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Quick Sets: The Covelli Center and Championship Volleyball

It’s champ week! Columbus, Ohio and the Covelli Center is the site for the 2021 National Collegiate Men’s Volleyball Championship. What started with seven teams is now down to four. Conference Carolina champion Belmont Abbey bowed out on Monday. Pepperdine (At-Large out of the MPSF) and Penn State (EIVA champion) were eliminated on Tuesday. Top seed Hawai`i, second seed BYU, UC Santa Barbara and Lewis/Penn State is your 2021 Final Four. The Bows know their opponent and it’s fellow Big West Conference member UC Santa Barbara. If you were able to watch any of the two opening round matches played on Tuesday, you were treated to some of the most high quality level of volleyball of the season. For the Rainbow Warriors, the mantra this season has been #UnfinishedBusiness. In this week ten edition of “Quick Sets,” Tiff Wells looks at storylines from Columbus, either within the UH program or from around the nation. Year four of the Big West Conference season for men’s volleyball sees their top two teams amongst the Final Four.  

By Tiff Wells

May 5, 2021 – When the Men’s Volleyball Championship was last in Columbus, it was 2017 and the event was held in St. John Arena. Across the street from Ohio Stadium, this historic venue was the main basketball facility for the Buckeyes before volleyball moved in. The Buckeyes put in another bid to host the Championship and was awarded the 2021 bid. Construction of the $48.9 million dollar facility was actually in progress when the bid process was taking place. Pictures and renderings are one thing. Seeing it on a video stream is something very different. But being inside of it…it is beautiful.

Among the highlights: a new public address sound system, large video scoreboards that are at either end of the facility and modernized locker rooms and film rooms. The only issue is size…3700. While it meets the requirement needed to host a National Championship, 3700 just seems small. We saw firsthand the issues of 2019 when 4200 seat Walter Pyramid and Long Beach State played host. A venue just too small for some really great volleyball. While the bleachers on the floor level are pushed because due to COVID protocols, the intimate arena is just another new and great facility on this Ohio State campus. It’s one thing to travel around the Big West Conference, but seeing just the differences in facilities (mainly due to money and budget) between the power 5’s and the mid-majors, it really is eye popping. I’m biased here but I’ll take SimpliFi Arena at Stan Sheriff Center any day.

We were asked multiple times since the bracket was announced, who would be UH’s opponent? The UC Santa Barbara/Pepperdine matchup was tough. Two quality defensive minded teams, great ball control and serve receive skills. Two teams that just grind you out and really don’t have a lot of unforced errors. It was UCSB’s first NCAA appearance since 2011 and Pepperdine’s second straight. More senior experience for the Gauchos as it was a UCSB 3-1 (25-23, 25-22, 22-25, 28-26) win. 20 service errors for UCSB and another 18 hitting nearly took this match to the 5th set. Outside hitter Roy McFarland and opposite Randy DeWeese each recorded 21 kills as the Gauchos (16-4) extended their nation’s longest win streak to 11. In the feature opening round match, Lewis swept (25-23, 27-25, 25-20) Penn State.

The 2021 Men’s National Collegiate Volleyball Championship continues Thursday with two semifinal matches. UC Santa Barbara and top-seed Hawai’i, then Lewis and No. 2 seed BYU. It’ll be UH/UCSB, part IV and it also guarantees a Big West representative into the Championship match for a third straight championship.

Nothing is easy, everything must be earned. It’s one thing to beat a team during the regular season. It’s another thing in the postseason, when you’re trying to end someone’s season. You want the best teams competing for the Championship and the four teams remaining, have been the best four teams all season long. It’s almost time to dance, NCAA style.

To view the entire bracket, click here.