2018 NCAA Men's Volleyball Top 15

BYU Hands Ohio State Its First Loss Since March 2017

We’re another week further into the 2018 men’s college volleyball season, and the story of the moment is two-time reigning national champ Ohio State losing for the first time since last March. 

See how last week’s results have affected our top-15 ranking.

1. Long Beach State (6-0)

Last Week: 1

Long Beach State kept its win streak alive, hitting the road to sweep Lewis and Loyola. Freshman middle blocker Simon Anderson, who was last week’s Big West Freshman of the Week, had another great match versus Lewis, with eight kills on eight attempts and no errors to hit 1.000, and four block assists.

Junior Kyle Ensing led the team in kills both nights, with 15 against Lewis and 12 versus Loyola. In the Loyola match, he had zero errors to hit .632.

In the 49ers’ six straight wins, they’ve dropped only one set and their .418 team hitting percentage ranks second in the country.

2. UCLA (4-0)

Last Week: 3

The Bruins only played one match this week, as their meeting with UCSB was cancelled due to the Santa Barbara mudslides. 

There was plenty of excitement in their one match of the week, however, as they were forced to rally back from down 0-2 versus UCI to earn a five-set victory.

After losing the first two sets, head coach John Speraw switched JT Hatch from libero to outside hitter, and the 6-foot-1 senior immediately made an impact in the front row, leading the Bruins with five kills in the third set. Freshman Garland Peed took over for Hatch at the libero spot.

Speraw also moved Christian Hessenauer from middle to opposite, inserting freshman Ian Parish in the middle. This lineup change also proved to be very beneficial as Hessenauer’s seven kills in set four helped the Bruins push the match to five sets.

In the match, Hessenauer and Daenan Gymiah led the Bruins with 13 kills a piece.

3. UC Irvine (4-1)

Last Week: 5

The Anteaters lost their first match of the this week, yet they jumped two spots in the rankings thanks in large part to a sweep of USC, a four-set win over Pepperdine, and the fight they put up in their five-set loss to No. 2 UCLA.

In the UCLA match, 6-8 Karl Apfelbach led all players with 14 kills, and once again had the match-high in kills versus Pepperdine with 19. Versus USC, however, it was outside hitter Aaron Koubi who stepped up, leading all Anteaters with 13 kills and only three errors on 19 attempts to hit .526. 

Blocking was huge for UCI versus Pepperdine, as middles Scott Stadick and Matthew Younggren each had five, and the Anteaters out-blocked the Waves 10.5 to seven as a team.

4. Ohio State (2-1)

Last Week: 2

BYU finally got a victory over Ohio State. After losing to the Buckeyes in the last two national championship matches, BYU scored a five-set W (21-25, 25-21, 25-20, 21-25, 15-8) in Columbus over the weekend, marking Ohio State’s first loss since March 28, 2017. 

The Buckeyes struggled behind the service line, tallying up 29 service errors with only seven aces and were out-blocked by the Cougars 12 to three; however, OSU did hold an offensive edge, thanks to a combined 39 kills from the Buckeyes’ pair of Frenchmen Maxime Hervoir and Nicolas Szerszen.

Ohio State, which beat Stanford in four sets on Friday, remains ranked above BYU, however, due to BYU’s five-set loss to Loyola to open the 2018 season. 

5. BYU (3-1)

Last Week: 7

It was a big week for the Cougars as they went on the road to play Ball State and Ohio State and walked away with a pair of victories.

Freshman opposite Gabi Garcia Fernandez impressed once again, contributing 13 kills with a .458 hitting percentage against Ball State and 19 kills and six blocks versus Ohio State.

Senior outside Brenden Sander led the team with 17 kills versus Ball State and added 12 kills and six digs versus Ohio State.

6. Hawaii (6-0)

Last Week: 4

Undefeated Hawaii traveled to Nashville last week to compete in the Grow the Game Challenge, where it recorded a four-set win over Barton and sweeps of Grand Canyon and Lincoln Memorial.

Setter Joe Worsley and opposite Stijn van Tilburg made the Grow the Game All-Tournament team.

Hawaii drops a spot this week simply based on the relatively weakness of its schedule this week compared to other teams that were playing top-10 and -five ranked opponents. 

7. Loyola (2-2)

Last Week: 6

A .500 win percentage might not seem great for a team in the top 10, but Loyola has played some of the toughest competition in the country in the first two weeks of the season. Last week, the Ramblers hosted George Mason, scoring a victory in four sets, and fell in three to No. 1 Long Beach State. 

The Ramblers started the season with a five-set win over No. 5 BYU and also have a four-set loss to No. 3 UC Irvine.

Collin Mahan led Loyola in kills both nights, with 15 versus George Mason and 13 versus Long Beach. Against the 49ers, the 6-5 junior had only one error to hit .545.

8. Lewis (1-3)

Last Week: 8

Lewis has played the same four tough teams that Loyola has, and this week the Flyers lost in three to Long Beach State, but scored a sweep of George Mason.

Redshirt junior Julian Moses led Lewis to its first victory of 2018 with 10 kills versus George Mason. Redshirt sophomore Ryan Coenen added nine kills, and with three block assists helped the Flyers out-block the Patriots 9.5 to three.

9. Penn State (2-0)

Last Week: 9

Penn State started its season last week with wins over Mount Olive in four and Alderson Broaddus in three.

After the four-set victory over Mount Olive, Penn State head coach Mark Pavlik said, “I think tonight is pretty much January volleyball. All in all, not a bad way to start the new year. We got a ways to go but we've got time to get there.”

Outside hitter Calvin Mende led the way in both matches, with 15 kills versus Mount Olive and eight versus Alderson Broaddus. Aidan Albrecht also had eight kills in the Alderson Broaddus match. 

Penn State has yet to be tested in the 2018 season, but that changes this week as the Nittany Lions travel to LA to face UCLA and USC at the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge.

10. Pepperdine (1-1)

Last Week: 10

Pepperdine is taking a slow and steady approach to the start of the 2018 season, playing only one match in each of the past two weeks. Over the weekend, the Waves hosted UC Irvine and suffered a four-set loss.

Pepperdine put up a good fight, with eight service aces to UCI’s one, and even had four set points in the fourth, but the Waves failed to capitalize, letting the Anteaters win in four.

Alex Harthaller, a senior from Austria by way of Fort Wayne, put up career highs with 18 kills and five aces.

11. Cal State Northridge (4-0)

Last Week: 11

CSUN remains undefeated, but has yet to play a team ranked in the top 10 (hence the No. 11 ranking). This week, the Matadors only played one match, emerging with a straight-set victory over UC Merced. 

Northridge didn’t go with its typical lineup for the majority of the match, and junior Lucas Timm led with 14 kills in his first start at CSUN after transferring in from San Diego City College. 

12. USC (3-2)

Last Week: 12

Like UCLA, USC only played one match this week, since its match with UCSB was cancelled and rescheduled for March 1. 

In that one match, the Trojans suffered a straight-set loss to UC Irvine. Gianluca Grasso led the team for the second time this season with 14 kills versus UCI, but the strong block of the Anteaters held the Trojans to a team hitting percentage of .227.

USC has three wins so far in 2018, but none over ranked teams. This week, the Trojans will face East Coast powerhouses Ohio State and Penn State during the Pac-12/Big Ten Challenge.

13. Stanford (1-4)

Last Week: 13

Stanford got its first win of the season over the weekend, taking down Ball State in straight sets a night after losing to Ohio State in four. Setter Paul Bischoff is back in the lineup after missing the first three matches of the season due to injury. His return wasn’t enough to upset the reigning national champs, but against Ball State he led the team to out-hit the Cardinals .245 to .066.

Bishoff connected especially well with freshman Jaylen Jasper who led all players with 17 kills.

14. Ball State (2-2)

Last Week: 14

Ball State faced tough competition last week, falling to BYU and Stanford. Sophomore opposite Matt Szews led the Cardinal versus BYU with 17 kills, but the next night struggled, committing six errors with only five kills to hit -.031. Senior Mitch Weiler posted nine kills versus BYU and five versus Stanford.

15. Saint Francis (4-2)

Last Week: Unranked

Saint Francis breaks into the top 15 thanks to its 4-2 record, with losses only to Long Beach State and Cal State Northridge, and wins over Stanford and UC Santa Barbara. Over the weekend, Saint Francis swept Alderson Broaddus and a Mount Olive team that only a night before took a set off of Penn State.

Cole Thompson is the team’s kills leader with 70 over six matches, while redshirt sophomore setter Joseph Koszelak not only quarterbacks the offense but also leads the team in digs (38) and is second on the team in blocks (15).