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Top 5 men’s volleyball matches to follow tonight

February 5, 2011

It’s not often that MPSF schools travel outside the West Coast.

However, this weekend four MPSF schools have traveled to the Midwest and East Coast to play in non-conference matches against EIVA and MIVA teams. This is by far the best non-conference weekend of the season with matches ranging from three nationally ranked teams meeting up in University Park, Pa., to No. 4 Stanford playing Loyola in the dreadful Alumni Gym where numerous road teams have struggled in recent years.

Check out the top five men’s volleyball matches you need to follow tonight.

1. No. 8 UC Irvine (5-6, 2-4 MPSF) vs. No. 9 Ohio State (5-2, 1-0 MIVA)
Match vitals: 5 p.m. Saturday at University Park, Pa.
Follow live: Gametracker
What to know:This match has the potential to be one of the most offensive matches of the entire season. Both teams have about a .350 attack percentage for the season and each has one player among their conference’s leaders in kills. Ohio State outside attacker Shawn Sangrey is third in the MIVA with a 3.80 kills per game average, while UC Irvine outside attacker Carson Clark is third in the MPSF with a 4.64 kills per game average. In addition, with both teams winning matches Friday — UC Irvine in four games against No. 7 Penn State and Ohio State in three games against Cal State Northridge — this match has large ramifications for this week’s coaches and media poll.

2. No. 3 BYU (7-2, 5-2 MPSF) vs. No. 5 UCLA (7-3, 2-2 MPSF)
Match vitals:
9 p.m. Saturday at Provo, Utah
Follow live: Online video, Gametracker
What to know: By far the two-match series between No. 3 BYU and No. 5 UCLA is the best conference match-up in the nation this weekend. It lived up to that hype Friday with the Cougars defeating the Bruins in four games. Continue to expect for there to be a lot of defense in tonight’s series finale as three of the top five blockers in the conference will be on the court. BYU middle attacker Futi Tavana is averaging a MPSF-best 1.81 blocks per game average and the Cougars other starting middle attacker Otavio Souza is averaging 1.36 blocks per game. In addition, Bruins middle attacker Thomas Amberg third in the conference with a 1.37 blocks per game average.

3. No. 4 Stanford (5-2, 4-2 MPSF) vs. Loyola (4-2, 0-0 MIVA)
Match vitals:
8 p.m. Saturday at Chicago
Follow live: Online video, Grametracker
What to know: If this match was being played anywhere else but Alumni Gym in Chicago it would likely be a Stanford sweep. However, the Ramblers have one of the best home court advantages in the nation with a great crowd turnout and an arena that is worse than high school gym. Everything from the facility’s low ceilings that are in play if a ball hits it to the dim lights make it a difficult evironment for road teams, just ask Penn State about playing there last year. Add to it last week Stanford hit less than .100 in a three-game loss to No. 2 Long Beach State and Loyola blew leads in losses to Penn State and St. Francis, and this match reeks of two teams needing a non-conference win.

4. No. 7 Penn State (6-2, 2-0 EIVA) vs. Cal State Northridge (2-8, 1-5 MPSF)
Match vitals:
7:30 p.m. Saturday at University Park, Pa.
Follow live: Gametracker, In-match tweets
What to know:This match is an absolute must-win for the Nittany Lions if they have any hope of remaining in the top 10 of the coaches poll or media poll. Penn State lost to No. 8 UC Irvine in four games as the Anteaters hit .446 in the match, including a .636 attack percentage in the final game. The loss on its home court dropped the Nittany Lions record to 1-2 against top 10 ranked teams this season. Oh yeah, tonight’s match is a rematch of the 2010 NCAA Tournament semifinals — that part kind of lost its luster when the other team is unranked and 2-8.

5. Pacific (4-4, 1-3 MPSF) vs. Cal Baptist (9-3)
Match vitals:
8 p.m. Saturday at Springfield, Mass.
Follow live: Online video, Gametracker
What to know:Remember 16 years ago when Final Four teams like UCLA, Penn State and Ball State all played in the Hall of Fame Tournament. This year’s tournament has definitely lacked that kind of star power in 1995, but it has set up an intriguing championship match. The most interesting storyline entering the tournament was the reemergence of Pacific coming off last week’s conference victory against Cal State Northridge — its second MPSF victory in the last three years. The Tigers defeated Springfield in the opening round Friday and now plays Cal Baptist, an NAIA school transitioning to Division II that upset UC Irvine earlier this season.

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