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Tachi vs. Molten

It's a classic battle of old school vs. new school when choosing between the Tachikara and the Molten.

Volleyball Spotlight10

Snow Volleyball Aims for Legitimacy

Wednesday April 16, 2014

I'll admit, I'm having a hard time picturing what a game of snow volleyball would look like. Volleyball being played in the heavy powder while skiers whiz by? Hmmm. It appears that the sport is gaining a bit of momentum as the proponents begin to get more organized.

While it was once just a casual occurrence, there is now an organized annual tournament held in the Alps that started in 2009 and now has multiple stops in Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland. The tournament is starting to draw top tier sand players including a few Olympians and world champs. The organizers have their sights set on eventual inclusion in the Winter Olympic Games. With some of the more obscure sports in the world showing up in the Olympics it doesn't seem out of the question. But they'd have to increase participation in order to be considered.

I can't imagine the level of play being incredibly high on snow. Players say they slip a lot, which makes sense. And depending on the condition of the snow, it could be even harder to jump out of than sand. The players wear snow boots, which can't be helpful. Do they also wear gloves? And does that hinder their ability to set and get a nice touch on the ball?

If snow volleyball had been included in the 2014 Games in Sochi, they would have been victim to the constantly changing snow conditions as all the other athletes complained of back in February. Sand volleyball players have different sand conditions from beach to beach, but imagine if the surface conditions changed from day to day, hour to hour.

I suppose it could be nice off-season training for sand players who want to give it a go. But I can't see it ever drawing a huge crowd. I have yet to see video of this new sport and I really think I need to see it to believe it.

Could such a thing catch on? If it did, would you watch?

NCAA Men: Can BYU Overcome Late Season Struggles?

Wednesday April 16, 2014

After a stellar 2014 season at the top of the MPSF and in the top three of the national rankings for the last eight weeks, the Cougars hit a speed bump at season's end. Last weekend they lost both of their matches in four sets to UC Santa Barbara and UCLA. Add that to the two losses in Hawaii the week before and BYU is going into the playoffs on a four match losing streak. They fell to No. 4 for the first time since early February. Not ideal.

BYU hit just .194 against Santa Barbara with leading hitter Taylor Sander only managing a .139 percentage. They hit a little better against UCLA with a .269 hitting percentage, but Sander still struggled at .111. Even with the losses they finished first in the MPSF, but now they'll share that ranking with Pepperdine as both teams have 18-6 records. Pepperdine won both its matches against Hawaii over the weekend in three and four sets. If BYU is to have a chance in this year's tightly contested west coast field, they need to step it up immediately.

Now we finally know for sure who will enter the Conference tournament and Hawaii is the odd man out. The losses to Pepperdine this weekend put USC one game ahead of them and into the last spot in the playoffs. Now USC will head to BYU for the conference quarterfinals to see if they can keep the upsets going over the Cougars.

It's a tough ask for the Trojans but they did manage to take the Cougars to five sets in their first meeting back in early February. They lost to BYU in three when they played in Provo last month. Pepperdine will face Long Beach in the quarterfinal. Same deal - the 49ers took Pepperdine to five sets in their first meeting as well, but lost in three in Malibu last month.

I expect those two matches to go according to plan with BYU and Pepperdine surviving to play another day. But the other two matches in the MPSF Quarters are toss ups. Stanford will host UCI and UCLA will head up to Santa Barbara. This is the second meeting in two weekends for Stanford and UCI.

The Anteaters just barely lost a squeaker in five sets up in Palo Alto on Friday night. Stanford won the first meeting easily in three back in February. Though UCI had a mediocre season by recent standards, one should never underestimate the two-time defending champs. The Anteaters have a knack for turning it on when it counts. And don't forget how difficult it is to beat a team three times in a season. UCLA beat Santa Barbara in three back in January, but fell to the Gauchos in three sets in early March.

The MIVA tournament begins on Thursday and the match ups are below. National No. 1 Loyola-Chicago should have no problem taking that title, they are 14-0 in conference. The EIVA tournament does not begin until next weekend. And the newcomers in Conference Carolinas will hold the championship match tonight featuring Erskine and Mount Olive.

Here are the rest of this week's matches to watch.

Matches to Watch:

Wednesday, April 16th

Conference Carolinas Championship
Mount Olive @ Erskine

Thursday, April 17th

MIVA Quarterfinals
Quincy @ Loyola Chicago

Friday, April 18th

MIVA Quarterfinals
Grand Canyon @ Lewis
Lindenwood @ Ball State

Saturday, April 19th

MPSF Quarterfinals
Long Beach @ Pepperdine 
UCI @ Stanford 

MIVA Quarterfinals
Ohio State @ IPFW

Upcoming: EIVA Semifinals April 24th & 26th

NCAA Men: Hawaii Upsets BYU Twice, MPSF Dogfight Continues

Wednesday April 9, 2014

Well, I didn't see this one coming. But last weekend was a huge one for Hawaii, who hosted BYU for two matches and managed to win both. The first was a five set match in which the Cougars won the first two sets but couldn't finish the job once Hawaii caught fire and took the next three.

The 'Bows won the second match in a quick three sets. Though the first set was a marathon that ended at 37-35, they seemed to break BYU's spirit after that and won the second two rather easily 25-20 and 25-19.  With these big wins, Hawaii launched itself into the final spot in the MPSF Conference tournament with one weekend of play remaining.

Hawaii is tin a three-way tie for the last spot with Long Beach and UCLA. USC is sitting in ninth place, just one match outside of the playoffs. Stanford has gone from out of the tournament to clinching a spot in the last three weeks. After an undefeated March, the Cardinal is now in third place in the MPSF. Despite the two losses, BYU is still in first place, two matches ahead of Pepperdine.

The last week of play will make or break the finalists. Hawaii has two tough matches left, both against No. 2 Pepperdine. UCLA has No. 3 BYU on the schedule this week and Long Beach has two matches against No. 15 Northridge, who finds itself back in the AVCA poll's top 15 after six weeks unranked. Northridge also had an incredible weekend, beating UCLA in five and Santa Barbara in four. Long Beach shouldn't underestimate these guys.

UCI and UCSB are tied for fourth in the MPSF, just one game in front of the last three qualifiers. UCI still has to face Stanford and Santa Barbara will be up against BYU in Provo so keep an eye on those key match ups.

Northridge is out of the running for the Conference tourney as they are four games out of the final spot. But they can finish strong by beating the 49ers this weekend. Here are the rest of this week's matches to watch:

Matches to Watch:

Thursday, April 10th
No. 15 CSUN @ No. 7 Long Beach

Friday, April 11th
No. 1 Loyola Chicago @ Ohio State 
No. 9 Hawaii @ No. 2 Pepperdine 
No. 3 BYU @ No. 5 UC Santa Barbara 
No. 4 Stanford @ No. 6 UCI

Saturday, April 12th
No. 9 Hawaii @ No. 2 Pepperdine 
No. 3 BYU @ No. 10 UCLA 
No. 7 Long Beach @ No. 15 CSUN

USA Beach Volleyball Qualifier Showcases New Teams

Wednesday April 2, 2014

It went on without much fanfare, but last weekend USAV held a qualifier for the fourth USA spot in the first FIVB Tour event of the season in Shanghai. There's been a bit of a shake up in partnerships as usual over the winter break and so some new teams now need to bolster their international points in order to be included among the automatic qualifiers.

The top three teams of both genders qualified on points. So on the women's side that means April Ross & Kerri Walsh Jennings, Lauren Fendrick & Brooke Sweat and Emily Day & Summer Ross qualified automatically. On the men's side it was Jake Gibb & Casey Patterson, Phil Dalhausser & Sean Rosenthal and Ryan Doherty & Nick Lucena who were automatic qualifiers.

That left the best of the rest to fight it out for the last spot. In the end, John Hyden & Tri Bourne took the spot on the men's side and Brittany Hochevar & Lane Carico will compete in Shanghai for the women. Hyden and Bourne were seeded fourth of the four teams competing, but beat No. 1 seed Todd Rogers & Theo Brunner and No. 2 Will Montgomery and Stafford Slick in two sets each. John Mayer and Brad Keenan were seeded third but lost in two sets to Montgomery and Slick.

On the women's side, No. 2 Hochevar & Carico defeated No. 3 Heather Hughes & Christal Engle and No. 1 Jennifer Fopma & Whitney Pavlik each in two sets. Sarah Day and Allison Daley were defeated in three sets by Fopma & Pavlik.

The Shanghai event officially opens the 2014 pro beach volleyball season on April 29th and runs through May 4th.

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