Thursday, March 27, 2014

Vinnie's Top-5 Previews + Predictions


by Vinnie Lopes, editor of Off the Block that focuses on men's volleyball news and analysis.  He will be blogging for us all season previewing and predicting the top matches each week. For continued updates and analysis of the men's game, visit his website at offtheblockblog.com and follow him on Twitter @offtheblock11 and @vinnielopes.



The next 72 hours in college men's volleyball will go a long way to not only determine the conference tournament seeding but more importantly the race for the two at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament.

No. 2 BYU will attempt to remain perfect at home this season and move one step closer to winning the MPSF regular season championship as it plays host to No. 5 UC Santa Barbara. In addition, out in the Midwest, Ball State wants to make its case for at-large bid by trying to get monumental upset victory against No. 1 Loyola.

Check out what to know and the predictions for the top college men's volleyball matches this weekend.

TO KNOW

Ball State Athletics
Player: Eddie Rivera, IPFW -- Rivera had a season-high five aces and led IPFW with a 12 kills in a sweep against Grand Canyon last week. The senior is also among the top 15 in the MIVA with both a 2.97 kills per game average and a 1.91 digs per game average.
Coach: Joel Walton, Ball State -- Walton earned his 300th career victory last week as Ball State defeated NJIT in non-conference play.
Stat: Penn State has one conference loss so far this season and has remaining matches against Princeton and Harvard, which are both tied for second place. However, the Nittany Lions have not lost two EIVA matches in a single season since 1992.


THE MATCHES

No. 2 BYU (16-4, 16-2) vs. No. 5 UC Santa Barbara (13-6, 12-6 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday in Provo, Utah
What to know: UC Santa Barbara is one of the last two teams in conference play to beat BYU on its home court. The only problem for the Gauchos with that stat is the victory came more than two years ago. BYU enters its final home weekend of the regular season on a 21-match home winning streak and has won 35 of its 36 conference matches at Smith Fieldhouse since losing to UC Santa Barbara in 2012. Along with its success at home, BYU All-American outside attacker Taylor Sander is second in the nation with a 4.59 kills per game average. The senior last week also set the BYU career record for kills during the rally scoring era. UC Santa Barbara, though, enters this match holding opponents to a conference-best .223 attack percentage. In addition, the Gauchos are tied for third place in the MPSF and four matches behind the first-place Cougars. BYU with six conference matches remaining needs to win three matches to clinch its second consecutive MPSF regular season title and home-court advantage throughout the MPSF Tournament.

Prediction:
BYU def. UC Santa Barbara in four games

Hector Garcia-Molina/
StanfordPhoto.com
No. 6 Stanford (14-7, 11-7 MPSF) vs. No. 7 USC (14-8, 13-8 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Thursday in Palo Alto, Calif.
What to know: Two of the nation's top setters and potential front-runners for the inaugural Lloy Ball Award will be go up against each in a pivotal late-season conference match. All-American setter Micah Christenson is leading the nation with a 11.82 assists per game average and most recently had a match-high 53 assists to help USC upset then-No. 2 Long Beach State last week. Stanford setter James Shaw is among the nation's top five averaging 10.94 assists per game. Shaw earlier this month also earned the Sports Imports/AVCA National Player of the Week after leading Stanford to a rally-scoring era record .527 attack percentage in a sweep against USC. Both teams also enter this conference match needing a victory to improve its postseason seeding and remain in contention for a possible at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Cardinal is coming off of its bye week on a five-match winning streak and in a tie for sixth place in the MPSF. However, the Trojans are on a three-match winning streak and have a half-match lead over the Cardinal for fifth place.

Prediction:
Stanford def. USC in five games

No. 1 Loyola (19-1, 9-0 MIVA) vs. No. 12 Ball State (17-5, 6-2 MIVA)
Breanna Daugherty
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Thursday in Chicago
What to know: Ball State has a chance to pull off one of its biggest upsets in program history, but in order to achieve that feat it will have to accomplish two things it hasn't done since 1990s. The Cardinals enter this conference match having not won on the road against the Ramblers since 1999 and their last victory against a No. 1 ranked team coming in 1995. This match will also feature the two teams with longest active winning streaks in the nation. Loyola is on a program-record 17-match winning streak and has not lost since the opening week of the season, while Ball State enters on a 10-match winning streak. In addition, Ball State is coming off of a four-game victory against conference rival Ohio State on Sunday to remain in second place in the MIVA and move to 2.5 matches behind first-place Loyola. All-American middle attacker Kevin Owen in that victory finished with a season-high 16 kills and a .800 attack percentage. Loyola is leading the nation with a .382 attack percentage, including hitting above that season average in a four-game road victory against the Cardinals earlier this season.

Prediction:
Loyola def. Ball State in five games

No. 13 Penn State (15-5, 6-1 EIVA) vs. Princeton (12-7, 7-2 EIVA)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday in University Park, Pa.
What to know: Coach Mark Pavlik said during his weekly news conference Monday that his team isn't viewing its upcoming match against Princeton as a chance to avenge an early-season loss to the Tigers. Instead, the coach said the home match more importantly is a must-win for Penn State to remain in control of its own fate in the EIVA regular season title race. Penn State is in first place in the EIVA but both Princeton and Harvard are within one match of the Nittany Lions. In addition, Penn State enters this match after upsetting No. 10 Lewis on the road last week. Outside attacker Aaron Russell also leads the conference with a 3.95 kills per game average, including having a season-high 22 kills in the victory against the Flyers. Princeton is on a five-match winning streak and has not lost a road match since early February.  In addition, outside attacker Devin Stearns has at least 15 kills in the Tigers' last two matches and led Princeton with 18 kills in the victory against the Nittany Lions earlier this season.

Prediction:
Princeton def. Penn State in five games

Highlights from Princeton's win over Penn State earlier this season:



No. 4 Long Beach State (15-6, 12-6 MPSF) vs. No. 8 UC Irvine (15-9, 12-8 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday in Irvine, Calif.
What to know:  After UC Irvine narrowly beat it out for the NCAA Tournament at-large bid last season, Long Beach State has a chance to squash any realistic shot the Anteaters have at an at-large bid this season. The defending NCAA Tournament champions UC Irvine is in eighth place in the MPSF and is in the race for one of two at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. However, UC Irvine has won six of its last seven matches, including a four-game victory against Cal State Northridge on Wednesday. Long Beach State, sitting in third place in the MPSF, is in prime position to earn an at-large bid but has lost its last two matches. In addition, Long Beach State in both of its losses to Pepperdine and USC last week was held to less than a .200 attack percentage. All-American Outside attacker Taylor Crabb in the two losses also was the only 49er to finish with double-digit kills.

Prediction:
UC Irvine def. Long Beach State in five games

Friday, March 21, 2014

Tough Swings Volleyball Spiking Drill with Wes Schneider of Cal Baptist

by Andor Gyulai, Founder and Owner of Volleyball 1 on 1


This week we want to share a new drill from our AVCA Video Tip of the Week called Tough Swings Drill. Wes Schneider uses this drill to get his team ready for tough matches where his competitors have big blockers. The drill forces the players to be smart and not just go up and blindly hit. But rather make shots, tool the block and make higher percentage shots that put the defense in trouble.  Click Here for more spiking drills.



This is just 1 of 28 videos Volleyball1on1 filmed with Wes Schneider coaching. Others videos in the series include:

- Advice on Coaching
- Advice for Players looking to play in college or pro
- Video from the full volleyball practice plan
- Other 6 on 6 drills fast action drills
- More fun team building drills
- Conversations from the office
- Full tour of the campus offering insights on the volleyball program
- Plus much more…

Volleyball1on1 produced and filmed these videos with Wes Schneider as part of the AVCA Video Tip of the Week. Visit Volleyball1on1.com to access their full library of almost 2000 volleyball coaching videos, drills and practice plans for beach and indoor volleyball. Also contact Andor Gyulai directly if you are interested in filming videos and drills for the AVCA with Volleyball1on1.com – andor@volleyball1on1.com

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Vinnie's Top-5 Previews + Predictions



by Vinnie Lopes, editor of Off the Block that focuses on men's volleyball news and analysis.  He will be blogging for us all season previewing and predicting the top matches each week. For continued updates and analysis of the men's game, visit his website at offtheblockblog.com and follow him on Twitter @offtheblock11 and @vinnielopes.



A conference match with huge NCAA Tournament implications highlights this week's slate as No. 2 Pepperdine plays host to No. 2 Long Beach State. In addition, out in the Midwest, No. 1 Loyola will attempt to extend its nation-best 15 winning streak as it plays a non-conference match against No. 14 Penn State. 

Check out what to know and the predictions for the top college men's volleyball matches this week.

TO KNOW

Pepperdine Athletics
Player: Matt Tarantino, Pepperdine middle attacker -- Tarantino had 12 kills on a career-high .750 attack percentage in a road victory against then-No. 7 UCLA last week. In addition, the sophomore was named the Sports Imports/AVCA National Player of the Week on Tuesday.

Coach: Jeff Campbell, Cal State Northridge -- Campbell picked up his 250th career victory during the weekend with a five-game non-conference victory against Ohio State.

Stat: Erskine upset Cal Baptist in five games on Saturday to become the first Conference Carolinas team to defeat a school from the powerhouse MPSF. This was also the only regular season meeting between the two conferences scheduled for this season.

THE MATCHES

No. 2 Long Beach State (15-4, 12-4 MPSF) vs. No. 4 Pepperdine (12-5, 12-5 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Thursday in Malibu, Calif.
LBSU Athletics
What to know: Two of the top outside attackers in the nation will go up against each other as Pepperdine and Long Beach State meet in a match crucial to the MPSF standings and the NCAA Tournament at-large bid race. Long Beach State outside attacker Taylor Crabb leads the nation with a 4.96 kills per game average. In addition, Crabb has at least 20 kills in six of the last seven 49ers' matches that have gone beyond the minimum three games, including a team-high 24 kills in a five-game victory against the Waves in January. Pepperdine outside attacker Josh Taylor is fourth in the nation with a 4.14 kills per game average and had a match-high 22 kills in a five-game victory against then-No. 4 UC Santa Barbara last week. Long Beach State and Pepperdine are also both in the race for the two at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament. The 49ers enter this conference match with a half-match lead over the Waves for second place in the MPSF. In addition, among the criteria the NCAA selection committee uses to determine the seeding and at-large bids includes head-to-head record and record against other teams under consideration.

Prediction: Pepperdine def. Long Beach State in five games

No. 1 Loyola (17-1, 9-0 MIVA) vs. No. 14 Penn State (14-4, 6-1 EIVA)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday in Chicago
What to know: Loyola will get its biggest non-conference test since the season's opening weeks as it plays host to Penn State. The Ramblers are on a nation-best 15-match winning streak, and the team defeated its conference-rival No. 10 Lewis on Tuesday to expand its first-place lead in the MIVA. However, Loyola has lost its last three matches against Penn State dating back to 2011. It also will be the first non-conference match for Loyola against a nationally ranked team since playing Harvard in January. The Nittany Lions begin their weekend Midwest road trip after splitting their matches last week at the Active Ankle Tournament. Penn State swept Cal State Northridge before losing to the tournament-host No. 2 Long Beach State for its third loss in its last four road matches. This match will also feature two of the servers in the nation. Loyola All-American outside attacker Joseph Smalzer leads the MIVA with a 0.75 aces per game average, while Penn State outside attacker Aaron Russell has an EIVA-best 0.52 aces per game average. Penn State coach Mark Pavlik also said in an interview with Off the Block earlier this week that the Nittany Lions' ability to upset the Ramblers will come down to controlling the serving game.

Prediction: Loyola def. Penn State in five games

Penn State Head Coach Mark Pavlik is on a three-match winning streak against Loyola.

No. 7 USC (12-8, 11-8 MPSF) vs. Cal State Northridge (7-12, 6-10 MPSF)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Friday in Los Angeles
What to know: There will be a throwback feel to this USC home match. The Trojans forced out of their traditional homecourt of the Galen Center this weekend because of a scheduling conflict will play this conference match against the Matadors at the historic North Gym. With a seating capacity of 1,000, North Gym was the original home of the Trojans in 1970 and except for a seven-year stretch remained the team's permanent playing venue until 2002. USC enters this conference match tied for seventh place in the MPSF after defeating its rival then-No. 6 UCLA on Sunday. Freshman outside attacker Lucas Yoder had a match-high 20 kills in the victory and was named the Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. National Freshman of the Week. The Trojans are also on a three-match winning streak playing at North Gym because of scheduling conflicts dating back to 2012. Cal State Northridge is in 10th place in the MPSF and 3.5 matches behind USC and No. 8 UC irvine for the final postseason berth to the conference tournament.
 
Prediction: USC def. Cal State Northridge in four games

The North Gym circa 1982 with All-American John Hedlund set to serve. Photo courtesy USC Athletics.

No. 12 Ball State (15-5, 5-2 MIVA) vs. No. 15 Ohio State (8-12, 4-5 MIVA)
Match vitals: 4 p.m. Sunday in Muncie, Ind.
What to know: One of the oldest rivals in college volleyball spanning more than 50 years will be renewed with both Ball State and Ohio State desperately needing a win for completely different reasons. The Cardinals behind a season-high eight-match winning streak that started with a road victory against the Buckeyes last month have jumped to second place in the MIVA. In addition, Ball State in the latest Off the Block bracketology was projected as on of the last four-teams out in the race for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. However, the Cardinals can't afford many more losses, if any, if they want to remain in contention for an at-large. Ohio State is on a four-match losing streak, including consecutive five-game losses to No. 2 Long Beach State, Cal State Northridge and Harvard. The Buckeyes are also in fifth place in the MIVA and win-less against top-four teams in the conference so far this season. In addition, Ohio State is attempt to avoid becoming the first Buckeyes' team since 1961 to finish outside the top four of the MIVA standings.

Prediction: Ball State def. Ohio State in five games

Barton (7-14, 3-6 CC) vs. King (8-15, 3-7 CC)
Match vitals: 7 p.m. Frdiay in Bristol, Tenn. 
Barton Athletics
What to know: Two teams that have never reached the postseason and are fighting for the final spot to the Conference Carolinas Tournament will meet in a pivotal match as King plays host to Barton. Barton in its second year under head coach Jeff Lennox has a half-match lead on King for sixth place and the final berth to the conference tournament. In addition, Barton after having two combined wins in the program's first two seasons has already more than tripled that win total this season. Outside attacker Zach McCalla leads the Bulldogs and is among the conference leaders with a 3.61 kills per game average, including having a team-high 21 kills in a four-game loss to Princeton on Wednesday. King enters on a three-match losing streak. However, outside attackers Nick Serowski and Eddie Moushikhian are both in the nation's top 10 for kills per game average.
Prediction; Barton def. King in five games


Prediction: Barton def. King in five games