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Although West Coast teams have a lock on the top spots in the rankings, it was East Coast teams that led the headlines in NCAA men’s volleyball this week.
Princeton scores a West Coast upset:
Not only was Princeton’s upset of No. 8 UCLA on Thursday the first time since early last season that the Tigers defeated a California team on the road, it’s also the only time Princeton has beaten the Bruins in men’s volleyball.
Princeton and UCLA faced off just a few weeks ago, with UCLA walking away with a five-set win on Jan. 6 in New Jersey. This time, Princeton lost the first set, but rallied back to win in four (19-25, 25-22, 25-22, 25-23). Efficiency in attack was the theme of the day for both teams, as Princeton hit .360 and UCLA managed a .361 clip.
George Huhmann led Princeton with 14 kills, hitting .407, while Jerod Nelsen contributed 13 kills, hitting .550. Greg Luck, who has moved to middle blocker from the outside, took just seven swings in the match, but scored on every one of them.
On the UCLA side, the most productive attacker was Alex Knight with 15 kills, while Austin Matautia was the most efficient (among hitters with more than one attack attempt, that is), hitting .600 with 11 kills and two errors in 15 attempts.
The Bruins remains without senior middle Daenan Gyimah in the starting lineup. Head coach John Speraw made a number of changes throughout the match, with 14 different athletes stepping on the court by the end.
“UCLA hit really well in the first set,” Princeton head coach Sam Shweisky said. “We played OK, I thought they just played amazing, and so it wasn’t some huge tactical adjustment, it’s like, ‘hey, let’s just stay the course and try to support each other and play hard,’ and the balls started to bounce our way.”
Top five starts to solidify:
A full month into the season, things seem to be settling down in the rankings — at least at the very top. On Monday, the AVCA released the third regular season poll of 2020, with Nos. 1 through 5 staying the same as the week prior: Hawaii, BYU, UC Santa Barbara, Long Beach State, and UC Irvine.
Hawaii, BYU, UCSB, and LBSU are all undefeated, with Hawaii boasting a most-impressive 9-0 record and 14 of 16 first-place votes. (BYU got the other two.)
UCSD — which is 7-2 having secured upsets of Loyola, UCLA, and Princeton — cracked the poll at No. 15, while Loyola dropped out.
Penn State dominates Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge:
Ohio State, UCLA, and USC traveled to State College, Pennsylvania, over the weekend, with the host team finishing 2-0 for the first time in the five-year history of the event.
Penn State swept then-No. 6 UCLA on Friday and avoided being upset by unranked USC, winning a five-setter on Sunday. Brett Wildman and Calvin Mende led the way on both nights, with Mende going off for 15 kills on Friday and 17 on Sunday. Wildman scored 12 against UCLA and 19 against USC. Mende was subsequently named defensive player of the week by the EIVA — he collected 12 digs and seven blocks in the two matches.
UCLA and Ohio State each went 1-1 on the weekend, while USC suffered two losses.
NJIT’s Roque Nido earns national honor: Sophomore setter Roque Nido was named the AVCA Sports Imports national player of the week following NJIT’s pair of sweeps over Purdue Fort Wayne and Ball State.
For the week, Nido averaged 11.50 assists per set, quarterbacking his team to a .438 hitting percentage. He added 1.33 digs per set and 0.67 blocks per set. The EIVA also dubbed Nido the offensive player of the week.
Nido, a 6-4 native of Guayama, Puerto Rico, averaged 8.29 assists per set in his freshman season and earned EIVA honorable mention designation.
NCAA Men’s Volleyball Matches Live on FloVolleyball This Week
Saturday, Feb. 1
Ohio State vs. Penn State 8 PM ET