Monday, April 25, 2011

And let the MPSF Tournament begin...

by David Portney

How ‘bout them Gauchos? The #7 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos waltzed into Provo, Utah and took care of #2 BYU Cougars in four sets (25-21, 23-25, 26-24, 25-22) in the first round of the MPSF Tournament. It was the first loss of the season in their home gym for the Cougars and the second consecutive win for UCSB over BYU in the playoffs since it happened back in 2005.

But that wasn’t the only upset in the MPSF Tournament. The #5 49ers of Long Beach State knocked off the #3 Stanford Cardinal in five sets (26-24, 25-27, 25-23, 19-25, 15-13).

This could create quite the dilemma for the one at-large bid that is granted for the Final Four. Assuming it comes from the MPSF, who has the leg up? This debate will be thrown out the window if USC for some reason doesn’t go on to win the tournament, because let’s be honest, even if they lost to UCLA this past weekend they would have had that at-large bid.

So for the sake of argument, let’s say the Trojans win the MPSF. There are a couple of points to discuss here:

We can’t forget the teams still in it besides USC: Long Beach State, UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara. If one of those teams goes on to win in dominating fashion in the semifinals and puts up a strong fight in the finals that might sway the committee to put them in instead of the disappointing BYU Cougars or Stanford Cardinal.

2) Comparing BYU and Stanford. The Cougars have been ranked 2nd in the AVCA Top-15 Coaches Poll in every week but one since February 7th while Stanford has fluctuated from the 2-5 spots in the same time span.

As far as head-to-head match-ups, the Cardinal swept the Cougars in a two-match weekend series way back in mid-January and that’s been it. I’m not sure how much stock can be put into two matches played over three months ago. However, when comparing two excellent teams every little thing counts.

Another argument to consider is the rust factor. While Stanford last played at Pacific on April 16th and easily took care of the Tigers, BYU hasn’t played in two weeks prior to the quarterfinal match. The reason it’s an easier sell that it was rust was because entering the match, BYU was riding a seven-game winning streak while Stanford has been pretty much trading every win for a loss for the past month anyway.

So if it does indeed come down to those teams obtaining the at-large bid, I’d give the edge to BYU. The only part of the argument that’s not in their favor is the aforementioned head-to-head match-ups, which were so long ago that I’m not sure it’ll be enough in the eyes of the committee. However, keep an eye on the rest of the tournament because one of those teams can go on a tear in the next two matches to impress enough to steal a spot.

Isn’t this exciting!? No more March Madness, it’s April Madness!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

All aboard the DIII men's volleyball train!

by David Portney

I’ll tell you, if you haven’t caught yourself up on the DIII men’s game I recommend you get on the bandwagon now before it’s too late.

More than 1,000 fans packed the Kidera Gymnasium this weekend on the campus of Nazareth College for the championship match between the host college and Springfield. It was a thrilling match between two DIII heavyweights that the Golden Flyers pulled out in four sets (25-23, 22-25, 25-23, 25-22).

This was the final year of the Molten Final Four as DIII men’s volleyball will have their first NCAA DIII Championship starting next year at Springfield College with Stevens hosting the following year. See the official NCAA release HERE.

So now with DIII men’s volleyball having an officially sanctioned NCAA championship, there is no more excuse to ignore these talented programs and the quality of play they bring to the court. I’ve heard rumblings of how anyone with a pulse can walk on to a DIII team, but the people that say that have never seen these men play.

Have you seen Ellis Walsh (insert-right)? Hans Schroeder? Erik Kowalski? These guys are 6’4-6’6 with incredible leaping ability and power. You can’t look me in the eye and tell me they aren’t worthy of our recognition.

Most of the attention dedicated to men’s volleyball is centered on Southern California with it becoming sporadic once you leave the Golden State. It is that mind-set that doesn’t allow the masses to fully accept a phenomenal outside hitter like Chris Vrooman (Juniata) of Baden, PA or DIII Player of the Year Cal Palumbo (Springfield) of Rochester, NY simply because they stayed in the northeast.

The major question remains whether programs east of the Mississippi can drum up enough fan interest and attendance to their team’s matches. If this past weekend was any indication, it appears those programs will be just fine. I attended school at Ithaca College, which is about an hour and a half from Nazareth in Rochester, and know first-hand that volleyball in general isn't always the talk of the town in that part of the country. But if Naz. can pack a gym with 1,000 spectators in upstate NY, then maybe the tide is turning and others schools in less than ideal volleyball locations can follow suit.

I can’t sit here and predict what DIII men’s volleyball will look like in the coming years, but I can promise you it's moving fast…so hop on board.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Lewis Volleyball and DIII Volleyball Fun

by David Portney

How bout them Flyers? Oh man did #15 Lewis play a heck of a match this weekend at home against MIVB conference leader #7 Ohio State. It was Lewis’ first home win over the Buckeyes since 2005. With this being the final conference match of the year for OSU, this will be their only MIVB loss in the 2011 season.

Since I’m sort of pressed for time today, here’s the link to the game story courtesy of Lewis athletics:

And video highlights:

You might be wondering, “Dave, why are you so pressed for time?” Well today is a big day for Division III Men’s volleyball as the deadline to submit applications for potential All-Americans into our database is TODAY at 5 p.m. EST. So coaches and SID’s of Division III schools, GET YOUR NOMINATIONS IN!!!

Also stay tuned for sometime later this week I’ll have a special blog talking about DIII men’s volleyball. This past weekend, the NECVA had their conference tournament and Nazareth came out on top! Congrats Golden Flyers!