Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Spreading Goodness

by David Portney, AVCA Media Relations & Awards Support Specialist


There's been a lot of sports news in the world recently that, to be honest, has been extremely deflating.  Over the course of the last two weeks, sports fans have gone through:




- Heisman hopeful being duped into thinking he had a girlfriend...then duping US into believing it.

- American icon, cycling legend and a symbol of hope for millions of cancer survivors admitting he took performance-enhancing drugs (though still hesitant to reveal the entire truth).

- Elite and once thought to be future baseball Hall of Famers linked to more PED doctors (alleged).

- Another future NFL Hall of Famer consuming deer antlers, which contain banned substances, for a  chemical edge (alleged).

If you want to read up on more of what I just highlighted then feel free to hit up Google or ESPN...it's on an endless loop.

I don't want to mention these people by names because quite frankly, I'm sick of talking about it.  The amount of negativity the media covers on a daily basis makes me question where we are as a society.  How can a human with any decency lie about having Leukemia?  It still baffles me, as I'm sure it does you.

The rest of this blog isn't about what's WRONG with us humans, it's about what's RIGHT.  The "no news is good news" mantra that has plagued the media is an epidemic with no end in sight.  As a result, it leaves the individual to seek out the good news if they don't feel like leaving the office or school in a depressed state...so here I am!

Thanks Dan!
Well here's a news flash:  PEOPLE DO GREAT THINGS EVERY DAY - ALL OF THE TIME.  I've worked with professional athletes and Olympians in the past, and I can say first-hand there are lots of good guys and gals out there.  In my time working for the St. Louis Cardinals Triple-A squad, Memphis Redbirds, then-Redbird and current St. Louis Cardinal Dan Descalso always went above and beyond to make sure I had the necessary quotes, photo ops (etc.) necessary to get the job done.  Dan, if this blog somehow finds you...thank you.

Brenda and I hangin with her silver medal!
When I was a reporter for the Olympic News Service in Beijing covering the gold medal water polo match between Team USA and the Netherlands, USA superstar Brenda Villa took the time directly after the match (a heartbreaking loss) to answer every single one of my questions.  She didn't have to do that, but she did.  Brenda, if this blog somehow finds you...thank you.

The purpose of this is to not simply rattle off personal experiences, but to serve as a reminder to myself that despite the horrible news that's currently out there, I still have the faith people are generally good.  When you wake up in the morning, do you ask yourself "What can I do to make the world worse?"  No, you don't.  Sure mistakes are made, but most strive to use those mistakes to become a better person.

So take a moment to reflect on some of the good things you've heard and experienced over the last two weeks, and smile.  Get your volleyball team together and help sort food at a local food pantry.  Instead of worrying about the bad teammate that causes on and off-the-court problems, focus on the true leaders of the team that's doing it the right way.  The more attention we focus on those positive things, the more positive our world will become.

This is such a vitally important issue that is being largely ignored on most teams in all sports.  It doesn't have to be an issue that's media worthy, but your own middle school team.  Parents, coaches, and players spend countless hours figuring out ways to handle the "bad" kids instead of rewarding the "good" kids.  Have you ever thought that maybe, just maybe, if the "bad" teammates see the kind of attention and rewards the "good" kids get, then he or she will strive to become better?  I know it's not always as simple as I just stated, but it's also rarely as complicated as we make it seem.

While we can't ignore all of the bad in today's world, we can certainly spend more time on the good.  Sport provides us an avenue to explore our goodness, and instead of wasting it away with lying, cheating and disdain for others, let's use it in a positive way.  The hones is also on us to help spread the word of goodness, and making someone's day just a little better is the reason I feel we are all put on this earth.

So if you see someone out there making news in a positive light, post it to our Facebook page, send us a tweet @AVCAVolleyball, and shoot me an email at David.Portney@avca.org... and we'll help spread the word!

It's a tremendous responsibility to spread goodness, but I'm up for the challenge...are you?

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Look at the Weekend: Jan. 25 - 27

Vinnie Lopes | 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.  He will be blogging for us all season highlighting the top five matches to follow for that weekend. For continued updates and analysis of the men's game, visit his website at offtheblockblog.com and follow him on Twitter @offtheblock11.





Who needs the nation's top ranked team in action to have compelling matches.

No. 1 BYU is on a bye this weekend but there are several intriguing matches, including Long Beach State trying to show its critics that it is a top-five team in the nation. In addition, out east, Penn State looks to extend its historic conference winning streak, while two undefeated teams collide in North Carolina.

Check out the top five men’s volleyball matches from around the nation to follow this weekend. Also for more on these matches and this weekend's results visit Off the Block at offtheblockblog.com.

1. No. 3 UC Irvine (5-3, 2-3 MPSF) vs. No. 7 Long Beach State (5-2, 3-1 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday in Irvine, Calif.
LongBeachState.com
What to know: Long Beach State is in second place in the MPSF but is looking to get a signature road victory against the defending NCAA champions UC Irvine and prove it belongs among the conference's elite. The 49ers are on a three-match winning streak, including sweeping a two-match home series against Hawai'i last weekend. Outside attacker Taylor Crabb (right) was named the MPSF Player of the Week after having 54 combined kills in Long Beach State's three matches during the winning streak. The junior is fifth in the MPSF with a 4.08 kills per game average. UC Irvine defeated Cal State Northridge in four games Wednesday to snap its three-match losing streak. Setter Daniel Stork in the victory started in place of senior Chris Austin for the second consecutive match. Austin, a 2012 NCAA All-Tournament Team selection, also did not play or travel with UC Irvine last weekend for its road match against BYU because of a previous commitment the setter made to coach a youth volleyball team in a qualifying tournament. Stork had 42 assists as the Anteaters had a .377 attack percentage in the victory against the Matadors.

2. No. 4 UCLA (6-4, 2-2 MPSF) vs. No. 14 Pacific (2-2, 1-2 MPSF)
Match vitals: 2 p.m. Sunday in Stockton, Calif.
PacificTigers.com
What to know: One week after pulling off its biggest upset in recent program history, Pacific will try to complete the Los Angeles sweep and beat UCLA. Pacific defeated USC in four games Sunday to snap a 13-match losing streak against the Trojans dating back to 2007. Pacific in the victory had a season-high 16.5 blocks -- the second time in the last four matches that the Tigers had more than 15 blocks. In addition, middle attacker Tommy Carmody (right) is leading the MPSF with a 1.67 blocks per game average. UCLA is 36-2 all-time against Pacific with their last loss to the Tigers coming in 2010. However, the Bruins have lost three of their last four matches, including a four-game loss to Stanford on Tuesday.

3. No. 6 Penn State (4-1, 0-0 EIVA) vs. Harvard (2-0, 0-0 EIVA)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Saturday in University Park, Pa.
EIVA Volleyball
What to know: The last time Penn State lost a conference match: "Semi-Pro" was the No. 1 movie in the nation and George W. Bush was the president. Penn State and its 58-match conference winning streak that started in 2008 will be on the line as it opens its EIVA season this weekend against Sacred Heart and Harvard. Penn State in non-conference play Tuesday had a season-high .494 attack percentage as it swept Loyola for its fourth consecutive victory. Harvard opened its season with two non-conference match sweeps last week and is one of six undefeated teams left in the nation. This match will also feature two of the top outside attackers in the conference  Harvard outside attacker D.J. White (left) leads the EIVA averaging 4.67 kills per game, while Penn State outside attacker Tom Comfort is fourth in the conference with a 3.39 kills per game average.


4. No. 4 Stanford (5-2, 2-2 MPSF) vs. No. 10 UC Santa Barbara (3-3, 1-2 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Saturday in Palo Alto, Calif.
UCSB Athletics
What to know: The top two freshmen setters in the nation will face each other for the first time in their college careers as UC Santa Barbara travels to Stanford. Stanford setter James Shaw is among the MPSF leaders with a 10.32 assists per game average. In addition, the Cardinal's offense has more than a .300 attack percentage in all of its matches this season. Gauchos setter Jonah Seif (left) is averaging 10.37 assists per game. However, UC Santa Barbara has lost its last two conference matches, including a four-game home loss to UCLA last week. Stanford defeated UCLA in a nationally televised match Tuesday to snap its two-match losing streak.



5. Ball State (3-0, 0-0 MIVA) vs. Mount Olive (4-0, 3-0 Conference Carolinas)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday in Mount Olive, N.C.

Matt Meske - BSU Photo Services
What to know: Two of the nation's six remaining undefeated teams will go head-to-head in non-conference as Mount Olive plays host to Ball State. Ball State last week defeated Sacred Heart and NJIT to open its two-week, four-match East Coast road trip. Both the Cardinals starting middle attackers lead the MIVA in blocks. Matt Leske, who earned MIVA Defensive Player of the Week honors on Monday, is first in the conference with a 1.91 blocks per game average. In addition, middle attacker Kevin Owens leads the MIVA with a .393 attack percentage and is second in the conference averaging 1.55 blocks per game. Mount Olive has yet to lose a game in its four matches so far this season. The Trojans have won two of the last three Conference Carolinas championship and were the preseason favorites to win this year's conference title. Mount Olive middle attacker Richard Hesse also leads the Conference Carolinas with a 1.17 blocks per game average. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

A Look at the Weekend: Jan. 18-20

Vinnie Lopes | 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.  He will be blogging for us all season highlighting the top five matches to follow for that weekend. For continued updates and analysis of the men's game, visit his website at offtheblockblog.com and follow him on Twitter @offtheblock11.





No. 1 UC Irvine looks to snap its two-match losing streak as it travels to No. 3 BYU in a match that will air on BYUtv. In addition, No. 2 Stanford and No. 7 USC will make history tonight -- becoming the first two men's volleyball teams to play on the Pac-12 Network.

Check out the top five men’s volleyball matches from around the nation to follow this weekend.



1. No. 1 UC Irvine (5-2, 1-2 MPSF) vs. No. 3 BYU (3-1, 2-0 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday in Provo, Utah
Follow live: Live stats, Online video, In-match Tweets

What to know: The potential No. 1 versus No. 2 match-up that everyone dreamed about entering last weekend lost some of its pop as both teams are coming off recent losses. BYU last week blew a two-game lead against Lewis and lost in five games, but recovered the following night to sweep the Flyers to split the two-match series. UC Irvine enters this conference match on a two-match losing steak after losing to USC last week and then being upset on the road against Cal Baptist on Wednesday. This match will also feature two of the top outside attackers in the nation -- and the two preseason front-runners for the AVCA National Player of the Year. BYU outside attacker Taylor Sander through the first four matches leads BYU and is among the MPSF leaders with a 3.87 kills per game average. In addition, outside attacker Kevin Tillie coming off of an injury had a season-high 15 kills in UC Irvine's loss to Cal Baptist.

2. No. 2 Stanford (4-0, 1-0 MPSF) vs. No. 7 USC (1-1, 1-1 MPSF)
Match vitals: 6 p.m. Friday in Los Angeles

What to know: For the first time in the television network's history, a college men's volleyball match will air live on the Pac-12 Network as USC plays host to Stanford. The Stanford-USC match will be the first of eight regular season men's volleyball matches to air on the Pac-12 Network. Stanford enters this nationally televised match as the only undefeated team left in the MPSF. The Cardinal offense also has had more than a .300 attack percentage in all its matches this season.  In addition, Stanford freshman setter James Shaw is among the MPSF leaders with a 10.86 assists per game average. USC is holding opponents to a .200 attack percentage and is second in the conference averaging 3.83 blocks per game. Trojans middle attacker Robert Feathers earned AVCA National Players of the Week honors after having six blocks and a match-high 12 kills in USC's upset victory against UC Irvine last week.

3. No. 7 Penn State (2-1, 0-0 EIVA) vs. Lewis (1-4, 0-0 MIVA)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday in University Park, Pa.

What to know: The early season title of Best Team East of the Mississippi River will be decided with the winner of this non-conference match. Penn State plays its home opener after going 2-1 at the Outrigger Invitational last week with its only loss being in five games against UCLA. Middle attacker Aaron Russell also earned All-Tournament honors after leading the Nittany Lions with a 3.23 kills per game average. Lewis last weekend ended a three-match losing streak to open the season as it split a two-match non-conference series against BYU. Outside attacker Geoff Powell in Lewis' lone victory this season had a match-high 24 kills and a .767 attack percentage. The winner of this non-conference will also hold an advantage if both preseason conference favorites reach the Final Four. Among the selection committee's criteria used to determine seeding for the NCAA Tournament includes head-to-head record.

4. No. 5 UCLA (5-3, 1-1 MPSF) vs. No. 8 UC Santa Barbara (3-2, 1-1 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m.Friday  in Santa Barbara, Calif.

What to know: There is drama involving players on a Los Angeles team -- and it's not the Lakers. The Daily Bruin, the UCLA student-newspaper, reported Wednesday that coach John Speraw informed several UCLA starters to not even attend its home MPSF match against Long Beach State earlier this week after the players made decisions the coach described as not "in the best interest of this program." UCLA without its full lineup lost to Long Beach State in four games and has now lost back-to-back matches for the first time this season. This will be the second time that the Bruins and Gauchos have played each other this season. UCLA in its season opener rallied from a two-game deficit to defeat UC Santa Barbara in five games at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational. The Gauchos since that loss have won three of their last four matches. In addition, freshman setter Jonah Seif leads the MPSF with a 11.00 assists per game average.


5. No. 10 Cal State Northridge (2-1, 1-1 MPSF) vs. Grand Canyon (2-2, 0-0 MIVA)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday in Northridge, Calif.

What to know: Grand Canyon will attempt to get its first victory in program history against a MPSF school as it travels to play Cal State Northridge. The Antelopes since joining the MIVA in 2010 are on a 10-match losing streak against MPSF teams -- including a four-game loss against Stanford to open its season. Grand Canyon last weekend defeated NJIT and Sacred Heart to improve to .500. Middle attacker Ryan Mather leads the Antelopes with a 3.00 assists per game average and a .397 attack percentage. Cal State Northridge is on a two-match winning streak after losing to UCLA in its season opener last week. This will also be the first home non-conference match against a Division I-II team for Cal State Northridge since it lost to Harvard last year -- one of the Matadors' biggest upset losses in program history.
 

Friday, January 11, 2013

A Look at the Weekend - Jan. 11-13

Vinnie Lopes | 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.  He will be blogging for us all season highlighting the top five matches to follow for that weekend. For continued updates and analysis of the men's game, visit his website at offtheblockblog.com and follow him on Twitter @offtheblock11.



Less than two weeks into the season and there are several intriguing non-conference and conference matches this weekend.

Non-conference matches highlight the schedule with Lewis traveling to play No. 2 BYU and the Outrigger Invitational underway in Hawaii. However, not to be overlooked this weekend is a rematch of last season's NCAA championship match as No. 1 UC Irvine plays No. 6 USC.

Check out the top five men’s volleyball matches from around the nation to follow this weekend. Also for more on these matches and this weekend's results visit Off the Block at offtheblockblog.com.

1. No. 2 BYU (2-0, 2-0 MPSF) vs. No. 13 Lewis (0-3, 0-0 MIVA)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday in Provo, Utah

What to know: The top marquee non-conference match discussed during the preseason is here with the defending MIVA champions Lewis and BYU opening a two-match weekend series. BYU enters these matches after sweeping a two-match series against Hawai'i last week. In addition, BYU has not lost a non-conference match at Smith Fieldhouse in eight years. The hype around this Lewis-BYU series did lose some of its luster after the Flyers went 0-3 at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational last weekend to drop out of the top 10 of the national rankings. Despite the three losses, outside attacker Geoff Powell finished the tournament with a 4.08 kills per game average and earned MIVA Offensive Player of the Week honors. This non-conference series could also have implications at the end of the season during the selection process for the four-team NCAA Tournament. Among the criteria used by the selection committee to determine seeding and the lone at-large bid includes non-conference record, head-to-head record and record against teams under consideration for the NCAA Tournament.

2. No. 1 UC Irvine (5-0, 1-0 MPSF) vs. No. 6 USC (0-1, 0-1 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday in Irvine, Calif.

What to know: For the first time since meeting eight months ago in the NCAA championship match, UC Irvine and USC will play each other. The Anteaters opened the season on a five-match winning streak and are on an 11-match winning streak dating back to last season, including sweeping the Trojans to win the national title. In addition, UC Irvine last week won its second consecutive UC Santa Barbara Invitational, despite All-American outside attacker Kevin Tillie not having a single kill. Tillie returned to the court for UC Irvine's conference victory against No. 4 Pepperdine on Tuesday and finished with eight kills in the sweep. USC lost its season opener to UC San Diego in three games Thursday. The Trojans in the loss had a .112 attack percentage and did not have a player finish the match with double-digit kills.

3. No. 8 Penn State (0-1, 0-0 EIVA) vs. Hawai'i (0-3, 0-2 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday in Honolulu

What to know: One of the Warriors' top outside attacker for the first time will face the team he left as Hawai'i plays host to Penn State in the Outrigger Invitational. Hawai'i outside attacker Jace Olsen transferred in the off-season to the Warriors after he spendt two seasons with the Nittany Lions and earned All-EIVA honors as a freshman. The junior in his first three matches with Hawai'i has a 2.17 kills per game average, including 11 kills in Hawai'i's tournament opener against Ohio State. Penn State enters the second day of the tournament after losing to UCLA in five games on Thursday. Penn State middle attacker Aaron Russell in the loss had a team-high 12 kills, while middle attacker Matt Seifert added nine kills and led Penn State with a .533 attack percentage.

4. No. 5 UCLA (4-1, 1-0 MPSF) vs. No. 10 Ohio State (2-0, 0-0 MIVA)
Match vitals: 4 p.m. Friday in Honolulu

What to know: Anyone want to go out on a limb and say this match will go five games. The Bruins' first five matches this season have all gone to a decisive fifth game, including UCLA's victory against Penn State on Thursday to open the Outrigger Invitational. UCLA outside attacker Robart Page in the tournament victory had a match-high 17 kills. This was also the third consecutive match that Page led the Bruins in kills. In addition, outside attacker Dane Worley had a season-high five aces against Penn State. Ohio State in its tournament opener defeated Hawai'i in five games and at one point had a .889 attack percentage late in the decisive fifth game. Outside attacker Andrew Lutz had a career-high 20 kills against Hawai'i. The victory also snapped Ohio State's six match losing streak at the Outrigger Invitational dating back to 2009.

5. No. 4 Pepperdine (0-1, 0-1 MPSF) vs. No. 14 UC San Diego (2-2, 1-0 MPSF)
Match vitals: 1 p.m. Saturday in San Diego

What to know: After starting the season unranked, UC San Diego will attempt to get its third victory in a nine-day span against a top 10 nationally ranked team. UC San Diego will play host to Pepperdine following its three-game upset victory against No. 6 USC on Thursday. Outside attacker Carl Eberts leads the Tritons with a 3.44 kills per game average, including a match-high 16 kills against USC. Eberts also had a team-high 16 kills in UC San Diego's season opening victory against then-No. 5 Lewis last week. Pepperdine enters this conference match after losing to UC Irvine in its season opener earlier this week. The Waves in the loss were out-hit .405 to .213.