Big Dogs in the Big West Established
After 9 weeks of the Men’s NCAA D1-2 Collegiate Volleyball season two things stand abundantly clear as to who the big dogs are: Long Beach St. is the number one team in the nation, and Hawaii is the number two team in the nation— and how it stands in this talent-heavy conference. It also goes without saying that the ‘Bows have the potential to threaten The Beach’s quest for back-to-back National Championships.
Long Beach St. continued in it’s winning ways collecting their 15th straight win—and doing so with only dropping one set this season to USC weeks ago. Hawaii has had similar success but have not dropped a set this season with 12 straight wins. Up until this last weekend many were questioning the strength, talent and ability of this Rainbow team because they have not had as worthy of opponents as Long Beach St.’s. After witnessing firsthand the back-to-back sweeps of #3 UC Irvine, IN IRVINE, I can firmly state that this Hawaii team is a SERIOUS contender to be in that National Championship match come the first weekend in May.
Yes, we’ve heard about SVT (Stijn van Tilburg), and Rado Parupunov—they are offensive juggernauts for the ‘Bows, but what makes them different this year is SVT doesn’t have to have a superstar performance every night for Hawaii to win. Rado has improved significantly from last season and it is readily apparent in his confidence on the court in all aspects of his game. Hawaii has two bona-fide scoring options WHO TERMINATE the ball consistently, however one cannot overlook the phenomenal setting of Joe Worsley and extraordinary defense of his brother, Gage, at Libero. One cannot overlook the rise-to-the-occasion play of high-flyer Colton Cowell—because if teams ignore him they will be in a world of hurt. They’ve added on some potent power that can inflict damage from the service line in Jakob Thelle who subs in for Gasman/Solbrig. This 6’6” setter from Norway fired off lasers off the bench keeping Irvine out of system challenging the Irvine receivers.
UCSB, is still a hot team to watch being that they are on an 11-match winning streak, and will most likely get their 12th vs. Lindenwood this week behind the arms of Wilcox and All-American candidate, Corey Chavers. After that this Gaucho team takes on #1 Long Beach St. for two. You know Coach McLaughlin is eye-balling those dates and has his team thinking “Upset Weekend.”
UC Irvine will be looking to recover after their back-to-back losses to #2 Hawaii, but it’s not going to be easy as they travel up to Provo vs. BYU for two. With the ‘Eaters’ newfound wisdom from two humbling losses many are eager to see how this team responds and their ability to challenge the top teams in the Big West.
Bruins Lay Claim at the Top
UCLA given their multiple injuries, adjustments and challenging opponents have to be happy that they sit atop the MPSF at 6-0. Brandon Rattray has come back from injury to lead the way for the Bruins, but the consistent play of Micah Ma’a and Kofi Gyimah, and contributions of Austin Matautia at the pin have secured them that place at the top. Bruins erased a 0-2 deficity to #5 Pepperdine mid-week last week in dramatic fashion, which gave them separation in the race for the MPSF title— for now.
It’s a virtual log-jam for 2nd in the MPSF with three teams, Pepperdine, BYU, and Stanford all have 4 wins, while USC coming off the upset of #5 Pepperdine has 3. The MPSF race will be one to watch closely.
Matches I’ll be watching this week…
Friday, March 8
#3 UC Irvine at #10 BYU
Saturday, March 9
#3 UC Irvine at #10 BYU
# 6 Pepperdine at #2 Hawaii
Until College Volleyball Weekly on The Net Live next week be sure to follow the happenings on your favorite Men’s Volleyball resource— that can be VolleyballMag.com, Off-the Block Blog, and/or Volleytalk. Show that there is a healthy following of volleyball by engaging their sites and social media. It’s as easy as that to #GrowTheGame!