2021 MPSF Men's Volleyball Championship

Stage Set For 2021 MPSF Men's Volleyball Championship

Stage Set For 2021 MPSF Men's Volleyball Championship

Starting Thursday, seven men’s volleyball teams will kick off the 2021 MPSF Championship Tournament at BYU.

Apr 19, 2021 by Megan Kaplon

Starting Thursday, the seven men’s volleyball teams in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation will kick off the 2021 MPSF Championship Tournament in Provo, Utah. No. 1 seed and host BYU welcomes the event to the Smith Fieldhouse for the fifth time in the last eight years and the eighth time overall. 

Watch 2021 MPSF Men's Volleyball Championships

April 22-24

Although BYU tops the standings with a 17-3 record, none of the teams in the conference have been truly dominant or totally without bright spots, which should make for an exciting tournament. The Cougars’ three losses came at the hands of UCLA to open the season on February 4, Grand Canyon on February 25, and UCLA again on April 10 in the Cougars’ last match of the regular season.

All seven players listed as seniors or graduate students on the 2020 BYU roster returned to take advantage of their extra season of eligibility. Among that group are Puerto Rican opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez, the 2020 AVCA National Player of the Year, and fellow starters setter Wil Stanley, outside hitter Zach Eschenberg, and middles Miki Jauhiainen and Felipe de Brito Ferreira. Junior libero Mitchel Worthington and his classmate outside hitter Davide Gardini round out the starting lineup. 

As the top seed in the seven team tournament, BYU has a bye in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament, and will face the lowest remaining seed in the semis on Friday.

No. 2 seed UCLA, which faces No. 7 Concordia Irvine in the quarters Thursday, enters the tournament riding high after that defeat of BYU to end the regular season, but the Bruins have had their fair share of ups and downs since the start of action in late January. Their 14-5 record features those two extremely notable wins over BYU and a five-set victory over No. 3 seed Pepperdine, but also losses to No. 5 seed USC and Concordia Irvine.

Watch 2021 MPSF Men's Volleyball Championships

April 22-24

UCLA made a couple of key lineup changes prior to the regular season finale versus BYU. Head coach John Speraw moved Cole Ketrzynski from opposite to outside and brought Kevin Kobrine in on the right pin. Ketrzynski finished the match with 20 kills and four errors to hit .421; Kobrine led the match with 23 kills and just four errors to hit .500. The Bruins were down 18-24 in the third set when Ian Parish’s kill put Austin Matautia behind the service line. The senior went on a six-point run, including serving two aces to tie the match at 24-all and give the team a chance to win the set and go up 2-1, which they did. Matautia had five aces total in the match.

With all the season-ending drama between BYU and UCLA, it’s easy to forget about the excellent season Pepperdine has had, especially since the Waves last played on March 30, forced to cancel their final regular season matches due to COVID protocols. Pepperdine’s only losses have come at the hands of BYU and UCLA, and the squad is led by a trio of talented seniors in outside hitters Noah Dyer and Spencer Wickens and middle Austin Wilmot, as well as redshirt sophomore opposite Jacob Steele and freshmen setter Bryce Dvorak, middle Andersen Fuller, and libero Trey Cole.

The Waves play No. 6 seed Stanford in the quarterfinals on Thursday. 

Grand Canyon, seeded fourth, has the ability to dish out some upsets, as evidenced by its win over BYU back in February. Their three pin hitters Hugo Fischer, Camden Gianni, and Christian Janke led the team with 186, 173, and 143 kills, respectively, and are also all exceedingly effective from behind the service line. Gianni leads the MPSF with 0.65 aces per set (30 total on the season to date), while Janke and Fischer are not too far behind with 21 and 14 aces, respectively. 

Watch 2021 MPSF Men's Volleyball Championships

April 22-24

The 8-10 Lopes will face No. 5 seed USC in the first round of tournament play. The two teams have played each other three times already in 2021, with Grand Canyon winning all three meetings.

Speaking of USC, the 5-12 Trojans come into the tournament on a four-match losing streak, but a victory over UCLA on February 13 hints at the potential of this squad. That big victory opened the season for USC after the team was forced to postpone their first three matches and pause practice for 10 days due to “COVID-19 issues in its program.” 

This USC team features a solid group of seniors, including kills leader Billy Fauntleroy, libero Cole Paxson, setter Chris Hall, middle Vecas Lewin, and pin hitter Clay Dickinson. In the regular season finale versus Grand Canyon, Fauntleroy set a new career-high with 31 kills — the most by an MPSF player this season — and Paxson recorded a new personal best as well with 19 digs, also the most by an MPSF player this season. The match ended in a loss for the Trojans, but those statistics, along with the final score (33-31, 25-18, 22-25, 17-25, 15-11) show just how close the match was and hint at what we can expect in Thursday’s rematch between the two teams.

If you follow men’s volleyball at all, then you will know about the plight of the Stanford men’s volleyball team. In July, the team found out that it was among 11 programs being cut from the Stanford Athletics Department, and the 2020-21 season would be their last. Then, as other teams began training in the fall or winter, Stanford remained on the sidelines, waiting for Santa Clara County’s COVID status to drop to a level where they would be able to start training again. That didn’t happen until early February, so as we head into the postseason, the Cardinal have only been playing together for two and a half months.

Watch 2021 MPSF Men's Volleyball Championships

April 22-24

They finished the regular season with a 3-13 record. Those wins came over Grand Canyon on March 19 and back-to-back over Concordia Irvine to conclude the regular season. Libero Justin Lui was named MPSF Defensive Player of the Week on April 5, averaging three digs per set in the CUI matches and making just one error on 55 reception attempts, but really, this isn’t a team of stars. It’s a team that has been trying to make up for lost time and find a way to gel and settle on a solid lineup in time for the postseason. Certainly, they have plenty to play for, as Thursday’s match versus Pepperdine could be the final match in program history.

Finally, Concordia Irvine comes in as the bottom seed, matching Stanford’s 3-13 record, but of course losing both head-to-head matches to the Cardinal. The Eagles season featured a two-week COVID-related pause in February, but then they returned to action and scored an upset of UCLA on February 27, the first time CUI had beaten UCLA in program history. Raymond Barsemian led Concordia with 11 kills in that match, just as he’s done throughout the season. He tops the Eagles’ stat sheet with 241 kills and ranks second on the team with 18 aces and 27 blocks. The MPSF named the 6-6 grad student its offensive player of the week on March 15 after he led his team to a 2-1 finish in a three-match series versus USC, tallying 60 kills and hitting .373. 

To see all seven of these teams in action, tune in to the MPSF Championship, April 22-24, right here on FloVolleyball. The complete schedule is below: 

Thursday, April 22

2 p.m. Match 1 – Concordia Irvine vs. UCLA

5 p.m. Match 2 – USC vs. Grand Canyon

8 p.m. Match 3 – Stanford vs. Pepperdine

Friday, April 23

4 p.m. Semifinal Match No. 1 – Highest seeded quarterfinal winners

7 p.m. Semifinal Match No. 2 – Lowest remaining seed vs. BYU

Saturday, April 24

7 p.m. MPSF Championship Match