Initial look at MPSF Tournament quarterfinals

Photo by Jonathan Bates

Jonathan Bates | Associate Editor

All seven MPSF team are eligible for the MPSF tournament, with lowest six seeds playing quarterfinal matches on Thursday. Check out the match-ups and the season analysis for each team.

BYU (17-3, 17-3 MPSF) was named the MPSF tournament host even before they clinched the No. 1 seed. As the tournament’s No. 1 seed, they get a bye to the semifinal round, and will play the lowest remaining seed.


The last time a current MPSF men’s volleyball team last won both the MPSF Tournament and the NCAA Tournament in the same season in 2010 when Stanford completed the worst to first campaign. That also happens to the last time a current MPSF team won the national championship, after 13 of the previous 15 NCAA champions came from the MPSF.

UCLA and BYU are tied the most MPSF tournament titles at 7, although the Bruins have not won the tournament since 2006. Pepperdine has five titles of their own. Both times that Stanford won the MPSF tournament, they won the MPSF title. USC’s only MPSF title came in 2009, while Concordia-Irvine has never won the MPSF.

MPSF Quarterfinal Tournament matches

No. 2 seed UCLA (14-5. 14-5 MPSF) vs. No. 7 seed Concordia-Irvine (3-13, 3-13 MPSF)
Match vitals
: 2 p.m. in Provo, Utah
Follow live: Live video (FloSports), Live stats
Season series: UCLA 2-1; The Bruins won both matches at UCLA, while Concordia-Irvine won the one match they hosted.
UCLA player to watch: Setter Sam Kobrine – After Mads Kyed Jensen left after his freshman season, one of the biggest question marks for UCLA was who would run the offense. Sam Kobrine more than filled that void by starting all 19 matches for Bruins. His 9.97 assists per game ranks No. 13 nationally, while Bruins’ .321 attack percentage ranks No. 8 nationally. Kobrine’s 119 digs and 1.63 blocks per game leads UCLA. Kobrine has the only triple-double in the nation this year as he had 14 kills, 30 assists, and 10 digs in a four-game loss to USC in February.
Concordia-Irvine player to watch: Opposite Raymond Barsemian – the graduate student 4.47 kills per game ranks No. 4 nationally. He has tallied at least 20 kills six times this year.
What to know:  UCLA won both matches played at Pauley Pavilion against Concordia-Irvine in sweeps, while Concordia-Irvine’s win versus UCLA came on the campus of the Eagles in a reverse sweep. UCLA was led by opposite Cole Ketrzynski who had a combined 43 kills in the three matches, while Concordia-Irvine was led by Barsemian’s 33 combined kills. In the Concordia-Irvine victory, the Eagles used a strong service game to secure victory as nine of their ten aces came in the final three games. In the final match between the two teams in the regular season, the Bruins attacked at a blistering .554 for the match. On paper, UCLA is better than Concordia-Irvine in every statistical category, except for digs per game. The Bruins’ 8.18 digs per game rank No. 31 nationally, while the Eagles’ 8.59 digs per game ranks No. 26 nationally. UCLA ranks in the top six nationally with 12.99 kills per game, 12.18 assists per game, and 1.64 aces per game. UCLA split their pair of matches in Provo this year, while Concordia-Irvine did not play in Provo this year.  

No. 4 seed Grand Canyon (8-10, 8-10 MPSF) vs. No. 5 seed USC (5-12, 5-12 MPSF)
Match vitals:
5 p.m. in Provo, Utah
Follow live: Live video (FloSports), Live stats
Season series: Grand Canyon 3-0
Grand Canyon player to watch: Outside attacker Camden Gianni – the freshman ranks No. 3 nationally with 0.652 aces per game. In his match on March 17 versus USC, Gianni set the conference-best mark for aces in a match this season with seven. Gianni’s 3.76 kills per game leads the Lopes and ranks No. 20 nationally.
USC player to watch: Opposite Billy Fauntleroy – Fauntleroy ranks No. 5 nationally with 4.29 kills per game and No. 14 with 8.47 attacks per game. In his final match of the regular season versus Grand Canyon, Fauntleroy set the conference-best marks for kills (31) and attacks (66) in a match.
What to know:  Grand Canyon dominated USC in the one match in Phoenix where the Lopes used 12 aces to limit USC to only 46 points in three games. Outside attacker Christian Janke led the Lopes in the season series with the Trojans with 40 combined kills, while Fauntleroy 58 kills of his own. In the season series, Grand Canyon out-blocked USC, 28-12, and outhit the Trojans, .361 to .207. On paper, Grand Canyon is better than USC in every statistical category, except for kills and assists per game. The Trojans rank No. 10 in both categories, while Lopes rank No. 14 in both categories. Both teams lost both of their matches in Provo this year, but Grand Canyon took three games off BYU to Trojans’ one.

No. 3 seed Pepperdine (8-10, 8-10 MPSF) vs. No. 6 seed Stanford (3-13, 3-13 MPSF)
Match vitals: 8 p.m. in Provo, Utah
Follow live: Live video (FloSports), Live stats
Season series: Pepperdine 3-0
Pepperdine player to watch: Middle attacker Austin Wilmot – Wilmot’s .431 attack percentage ranks No. 10 nationally and is tops in the conference, while his 1.103 blocks per game ranks No. 11 and No. 2 respectively. His 2.09 kills per game ranks third on the team. Wilmot was named the AVCA National Player of the Week on March 16 after he set a career-high .550 attack percentage and a conference-best nine blocks in a four-game victory over UCLA.   
Stanford player to watch: Kupono Browne, Opposite – the freshman leads the Cardinal in aces per game, kills per game and attacks per game. He had a career-high 22 kills in the second game of the teams’ three match series.
What to know:  Stanford and Concordia-Irvine tied at 3-13, but Stanford won the tiebreaker as they defeated Eagles in both matches this year. Stanford and Pepperdine were supposed to play past weekend, but the matches were cancelled due to COVID concerns within the Pepperdine men’s volleyball program. The three matches between the two teams were the first three matches for Stanford, whose season start was delayed due to local health restrictions. Interestingly, the first two matches were scheduled on the fly as Pepperdine’s schedule became open that week due to cancellations stemming from the COVID concerns within the Concordia-Irvine men’s volleyball program. Two of the three matches between the two teams were sweeps. Both teams lost both of their matches in Provo this year. Wilmot had 18 blocks in the three match series. Pepperdine is better than Stanford in every statistical category except for a slim edge in blocking, but the disparity in attack percentage is the starkest. The Waves’ .304 attack percentage ranks No. 9 nationally, while the Cardinal’s .199 ranks No. 38 nationally. Neither teams is particularly adept at digging, with both teams ranking in the bottom nationally in digs per game.