The first week of the Men’s season is in the books and every team in the newly formed Big West conference got their 2018 year underway with multiple matches.
Regardless of being a brand new league, the Big West is likely the best conference in the country already as all six of the teams are ranked in the VolleyMob Top 20 with four of the six slotting in the top 10 of the country. That should make for a wild conference season, but for now they will look to keep flexing their muscles against non-conference competition.
Below is analysis as well as the weekly Big West table and awards as we hit the second week of the regular season:
Big West Table:
|#2 UC Irvine||0-0||2-0|
- UC Irvine junior RS Karl Apfelbach earned VolleyMob National Player of the Week
- UCSD senior RS Tanner Syftestad earned Honorable Mention VolleyMob National Player of the Week
- CSUN senior RS Arvis Greene earned Honorable Mention VolleyMob National Player of the Week
- Hawaii junior S Joe Worsley earned Honorable Mention VolleyMob National Player of the Week
- Big West Weekly Awards
Matches of the Week:
- Jan. 10: #2 UC Irvine at #4 UCLA
- Jan. 12: #1 LBSU at #9 Lewis
- Jan. 12: #13 USC at #2 UC Irvine
- Jan. 13: #1 LBSU at #5 Loyola Chicago
- Jan. 14: #2 UC Irvine at #11 Pepperdine
- #1 Long Beach State 49ers
Beach impressed in the opening week of the season by going 4-0 and leapfrogged their way to the top spot in the VolleyMob Top 20 Rankings. It’s not just the quantity of wins, but they got some quality with sweeps of then #15/now #17 Princeton and then (RV)/now #15 Saint Francis. Even in playing some tough competition, they are hitting .418 as the offense was clicking. They found balance with five players averaging 2+ kills per set and obviously have a star in TJ DeFalco, the reigning National Player of the Year who leads the team in kills, digs and hitting percentage. They haven’t shown any issues yet, but that will be tested this week with two top 10 road bouts.
- #2 UC Irvine Anteaters
It was known before the season that Long Beach State would be a MPSF and National Championship contender, but who knew UC Irvine would jump to #2 this early in the season? That puts these two on a collision course in the league – and maybe even for some NCAA postseason play. The Anteaters jumped from #8 to #2 in our rankings with a sweep over then #5/now #9 Lewis and a four-setter over then #12/now #5 Loyola Chicago. Their next three come against ranked teams too, but if Apfelbach continues his strong play to pair with sophomore Scott Stadick leading the block and a great defense, the Anteaters should continue to thrive.
- #7 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Long Beach and UC Irvine took the headlines, but this Hawaii team looks really good through a week of play. Two wins vs. lesser competition didn’t mean much, but a sweep over #13 USC where the average set score was 25 to 19.7 looks very impressive for the Bows. They did it with impressive offense and blocking, as the pin players for Hawaii can match up with anyone in the country. They have plenty of other talent throughout the roster too, which contributed to a .479 night against the Trojans in the win.
- #8 Cal State Northridge Matadors
CSUN has all kinds of depth throughout the roster this year and a star to pair with Greene leading the way. They didn’t have a ton of opportunities to show how good the floor defense is, but that was because of how strong they were in terminating points. Offensively they hit .372 on 12.40 kills per set which came with 2.30 aces per set and 2.85 blocks per set – summing up to be 17.6 points per set (second in the Big West and only behind Hawaii). It came against solid competition too with highlight wins over ranked Princeton and Saint Francis teams.
- #16 UC Santa Barbara Gauchos & #19 UC San Diego Tritons
Both of these teams didn’t see huge rises in the rankings, but moved up two spots in UCSB’s case and one in UCSD’s. The fact that they are the lowest ranked teams in the conference shows the gluttony of talent the league possesses. They’ll both need to find more deadliness on offense to compete with the top four, but it was a good start for two programs looking to prove they belong in the conversation s well.