In less than a month, if all goes according to plan, the UC Irvine men’s volleyball team will be playing in the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season.
Last season, the team rode a 15-game winning streak before losing to Long Beach State in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Semifinals and Penn State in the NCAA Tournament.
Thus far, the Anteaters are likely to finish in third place in the MPSF standings following a tough five-set loss to No. 1-ranked Pepperdine.
With the season winding down and the playoffs on the horizon, UCI will need to be on top of its game if it wishes to compete for the National Title at Ohio State University in May.
The Anteaters should win their last three games of the regular season, which are all against opponents they have beaten once already this season.
Then, with the MPSF playoffs starting in late April, UCI will need to win three games to guarantee a spot in the NCAA Tournament (the tournament consists of only four teams). If for some reason the Anteaters are knocked out early in the playoffs, there is still a chance that the team will be given the only at large berth by the committee, though it would be a toss up between UCI and Brigham Young University.
Both UCI and BYU have had phenomenal seasons and a potential match-up in the playoffs is likely to decide which team will get the final spot in the tournament.
So what exactly does UCI have to do to advance to the NCAA Tournament?
The simple answer is win the three games during the MPSF playoffs.
For whatever reason, the Anteaters haven’t been the same strong team they were when they started the season. In their first seven matches, the Anteaters swept all but one of those teams.
The squad stumbled with upset losses to Pacific and a tough loss at BYU. Recently, the Anteaters are looking to get back on track.
With its 10 game-winning streak snapped, UCI will look to start a new streak heading into the most important stretch of the season.
‘Its all about being our best for the playoffs and I know that we will be ready,’ said UC Irvine Head Coach John Speraw after the team’s loss against Pepperdine.
Dating back to last season, the volleyball team is 49-9 and easily the most successful team on campus since the Jerry Green basketball era of 1998-2001.
With four starting seniors