Upsets Abound in the 50th Annual ASICS Invitational

Ed Chan
Harvard setter Nick Bendell keeps the ball in play for middle Kyle Rehkemper.

To kick off the 2014 men’s season, the preseason No. 4-ranked Long Beach State 49ers defeated Harvard 3-1 in the championship match of the 50th annual ASICS Invitational. To get to the finals, Harvard surprised its opponents in pool play—knocking off Stanford, Pacific, and host UC Santa Barbara, falling only to Cal Baptist—and took the top seed coming out of their pool. Long Beach State defeated all four challengers in the opposite pool to move into the championship match 4-0.

The 10 participating programs played all pool play matches best two out of three, and thus those matches were considered exhibitions and will not factor into the teams’ overall records.

So, even though Harvard came out of the weekend 0-1 on paper, their stellar season-opening performance, led by all-tournament honorees junior outside hitter DJ White and senior middle Kyle Rehkemper, earned the Crimson a program-best No. 13 ranking in the AVCA poll released the Monday following the tournament. Fellow eastern squad IPFW also received a rankings boost after their defeat of the preseason No. 15 Cal Baptist in the ASICS Invitational fifth-place match. They rose from an unranked preseason position to replace Cal Bap at No. 15.

Stanford and UCLA, both ranked in the top five of the AVCA preseason poll, struggled in pool play at the season-opening tournament. Stanford went 1-3 and UCLA 2-2, but the Bruins lost a tiebreaker to UC San Diego and therefore met Stanford in the seventh-place match. The Cardinal prevailed 3-1, and the loss caused UCLA to fall from No. 2 to No. 7 in the next poll.

For third place, UCSB handily defeated UCSD in straight sets, while Pacific took down Cal State Northridge 3-1 for ninth.

Originally published in April 2014

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