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Happy leap week! Take advantage of this month’s upcoming extra day to catch up on the latest in NCAA men’s volleyball.
Tough week for UC Irvine
The biggest upsets of the last seven days both came at the expense of UC Irvine. The Anteaters, then ranked No. 6, lost to UC San Diego in straight sets on Friday (their second loss in a row to the Tritons after falling in five on Feb. 15), and then lost to Concordia Irvine in four sets on Tuesday.
The loss to UCSD brought major rewards for the Tritons, as we’ll revisit in the next section, and it’s only the second time that UCSD has swept the season series against UCI. Tuesday’s match versus Concordia marked the third meeting this year between the two teams, and the first victory for the underdogs.
The most recent AVCA poll came out Monday, the day before UCI’s loss to Concordia, and the Anteaters fell just one spot to No. 7. This weekend, UCI will look to end the three-match losing streak when it hosts Grand Canyon on Friday.
Highest ranking ever for UCSD and Grand Canyon
Speaking of Grand Canyon, the Lopes celebrated their highest AVCA poll ranking ever this week — as did UC San Diego. Grand Canyon boasts a 12-3 record and has won two in a row over top-10 ranked teams, beating then-No. 8 UCLA on Friday and then-No. 6 Pepperdine on Sunday. Last week’s ranking of No. 13 was also a program-best for GCU, but that record didn’t stand for long.
UCSD’s victory over UC Irvine propelled it to a program-record ranking of sixth in the Monday’s AVCA poll, and improved its program-best season start to 12-3. The No. 6 ranking is UCSDs highest since being promoted to NCAA Division II status in 2000.
Hawaii/BYU series looms large
It’s been a fairly quiet two weeks for No. 1 Hawaii. The Warriors last played an official match on Feb. 15 — a sweep of Stanford on the road. This week, the undefeated Hawaii squad played host to Nittaidai University from Japan for a pair of exhibition matches. (Hawaii won the first 3-1 on Wednesday, and the two teams will play again on Friday.)
But what is perhaps the biggest pair of matches on Hawaii’s entire 2020 schedule is fast approaching. No. 2 BYU, which also boasts an undefeated record, travels to Honolulu next week with matches scheduled on Thursday, March 5, and Friday, March 6.
Not only are Hawaii and BYU the only undefeated teams remaining in men’s DI-II volleyball and ranked No. 1 and No. 2 in the country, the squads also dominant also every single team statistic.
Hawaii ranks No. 1 in aces per set (1.95), hitting percentage (.386), kills per set (13.84), and opponent hitting percentage (.171) and No. 2 in assists per set (12.77), blocks per set (2.886) — trailing BYU by just 0.001 of a block per set. In addition to leading that blocks per set column, BYU has the second-best team hitting percentage (.353).
Hawaii and BYU have five shared opponents so far in 2020 and their results have been very similar. Both won in four sets over Loyola Chicago and Lewis and swept Grand Canyon and Concordia; however Hawaii swept UC Irvine, while BYU needed four to win.
Both matches will stream live on BigWest.tv.
Penn State atop the EIVA
Three East Coast teams have earned spots among the top 15, with Penn State leading that pack and leading the EIVA with a No. 10 national ranking, 9-6 overall record, and 5-0 conference record. Princeton comes in at No. 11 and George Mason at No. 15.
Riding a five-match win streak, Penn State swept Harvard on Saturday and did the same versus Saint Francis on Tuesday. Only Princeton (5-1) sits close to the Nittany Lions in the EIVA standings, but PSU already has a head-to-head victory over the Tigers.
Sophomore Cal Fisher has been a big reason for Penn State’s recent success, scoring a career-high 23 kills, five aces, and 10 digs for his first-ever double-double in five-set victory over Sacred Heart on Friday. Saturday he had a match-high 13 kills versus Harvard and nine against Saint Francis on Tuesday.
Catch the surging Penn State team in action as it hosts No. 15 George Mason on Friday, Feb. 28, at 7 PM ET — streaming live right here on FloVolleyball.