPSF win total from last season defeating Cal State Northridge and UC San Diego.

5. Loyola (11-3, 5-0 MIVA) vs. St. Francis (7-7, 2-4 EIVA)
Match vitals:
8 p.m. at Chicago
Follow live: Gametracker
What to know: In their previous meeting this season St. Francis beat Loyola in five games, but this time the match will be played at Alumni Gym. The Ramblers are 10-1 at home this season with the one loss coming against No. 5 Stanford and have not lost to an EIVA team at home in more than three years. St. Francis enters tonight on a two match losing streak with loses to No. 9 Penn State and Lewis earlier this week.