Quickly, the conference champions:
MIVA: Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne (IPFW)
EIVA: Penn State
MPSF: UC Irvine (UCI)
Yes, that's right, UCI beat out heavy favorite Pepperdine in a full-drive close-cut 5-game match. They tested each other's limits down to the wire. The deciding 5th game went into extra play, 16-14 Irvine.
What a season it has been. With 12 very good teams in the MPSF, 10 that tend to be ranked nationally every week, it's unusual that any team would dominate a single season. Pepperdine started the preseason at 5, then climbed their way to #1, holding that top spot mid-Feb to the end of the season. UCI dominated as well, starting at #1, dropping to #2 at the end of Jan, tying for third one week in Feb, then holding at 2 for the next 7 weeks, dropping to 3rd only at the end of the season. BYU has been a rather solid #3.
Preseason, I had a feeling that UCI would be in the NCAA playoffs. I still full-heartedly cheered on my team, the early-season-ailing Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, but there was no denying that UCI has a good team.
Hey, they beat my Warriors in the MPSF Playoffs, but man, did we make sure they earned it. For a second, with the Warriors clearly taking the 1st 2 games, it looked like UH would be on their way to a national title again. I would say, it's not so bad when we took the now-MPSF champs to 5-games in the playoffs.
Warriors started preseason at 4, and really during this tough season for them, I thought of any team, this team could pull off an upset and take the national title, and done it better than the crazy tirade UCLA went on late last year for the title.
Losing 5 great seniors last year, we had solid leadership at all key positions in this year's seniors: Beckwith (setting), Dante (blocking), Kalima (passing/digs), and Hakala (kills). Even the untested freshmen, especially in the second half of the season, made incredible strides, greatly contributing in their positions to the blocking (Rawson), the hitting (Vanzant), and at passing and digging (Cervantes).
Next year, I can see Carney picking up the setting smoothly, he's already had some good experience, though the coaches say they might use him at outside hitter. Clar could definitely fill in at opposite (Hakala's vacated spot). Rawson needs to work on being patient at the net, not over-reaching. If Vanzant can improve on hitting accuracy, he'll be that more effective. Everyone needs to practice their serving and passing, that's important every year, all the time. Also important is being able to read the other team, see the blocks, see if the opponent had a good approach for the swing, etc. I'm looking forward to seeing how Schkud improves so that he gets a permanent starting spot; I don't think we've seen all he's capable of yet. We're gonna have the youngest team we've had in a while, but it's gonna be worth watching the next two seasons.
Next Up: The NCAA semis onto the finals. 2nd seeded UCI vs. 3rd seeded Penn State, 1st seed Pepperdine vs. 4th seed IPFW.
Congratulations to UCI for their first MPSF title, how do they get seeded 2nd under Pepperdine?
And a huge aloha-filled mahalo to the 2007 Warriors for another exciting season!