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Volleyball Spotlight10

NCAA Men: Conference Tournament Action Begins Tonight

Wednesday April 23, 2014

Starting tonight and running through this Saturday night, the top four teams in the three big conferences will compete for each's conference championship. When it is all over, we'll see who's still standing and finally find out which teams the committee deems worthy to move on to the play-in matches and the national semifinals.

In Provo, No. 1 BYU will host No. 2 Pepperdine, No. 3 Stanford and No. 4 Santa Barbara. In Happy Valley, No. 1 Penn State will host No. 2 Harvard, No. 3 Princeton and No. 4 George Mason. And in the MIVA, national No. 1 Loyola Chicago will host No. 4 IPFW and No. 2 Lewis will host No. 3 Ball State.

Both the MIVA and MPSF held quarterfinal matches last weekend and each of the top four seeds managed to live to play another day. Though some of the matches were not easy ones in the MPSF. It was not the same story in the Midwest. All four of the MIVA quarterfinal matches were over in three sets. Now things should really heat up as they take each other on for all the marbles.

EIVA did not hold quarterfinals so the top four teams will begin this weekend with the semifinal matches at Penn State. Conference Carolinas has already crowned its champion as Erskine won the title last week with a 3-0 victory over Mount Olive.

Check out the rest of your matches to watch for this week.

Matches to Watch

MIVA Semifinals

Wednesday, April 23rd
No. 3 Ball State @ No. 2 Lewis
No. 4 IPFW @ No. 1 Loyola Chicago

MIVA Championships - @ Highest Remaining Seed
Saturday, April 26th

MPSF Semifinals - @ BYU

Thursday, April 24th
No. 2 Pepperdine vs. No. 3 Stanford
No. 1 BYU vs. No. 4 UC Santa Barbara

MPSF Final - @ BYU
Saturday, April 26th

EIVA Semifinals - @ Penn State

Thursday, April 24th
No. 2 Harvard vs. No. 3 Princeton
No. 1 Penn State vs. No. 4 George Mason

EIVA Championship - @ Penn State
Saturday, April 26th

Teams Set for NCAA Sand Championships

Wednesday April 23, 2014

The 2014 NCAA Sand Volleyball championships will kick off next weekend and the AVCA announced the participants this week. There will be no repeat winner as last year's champion Long Beach State will not be competing in the playoffs.

Pepperdine, the 2012 national champion and 2013 runner up will be there along with this year's No. 1 team in the nation, USC. Joining them will be Florida State, Hawaii, Florida International and Stetson.

The playoffs will take place  May 2-4 and will begin with the team tournament followed by the pairs tournament in Gulf Shores, AL. Long Beach will have a shot at the pairs championships as they were among the 16 pairs chosen for that competition. The top pairs from the team competition will also compete along with pairs from the University of North Florida, Grand Canyon University, the University of Louisiana Monroe, Jacksonville University, Saint Mary's College of California, Loyola Marymount University, Tulane and UAB.

CBS Sports Network will broadcast portions of the team competition in a two-hour window that will air three times - Monday 5/26 4 PM PT, Friday 5/30 4:30 PM PT and Monday 6/2 4 PM PT. The semifinals and the championship matches in the pairs competition will also air on CBS Sports Network. Check your local listings.

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

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