Pepperdine men’s volleyball wins MPSF championship

The Pepperdine men’s volleyball team celebrates its Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion. The Waves will return to Pauley on May 3 to play the Bruins in an NCAA Tournament match. Photo by Martin A. Folb.

The Pepperdine Waves men’s volleyball team will take on rival UCLA in the opening round of the 2022 NCAA Championships at Pauley Pavilion on UCLA’s campus on May 3. 

The winner of the 5 p.m. matchup will face No. 1 seeded Long Beach State two days later for a spot in the national championship match. 

The Waves’ third consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament falls on the heels of the squad winning the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament on April 23. The squad downed the Stanford Cardinal in five sets — 25-20, 25-19, 22-25, 22-25, 15-12 — in the championship match, which was also held at Pauley Pavilion. 

Pepperdine head coach David Hunt said it feels great to win the MPSF tournament championship.

“The season hasn’t been smooth but the guys have continued to learn, get better, and be resilient,” Hunt said. “I couldn’t be more proud of this group.” 

With the title win, Pepperdine, the MPSF tournament’s third seed, gets an opportunity to compete for a national title for the 18th time in the program’s history. The match was the Waves’ third straight MPSF title game appearance. The team defeated USC 3-1 on April 21 in the semifinals and BYU 3-2 in the quarterfinals the day before in order to advance to the match against Stanford. 

Sophomore setter Bryce Dvorak was named the tournament MVP and was placed on the all-tournament team with outside hitter Alex Gettinger, a graduate student, and redshirt sophomore opposite Jacob Steele. 

Outside hitter Spencer Wickens, a graduate student, had a team-high 16 kills with seven digs against Stanford. Gettinger tallied 15 kills and eight digs in the match, and opposite Jaylen Jasper, a graduate student, had 14 kills, 10 digs, and a Pepperdine-high five blocks. 

The first set was tied at 19 when Pepperdine went on a 3-0 run that featured one kill by Wickens and two by Dvorak, and then closed the set with another 3-0 run. 

Pepperdine never trailed the second set. Stanford tied the score at 10, but then the Waves went on a 5-0 spurt and a service ace by Jasper gave them 17-11 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. 

The Waves needed just one more set for the win, but Stanford refused to wilt, taking two narrow set victories to force a deciding fifth set.

Pepperdine lead 12-11, and then a kill by Wickens gave his team match point. A block by senior blocker Austin Wilmot and Jasper ended the contest and gave Pepperdine the championship win. 

The day before the MPSF tournament, five Waves received postseason federation recognition. Dvorak and Wilmot were named to the All-MPSF second team, and Jasper, Steele, and Wickens received honorable mention status. 

Pepperdine’s match against UCLA will be at 5 p.m. UCLA was the MPSF regular season champion but were upset by Stanford in the MPSF tournament. Last week, UCLA was the No. 1-ranked team in the nation. 

Pepperdine was defeated by UCLA twice this season — 3-0 on April 7 and 3-0 on April 9. 

The seven-team NCAA tournament begins on May 1 with Princeton taking on North Greenville on the opposite side of the bracket from Pepperdine, UCLA, and Long Beach State. The winner of the Princeton/North Greenville match will face Hawaii on May 3. Second-seeded Ball State will face the winner of that contest. The winner will compete for the national title. 

Pepperdine, Hunt said, aren’t playing their best volleyball yet, but are trending in that direction.

“It has been a fun journey, and there’s more to come,” he said.