by Vinnie Lopes | Off the Block editor
Vinnie Lopes is the editor of Off the Block, a website that focuses on Division I-II NCAA men’s volleyball, and has covered college men’s volleyball since 2007. For top five matches to follow every Friday and Saturday during the regular season, go to Off the Block at offtheblockblog.com.
It’s all about the story lines on the sidelines this week in college men’s volleyball.
UCLA coach Al Scates and Pepperdine coach Marv Dunphy will face each other for the final time in a coaching rivalry stretching back 35 years. In addition, Mike Wilton after being the Hawai’i head coach for 17 years will make his first trip back to Hawai’i as a BYU assistant coach.
Check out the top five matches from around the nation to follow this weekend:
1. No. 2 UCLA (18-4, 12-3 MPSF) vs. No. 8 Pepperdine (11-9, 7-8 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. in Los Angeles
What to know: Two of the greatest coaches in NCAA volleyball history will face each other for the final time in the regular season. Pepperdine and coach Marv Dunphy will travel to play UCLA and coach Al Scates, who will retire at the end of the regular season. Scates and Dunphy have a combined more than 75 years of head coaching experience and more than 1,500 career victories. In addition, both coaches are in the Volleyball Hall of Fame and the AVCA Hall of Fame. Scates leads the all-time series against Dunphy 54-31 dating back to 1977. UCLA enters this Scates versus Dunphy finale after losing to then-No. 2 UC Irvine on Saturday and No. 3 USC on Wednesday -- the first time this season the Bruins lost back-to-back matches. Pepperdine has won three of its last four matches, including a sweep against UC Santa Barbara earlier this week. That victory against the Gauchos snapped the Waves' three-match MPSF losing streak.
2. No. 4 BYU (15-4, 11-3 MPSF) vs. Hawai'I (7-12, 4-10 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday in Honolulu
What to know: The most intriguing storyline for this two-match weekend MPSF series has nothing to do with the players on the court. Mike Wilton, after winning a program-record 300 matches as Hawai’i’s head coach, will return to Honolulu for the first time as a BYU assistant coach. Wilton coached Hawai’i for 17 years before retiring in 2009. The Warriors in 2002 under Wilton won the program’s only national championship, but the title was later vacated because of NCAA rule violations. BYU is on a four-match winning streak since the return of All-American outside attacker Taylor Sander from a hand injury. Sander also has a team-high 60 combined kills in the four matches. Hawai'i returns to the Honolulu after upsetting Stanford in its last match. The Warriors are also a half-match behind Cal State Northridge for the final MPSF Tournament berth.
3. No. 1 UC Irvine (17-3, 13-3 MPSF) vs. No. 10 Long Beach State (10-9, 5-7 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Saturday in Long Beach, Calif.
What to know: The top two serving teams in the MPSF will play each other in a pivotal conference match. UC Irvine leads the nation with a 1.79 aces per game average, while Long Beach State is second in the conference and eighth in the nation with a 1.32 aces per game average. In addition, UC Irvine outside attackers Carson Clark and Jeremy Dejno are two of the four players in the nation with at least 30 aces this season. The Anteaters are on an eight-match winning streak and moved to No. 1 in the national rankings following its five-game road victory against then-No. 1 UC Irvine last week. Long Beach State resumes MPSF play after beating IPFW and losing to No. 7 Lewis at the Active Ankle Tournament last week.
4. No. 10 Ohio State (13-6, 3-1 MIVA) vs. Ball State (11-8, 3-4 MIVA)
Match vitals: 5 p.m. Sunday in Muncie, Ind.
What to know: The oldest Midwest rivalry in NCAA volleyball will be renewed once again as Ball State plays host to Ohio State. The 52-year rivalry, though, has been one-sided in recent years. The Cardinals are on a program-worst 11-match losing streak to the Buckeyes dating back to 2008, including a three-game loss to Ohio State in February. This match is also a near must-win for Ball State if it wants to continue its 12-year streak of hosting at least one match in the MIVA Tournament. The Cardinals are in sixth place in the MIVA and will likely have to go 4-1 in its five conference matches remaining to finish in the MIVA top four. Ohio State coming off of its bye week is in second place in the MIVA and a half-match behind first-place Lewis.
5. No. 3 USC (14-4, 11-4 MPSF) vs. UC Santa Barbara (5-14, 3-12 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday in Santa Barbara, Calif.
What to know: USC will play UC Santa Barbara with a chance to finish its three-match road trip undefeated and bring the nation-best winning streak to double digits. USC swept its cross-town rival No. 2 UCLA on Wednesday to extend its winning streak to nine matches and have defeated five top-10 ranked teams during the streak. In addition, outside attacker Toni Ciarelli is third in the nation with a 4.00 kills per game average. UC Santa Barbara is on a five-match conference losing streak following a three-game loss to Pepperdine on Wednesday. The Gauchos are also 1.5 matches behind Cal State Nothridge for the final spot in the MPSF Tournament.