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Scraping the wreckage of a historical upset Friday

February 12, 2011

The oddity of Friday night may be a first in the 41-year history of NCAA men’s volleyball.

All of the top five ranked teams in the ASICS/Volleyball Magazine Men’s Division I-II Media Poll — No. 1 USC, No. 2 Long Beach State, No. 3 BYU, No. 4 Stanford and No. 5 UCLA — lost Friday.

With a majority of the top 10 nationally ranked teams being in the MPSF, it is not unusual for one or two of the top five teams to lose a match during a weekend. However, I can never recall or find another incense when all five of the top ranked teams lost in a single day.

In addition, most of these losses were significant upsets.

Of the top five teams all but UCLA, which fell in four games to No. 7 UC Santa Barbara, lost to a team unranked in the media poll and outside the top 10 the coaches poll.

Below is a look at the top five ranked teams’ losses and the implications they can have on next week’s polls.

No. 1 USC (6-1, 6-1 MPSF)
Friday result: lost in five games to Pepperdine (4-5, 2-5 MPSF)
Match summary: The Trojans coming off of a bye week were out-hit .352 to .292, including the Waves having a .706 attack percentage in the first game. It was also the first time this season a team out-hit USC, which entered the match averaging a conference-best .404 attack percentage. In the loss, Trojans outside attacker Murphy Troy had a match-high 29 kills.
Implications: USC will likely still be No. 1 in most polls next week. The biggest thing this loss does is end the talk about this team possibly going undefeated in the regular season.

No. 2 Long Beach State (6-4, 5-2 MPSF)
Friday result: lost in five games to Cal State Northridge (3-9, 2-5 MPSF)
Match summary: After winning the first two games 25-16 and 25-11, Long Beach State blew its two-game lead to lose in five games. In addition, the 49ers went from hitting a .708 attack percentage and not committing an attack error in the first game to failing to hit above .150 in the final three games. This victory snaps the Matadors’ six match losing streak and ends the 49ers’ four match winning steak.
Implications: Long Beach State, which was projected in the preseason to finish the MPSF in ninth place, has been the surprise team this year. The 49ers will likely remain in the top five next week, but some voters may be a little hesitant because of their 2-4 road record.

No. 3 BYU (9-3, 6-2 MPSF)
Friday result: lost in five games at Loyola (6-3, 1-0 MIVA)
Match summary: Ramblers outside attacker Mike Bunting finished with a match-high 21 kills as Loyola won its first match against a nationally ranked team this season. Both teams hit more than .350 with Loyola having at least a .500 attack percentage in three of the five games. In the loss, BYU outside attacker Kevin Sagers had a match-high eight aces.
Implications: Some people will view this as the least forgivable loss of the night because it was to an MIVA team. However, playing the match in Loyola’s home arena makes it the most forgivable loss of the night. Alumni Gym is the greatest home court advantage in the nation with the Loyola crowd right on top of the court and the arena features of dim lights and low ceilings that rival a high school gym.

No. 4 Stanford (8-3, 5-3 MPSF)
Friday result: lost in three games to UC San Diego (6-8, 3-5 MPSF)
Match summary: The Cardinal hitting a negative attack percentage in the final game summed up the night as Stanford was swept by UC San Diego. The Tritons had at least .300 attack percentage in all three games, including hitting a match-best .625 in the second game. Both teams had two players finish the match with at least 10 kills. UC San Diego outside attacker Carl Eberts had a match-high 15 kills.
Implications: This match in terms of the polls probably helps UC San Diego more than hurts Stanford. Stanford’s two victories against BYU is enough for most voters to keep them in the top five. However,that could change if Stanford loses its match tonight against UC Irvine.

No. 5 UCLA (7-7, 2-6 MPSF)
Friday results: lost in four games to No. 7 UC Santa Barbara (8-5, 6-4 MPSF)
Match summary: For the second time in three nights, UCLA lost to UC Santa Barbara. The Bruins in the loss had a season-high 20 serving errors and were out-hit .257 to .234. In addition, while no UCLA outside attacker had more than eight kills, UC Santa Barbara outside attackers Jeff Menzel and Cullen Irons had more than 15 kills. This loss extends the Bruins’ losing streak to five matches.
Implications: With five straight loses the Bruins are out of top-five consideration for the foreseeable future. UCLA still has some impressive victories at the beginning of the season against No. 10 Hawai’i and No. 9 Penn State that will likely prevent it from sliding any further than No. 8 in next week’s poll. UC Santa Barbara winning these matches against UCLA also makes it contender to move into the top five of next week’s poll.

Who benefited the most from the upsets
1. Ohio State — The No. 6 Buckeyes in the last eight days have defeated Cal State Northridge, No. 8 UC Irvine, No. 9 Penn State and Quincy twice. Ohio State will likely be in the top five of next week’s media and coaches polls with some voters possibly even ranking them as high as No. 3 on their ballots.

2. UC Santa Barbara — The Gauchos aren’t going away any time soon this season. These two wins against UCLA with everyone else losing helps them in the rankings and their chances of making the postseason for the first time in almost five years.

3. The MIVA — The conference that has never legally won a national championship is getting some well deserved respect. Loyola upsetting BYU is a big deal for the conference, but Ohio State possibly being in the top five and emerging as a legitimate title contender is a bigger deal.

4. Pepperdine — Of the four non-top 10 teams to upset a top-five ranked team Friday, Pepperdine probably needed the victory the most. After starting conference play 0-5, the Waves have won their two MPSF matches and are beginning to work their way back into the postseason picture. The win also showed Pepperdine is capable to play with and beat any team in the conference.

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