Since the Outrigger Invitational originated in 1995, Penn State has competed in every single tournament, save for one: last season. After missing the 2012 edition of the Invitational due to scheduling issues, Penn State returns to Honolulu as the representative from the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association. One of the oldest non-conference tournaments in men’s volleyball, four teams comprise the tournament field and are selected from the EIVA, the Midwest Intercollegiate Volleyball Association, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and Hawaii, member of the MPSF. Let’s examine Penn State’s opponents, beginning with two-time defending tournament champion UCLA.
While the Bruins did not appear on Penn State’s schedule last season, the Nittany Lions are very familiar with the head coach of UCLA: John Speraw. The UCLA alum previously coached at UC Irvine, defending national champions and the team that ended Penn State’s season in the Final Four a year ago. Speraw takes over for retiring head coach Al Scates, who is viewed as the “Vince Lombardi of men’s volleyball" after winning 19 national championships in 50 seasons at UCLA. Despite the changes at the helm, the Bruins don’t figure to miss a beat and will serve as a menacing opening opponent for Penn State. Currently ranked No. 5 in the AVCA poll, the Bruins are anchored by junior Robart Page who leads the team in kills, digs and blocks. Page is the type of do-it-all player that keeps opposing coaches up at night and one that could have the top individual performance of any player during the three-day tournament. UCLA leads the all-time series against Penn State 24-6.
The host university of the Outrigger Invitational, the Warriors are looking for a fresh start after finishing last season in the cellar of the MPSF. After dropping its two opening matches of the season to No. 2 BYU, Hawaii limps into tournament play and faces off against Penn State in the second day on the island. The play of sophomore JP Marks was the bright spot against BYU, particularly in the second match as Marks recorded 14 kills and eight digs. Penn State players should recognize a familiar face on the other side of the net in 6-foot-7 junior Jace Olsen, who transferred from Penn State to Hawaii after last season. Olsen, who started 41 matches at Penn State, is second on the team with 15 kills. The Warriors are coached by Charlie Wade who holds a career record of 41-43 in his three-year career at the school. Hawaii last won its home tournament in 2010.
What better way to end the Outrigger Invitational than with a date against the No. 10 Buckeyes on the final day of the tournament? Penn State senior captain Connor Curry describes the Top 10 matchup as having a “Final Four feel,” and spectators should be treated to an electric atmosphere during the contest. Ohio State, who claimed its sixth straight MIVA regular season championship in 2012, dominated Saint Francis 3-0 in the season-opener. The Buckeye to watch is sophomore libero Brennan Anderson who claimed MIVA Defensive Player of the Week honors after logging a career-high 12 kills against Saint Francis. Ohio State is coached by Pete Hanson who guided the Buckeyes to the national championship in 2011. The final match of the tournament for both teams also serves as the first of three matches between the two schools during the upcoming season as Ohio State travels to State College in early February and Penn State ventures to Columbus in mid-March. Ohio State returns to Honolulu for the first time since 2010, when it failed to win a match in tournament play.