When speaking concerning the third version of the First Level Collegiate Problem, Glen Lietzke usually makes use of the phrase “fired up.”
Lietzke, head of Austin Junior Volleyball, spearheaded bringing the match to Austin, Texas, initially, within the hope of bringing again some gamers from the Lone Star State who had gone on to play collegiately. Now, he stated, it’s about bringing the most effective groups.
The First Level Collegiate Problem completed that this season in an enormous method. The 2024 members for the occasion, which might be Friday and Saturday at Austin Conference Middle, are top-ranked UCLA of the MPSF, No. 4 Ohio State of the MIVA, No. 7 Penn State of the EIVA, No. 8 Stanford and No. 13 USC of the MPSF, and No. 14 Ball State of the MIVA. It’s one of many strongest fields ever for a pre-conference males’s NCAA match.
UCLA is the reigning nationwide champion and returns nearly its whole lineup. Penn State was a nationwide semifinalist final season.
All six groups are ranked in the newest AVCA ballot, and all however Ball State are undefeated. The Cardinals are a “mere” 6-2 with each losses to No. 9 BYU.
“The one subject that is perhaps stronger is the ultimate 4,” Lietzke stated. “We’re excited.”
The matches start at 1:30 p.m. Central on Friday with USC (4-0) going through Ball State, adopted at 4 p.m. by UCLA (4-0) towards Ohio State (4-0) after which at 6:30 by Penn State (4-0) vs. Stanford (4-0).
On Saturday, Ohio State and USC open the motion at 1:30, adopted by Ball State vs. Ohio State at 4 and the occasion concludes at 6:30 with Penn State going through UCLA.
Penn State, by the way, was one among solely two groups to defeat the Bruins throughout its nationwide championship season in 2023.
“I believe it’s compelling in a spot like Texas, which hasn’t essentially been the highest state in highschool or youth boys volleyball,” stated Wade Garard, CEO of First Level. “You see soccer households and basketball households, and so they expertise the athleticism reside, and it’s simply putting.”
Lietzke stated he’s anticipating every thing concerning the 2024 First Level match to be larger and higher than ever. FloSports will broadcast the occasion. The matches might be performed on the identical Terra-Flex ground that was utilized in Tampa for the 2023 girls’s ultimate 4. Replay know-how might be supplied by echo.
By way of crowds, Lietzke hopes for sellouts, which might imply upwards of three,000 individuals. Most of the followers who come to the matches are collaborating in a big girls and boys membership match additionally within the conference middle.
Experiencing a high-level males’s match reside is vital to rising the recognition of the game, Garard stated.
“The athleticism you expertise whenever you watch males’s volleyball reside, it’s exhausting to convey on TV,” he stated. “It hooks individuals, and also you’re a fan endlessly whenever you see it performed reside on the highest ranges.
“I’m all the time struck when somebody is experiencing their first high-level faculty or professional males’s volleyball match. They simply are blown away. You could possibly see it of their faces.”
The enlargement of the match, Lietzke stated, is straight tied to the expansion of boys and males’s volleyball nationwide. Groups proceed to be added in any respect ranges.
Lietzke doesn’t need to look far for proof. He can level to his personal membership in addition to the boys membership match that runs concurrently with the First Level Collegiate Problem.
“In two years, the boys match – partially due, I believe, to First Level – has gone from 51 groups to 139 groups this 12 months,” he stated. “Boys volleyball is blowing up. We (Austin Juniors) went from, in two years, 4 or 5 groups to 12 groups.”
First Level Volleyball has raised greater than $4 million to spur the expansion of boys and males’s volleyball. The group has been instrumental in including groups on the collegiate stage — Maryland Jap Shore and Northern Kentucky will be part of the Division I ranks subsequent season because of grants from First Level and its donors — and serving to boys volleyball get sanctioned at the highschool stage in a number of states.
UCLA coach John Speraw, chairman of First Level, sees the expansion of the Collegiate Problem as proof of the inspiration’s work.
“It speaks to the expansion and the alternatives for boys in America to play our sport and have a possibility to make use of that sport to additional their training,” he stated. “It’s an incredible expertise for all of us. … I couldn’t be extra happy with the place this sport is and the work that (First Level Volleyball) has carried out.”
Added Penn State coach Mark Pavlik: “I believe we’re simply seeing the tip of the iceberg, particularly on the lads’s facet, however the girls’s facet, too. I believe we’re able the place the Summer season (Olympic) Video games roll round, and if the U.S. groups can do what all of us imagine they’ll do, I believe you’re going to see much more of a resurgence in a following of the sport by people who find themselves sort of common sports activities followers. I believe there’s a wave that’s poised to develop this recreation over the subsequent 10 to fifteen years, and I believe it’s going to be fascinating to observe and to see how issues develop.
“With the lads’s recreation, we’ve had that physicality stage, however I believe over the subsequent 5, six, seven years we’re going to see an increasing number of groups get larger and higher guys on the courtroom. And I don’t imply simply the highest 15 groups. I believe there’s going to be sufficient guys taking part in the sport that everyone’s going to have a possibility to develop a few of their very own gamers’ physicality.”
Loads of that might be on show in Austin. Apart from the defending nationwide champion Bruins — who characteristic Bedford, Texas, native and Austin Junior Volleyball product Merrick McHenry — crowds can have the possibility to see arguably the most effective participant within the nation, Ohio State’s Jacob Pasteur, who has competed on the nationwide workforce for Speraw, additionally the USA Olympic coach.
USC guarantees to be an fascinating squad, that includes fab freshmen Wes Smith (MB), Jakobi Lange (OH), Jack Ebertin (OH), Brad Pan (libero), and switch Josh Friedman (S). They have been rated the No. 1 recruiting class by VolleyballMag, with Smith rated because the No. 1 total participant.
The 6-foot-10 Smith hasn’t upset, hitting .500 and averaging 1.14 blocks per set by means of the Trojans’ first 4 matches.
Penn State graduated its core of super-seniors however returns grad reverse Johnny Kerr, who was AVCA nationwide participant of the week after a 31-kill efficiency in a win over Lewis two weeks in the past.
Coincidentally, Kerr gained the identical award final 12 months when filling in for injured Cal Fisher as he amassed a mixed 35 kills over wins towards Stanford at Pepperdine … on the First Level Collegiate Problem.
And Stanford, amongst its proficient veteran squad, options fifth-year setter Nathan Lietzke, Glen’s son. That is Stanford’s third journey to the match in as a few years, however final 12 months Lietzke fell unwell throughout his homecoming and couldn’t play.
His father famous that the First Level Collegiate Problem is greater than a showcase. These matches rely, and the six groups will get an opportunity to see how they stand as they vie for the nationwide championship over the approaching months.
Garard expects that the First Level occasion will proceed to develop in stature and recognition as the game does.
“I believe you’re seeing the expansion at each hs and faculty and membership, and it’s throughout,” Garard stated. “It’s not simply sure states anymore. There’s a brand new power that wasn’t all the time there earlier than. … Now I believe you go to any cul-de-sac or any airport, and it’s not bizarre to see a males’s volleyball workforce.”
Busy Friday on faucet
There are six matches Thursday and loads of different NCAA males’s motion across the nation Friday with a 17-match slate that features a handful of different ranked groups.
On Friday, second Lengthy Seashore State (3-0), which opened its East Coast journey with a sweep at Merrimack (0-1) on Wednesday, goes to NJIT the place it performs No. 17 George Mason and the house workforce performs Lindenwood.
Fifth-ranked Grand Canyon goes to No, 18 UC San Diego, BYU performs at No. 15 UC Santa Barbara, No. 10 Pepperdine is house for McKendree, No. 11 Loyola Chicago performs host to Kentucky State, No. 12 Lewis entertains Merrimack, and No. 16 Princeton is at No. 18 CSUN.
Need to watch an NCAA males’s volleyball match? If it’s being proven, we’ve obtained the viewing hyperlink within the VolleyballMag TV & Streaming Listings.
In Lengthy Seashore’s victory at Merrimack in North Andover, Massachusetts, it hit .545. Nathan Harlan led with eight kills as eight Seashore gamers had two or extra kills. Additionally Wednesday, No. 6 UC Irvine (3-1) swept visiting McKendree (0-1) by hitting .412. Hilir Henno had 11 kills and Maxim Grigoriev. had 10.