2018 was a year of firsts for men’s volleyball in the Big West Conference. With the addition of men’s volleyball to the conference’s sponsorship, bringing in a 6-team league, almost everything that happened in the conference was a first.
The first official Big West Conference game came on February 23rd, when UC Irvine travelled to Hawaii for a Friday-Sunday double-header. Hawaii became the first team to win a Big West Conference game when they won 3-1 in the first match; UC Irvine became the first team to avenge a conference loss when they won 3-1 two days later.
Long Beach State became the first host of the first Big West Conference tournament from April 19th-21st. UC Irvine got another firsst in their column when they swept UCSD 3-0 for the first conference tournament win, and sweep, in Big West history. Two days later, Long Beach State swept Hawaii 3-0 to be the first Big West Conference Champion and earn the first automatic bid (and #1 seed) to the NCAA Tournament.
A few days later, Hawaii became the conference’s first team to be hosed out of a bid to the NCAA Tournament (according to their fans), although it was in favor of another conference team, UC Irvine, who did get in in spite of losing to Hawaii 3-1 in the conference semi-finals.
Irvine, in turn, became the first team to play in the NCAA tournament, when they lost 3-2 to Ohio State in the quarterfinals on May 1st, and Long Beach State got the conference’s first and second wins on May 3rd and May 5th, respectively, when they took the conference’s first national title over former MPSF foes UCLA.
And all of those firsts added up to a year “far beyond” expectations for Big West commissioner Dennis Farrell, who is serving in his 26th year leading the conference.
“Any team NCAA championship is important in my eyes and while I felt this first year of Big West men’s volleyball was already successful, Long Beach’s victory put a capstone on it,” Farrell told VolleyMob on Tuesday, in the afterglow of LBSU’s first national title since 1991. “While we were sure that we (the Big West) would be a force in men’s volleyball, this year went far beyond my expectations. To have as many teams ranked in the top five, top ten, and top 15 all season long was phenomenal.”
When asked whether the Big West would do it all over again if they had the choice, Farrell responded with an emphatic yes, saying that the national title helps lift the brand of the conference. “Absolutely we would make the decision to bring men’s volleyball under the Big West banner if we had it to do over again. Any sport in which we legitimately compete for national championships serves to heighten the public’s awareness of the Big West Conference brand.”
5 of the conference’s 6 teams finished ranked in the top 12 of the final edition of the men’s VolleyMob Power Rankings: more than any other conference. The MPSF, the conference from which the Big West teams split, had 3, and the MIVA had 4.
Big West Teams in the final 2018 VolleyMob.com Power Rankings
1. LBSU (28-1, conference/national champions)
4. Hawaii (19-8, conference finals)
6. UC Irvine (21-10, conference semi-finals/national quarterfinals)
10. CSUN (16-11, conference semi-finals)
12. UCSB (11-13, conference quarterfinals)
Not Ranked: UCSD (9-19, conference quarterfinals)