Is UCLA the New League Favorite? MPSF Update (Week 2)

  0 Derek Johnson | January 10th, 2018 | College - Men's Indoor, MPSF

The first week of the Men’s season is in the books, and while two teams in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) were idle, the league provided many early season reactions.

In total, the conference boasts six teams ranked in the VolleyMob Top 20, with five in the top 15 and two in the top six. Even with the Big West starting up and vulturing plenty of top-ranked teams from the MPSF, it remains one of the best two leagues out there.

Below is analysis as well as the weekly MPSF table and awards as we hit the second week of the regular season:

MPSF Table:

#4 UCLA 0-0 3-0
#14 Grand Canyon 0-0 3-0
#11 Pepperdine 0-0 1-0
#13 USC 0-0 3-1
#6 BYU 0-0 1-1
Concordia Irvine 0-0 0-0
#18 Stanford 0-0 0-3

Weekly Honors:

Matches of the Week:

  • Jan. 10: #2 UC Irvine at #4 UCLA
  • Jan. 12: #6 BYU at #12 Ball State
  • Jan. 12: #13 USC at #2 UC Irvine
  • Jan. 13: #6 BYU at #3 Ohio State
  • Jan. 14: #2 UC Irvine at #11 Pepperdine

Early-Season Success

  • #4 UCLA Bruins, 3-0 (0-0, MPSF)

The Bruins were one of two teams to make it out of actual play unbeaten in the conference, as with BYU’s loss they are now the highest ranked team in the league. It wouldn’t be a stretch to wonder if they are the new conference favorite now, as they were #4 in the preseason with BYU at #3, meaning the two are very close in perception.

What made UCLA’s opening week so impressive wasn’t who they played, but how they won the matches. None came against ranked opponents, but they won all nine sets of action with an average score of 25.4 to 19.2. They did it with a balanced offense that is hitting .379 (five individuals hitting over .300) and a strong defense that starts with a powerful serve. If they can maintain their high ace numbers against better competition, they could very well be the MPSF favorite led by Jake Arnitz (4.62 points per set).

  • #14 Grand Canyon Lopes, 3-0 (0-0, MPSF)

The Lopes moved up from 16 to 14 in the latest VolleyMob Top 20 with a 3-0 start after all three wins came over ranked opponents. None of them were ranked in the top 15, but it was still three quality victories over Barton and George Mason twice – with the full trio coming on the road.

The Lopes have plenty of experience this season with three of their four players who started all three matches owning senior classification – two in their fifth year. Of the eight players to start so far, all but one are upperclassmen too. Besides the growth of Cody Williams and Shalev Saada thus far, Grand Canyon has to feel good that another option is establishing itself in junior Will Schwob, who is leading the team at 3.75 kills per set (while hitting .349 with 0.83 digs/0.50 blocks per set) after he played in just 13 matches (three starts) and logged 1.61 kills per set last season.

Not Much to Go Off of

  • #11 Pepperdine Waves, 1-0 (0-0, MPSF)

Pepperdine comes into the season as a strong looking team in the conference with dark horse potential to sneak ahead of team’s like UCLA and BYU. Unfortunately, the Waves had just a one-match week against lesser competition, so not a lot was shown. On the bright side they didn’t show any bugaboos and rank near the top of most team stats in the MPSF early on.

Ups-And-Downs vs. Tough Competition

  • #13 USC Trojans, 3-1 (0-0, MPSF)

The Trojans had way more ups than downs, but they did suffer their first setback of the season against a really good Hawaii team on the road. It wasn’t a slight to the Trojans, who actually moved up from 14 to 13 in the latest VolleyMob Top 20 with a notable win over Princeton (then #15, now #17). Regardless of the results, the biggest positives for USC were from personnel, as a pair of Trojans who didn’t play in 2017 proved to be huge candidates to boost what the team has back. Jack Wyett obviously impressed in earning a weekly VolleyMob award as he is playing for the first time since 2015. They also saw solid play from freshman phenom Sam Lewis, who only played in eight of the team’s sets, but hit .619.

  • #6 BYU Cougars, 1-1 (0-0, MPSF)

Cougars fans shouldn’t fret too much over an early season loss, as the Cougars still have what it takes to make a run at a league and National title. It wasn’t quite the start that BYU hoped for with a home loss to Loyola Chicago, but it came in five sets and was followed by redemption with a win for the Cougars over a top-10 Lewis squad. They have plenty to improve on, but they also had the hardest two matches of anyone in the MPSF. That schedule continues in terms of difficulty this week, led by a National Championship rematch with Ohio State as BYU continues to transition to more of a fast-paced team with less size and firepower but still plenty of talent.

Trying to Dig Out of a Hole

  • #18 Stanford Cardinal, 0-3 (0-0, MPSF)

The lone team with multiple losses so far in non-conference play is Stanford, who is in a world of hurt after falling from #6 in the preseason to #18 this week. None of the three losses came against top 10 competition either, which the Cardinal face plenty of in the coming weeks. The defense wasn’t great, but it wasn’t helped much from serving and wasn’t as messy as the offense. The Cardinal are hitting a league worst .218 right now – a number well behind the next worst mark of .291. They have multiple viable options, but struggling in passing has hurt Stanford. They still have the talent to overcome this early hole, but it’s not the start anyone envisioned in Palo Alto.

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