March 19, 2009


By Amy Farnum Novin

UC Irvine climbed to No. 1 in the latest Bison/AVCA Coaches Poll after toppling previously top-ranked Cal State Northridge in five games March 13 to move into first place in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation men’s volleyball standings.

Sophomore middle blocker Kevin Wynne was named MPSF Co-Player of the Week for tallying 12 kills and a .500 hitting percentage in the victory over CSUN.  The native of Mission Viejo, Calif., knocked down a season-high nine blocks in the match, just one short of his career high.  Wynne currently ranks 10th in the nation with 1.32 blocks per game, while the Anteaters pace the nation with 3.58 blocks per game.

With the Anteaters ascent to No. 1, UCI has now been ranked No. 1 in four different years (2003, 2006, 2007, 2009) since head coach John Speraw took over the program in 2003.  The Anteaters have been ranked in the nation’s top 10 for 67 straight weeks.   

The Anteaters lead all teams with 17 wins this season, and are currently riding a five match winning streak.  UCI has been victorious in 13 of its last 14 contests, and is 4-0 in every five-game match it has played this year.  After a week of final exams, the Anteaters return to the court against Hawaii March 26.

MVP PERFORMANCE: Long Beach State’s Dean Bittner garnered Sports Imports/AVCA Division I-II Men's National Player of the Week honors after leading his the 49ers to a pair of wins at the Active Ankle Tournament, including a victory over defending NCAA champion Penn State last week.

The junior right side/opposite from Lakewood, Calif., opened the tournament with 13 kills, three digs and five blocks in a sweep of IPFW, and then added 18 kills, six blocks and three aces in a five-game triumph over the then-No. 4 Nittany Lions.  Bittner was voted Most Valuable Player of the tournament after averaging 3.88 kills and 1.38 blocks per game while hitting .369 in the two contests.  He ranks third in the MPSF and fifth in the nation with 5.33 kills per game. 

The two tournament wins snapped a three-match losing streak for Long Beach State, and pushed the 49ers up the national rankings two spots to No. 5.  LBSU travels to BYU for a pair of league contests on March 20-21. 

FLYING HIGH: Lewis University senior outside hitter Drew Pickering was selected Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association Player of the Week for the third time this season after propelling the Flyers to a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Ball State last week.

Pickering recorded a match-high 34.5 points in the victory, registering 27 kills and hitting .479 for the match. The native of Wauwatosa, Wis., also contributed five aces, nine digs, a solo block and three block assists against the Cardinals.  Pickering knocked down the match-winning kill at 19-17 in the fifth set. For the match, Pickering averaged 6.90 points, 5.40 kills, 1.00 aces, 1.80 digs and .80 blocks per game.  He leads the MIVA in kills with 4.27 per set.

"It's a great honor for Drew and he really deserves it," head coach Dan Friend said. "He did a fantastic job of putting the team on his back in a crucial conference match."

NOTABLE:  Pepperdine’s Paul Carroll leads the nation with 6.05 kills per game.  The two-time All-American also paced the nation in kills last season with 6.54 per game … UC San Diego defeated Hawaii for the first time in the 37-match series with a 3-1 victory on March 13, and then returned the next day for a 3-2 win over the Warriors.  The second victory helped UCSD even its overall record to 10-10 on the year.