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The top 5 matches to follow this weekend

January 28, 2011

The rivalry match in Los Angeles between No. 1 USC and No. 4 UCLA is by far the biggest match of the weekend. However, there are several other intriguing matches all around the country that have big implications on the conference standings and national rankings. Check out the top five matches you need to keep an eye on during the next few days before you start your weekend.

1. No. 1 USC (5-0, 5-0 MPSF) vs. No. 4 UCLA (7-2, 2-1 MPSF)
Match info:
10 p.m. Friday at UCLA
Where to watch: Radio feed and Gametracker
What to know: An early season match between two natural rivals doesn’t get bigger than this. USC has opened the season with its best start since 1995 and is the unanimous No. 1 team in the coaches and media polls. UCLA has looked good in conference play and is coming off a victory Wednesday that snap a five-match losing streak against Pepperdine. The winner of this USC-UCLA match will likely be the No. 1 team in the nation next week with the early inside track to winning the MPSF regular season title.

2. No. 3 BYU (5-2, 2-2 MPSF) vs. No. 6 UC Irvine (4-4, MPSF)
Match info:
9 p.m. Friday and Saturday at Provo, Utah
Where to watch: Video feed, Gametracker
What to know: The two teams with possibly the most drastically different playing styles will go against each other in a two-match weekend series. BYU middle attackers Futi Tavana and Otavio Souza have the two highest blocks per game averages in the conference. In comparison, UC Irvine is second in the MPSF with a .349 attack percentage and both Carson Clark and Cory Yoder are coming off a match when they both set career highs in kills. Ih yeah, it’s also the Cougars’ season opener. Expect Smith Fieldhouse to be packed with more than 2,000 fans.

3. No. 8 Penn State (4-1, 2-2 EIVA) vs. Loyola (5-0, 0-0 MIVA)
Match info:
7 p.m. at University Park, Pa.
Where to watch: Gametrack, Live in-match tweets
What to know: After Loyola upset Penn State in their only meeting last season, the two teams will finally play each other again. Both teams enter the match in similar situations as last year. Loyola needs to get a signature win to prove it’s a top-tier team after a soft opening to its schedule. Penn State needs another victory against a respectable non-West Coast team to remain towards the top of the rankings.

4. No. 2 Stanford (4-1, 3-1 MPSF) vs. No. 5 Long Beach State (4-3, 3-1 MPSF)
Match info:
1 p.m. Saturday at Long Beach, Calif.
Where to watch: Radio feed, Gametracker
What to know: Both Stanford and Long Beach State are tied for second place and have been surprises in the MPSF this year. Stanford has looked like a contender to repeat as NCAA champions even without the 2010 National Player of the Year Kawika Shoji. The 49ers haven’t been putting up big numbers — in the bottom half of the league for attack percentage and opponent attack percent — but they continue to find ways to win.

5. Ball State (2-2, 0-0 MIVA) vs. George Mason (4-1, 1-0 EIVA)
Match info:
7 p.m. Friday at Fairfax, Va.
Where to watch: Gametracker
What to know: This is a non-conference match both teams need to win to show they can be a top-level team in their conference this season. Ball State opened the Outrigger Invitational with an upset against then-No. 5 Hawaii but got swept by Penn State to close out the tournament. In addition, the Patriots are 4-1 but need a signature win — or even a win against a Division I team — to solidify themselves as a possible nationally ranked team this year. Whoever wins this match could be on my ballot for next week’s top 10 media poll.

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