A new season in college men’s volleyball also means plenty of new players — freshmen and transfer students — for each team in the nation.
Predicting how well a player will do in his first season with a new team is always a challenge. With the NCAA men’s volleyball season starting this week, though, there are several candidates who could become the 2012 AVCA Newcomer of the Year.
Check out the top 10 preseason favorites to win the 2012 AVCA Newcomer of the Year award at the end of the regular season.
THE NEWCOMER OF THE YEAR CONTENDERS
Jeff Aucoin — Ball State, outside attacker
Quick breakdown: Aucoin is a senior and was a two-time All-National selection while playing club volleyball at New Hampshire. The outside attacker transferred to Ball State and will play his final college season with the Cardinals.
Chances of winning: Aucoin is a dark horse to win the award but could become the nation’s feel-good story of the year. Ball State has struggled at outside attacker in recent years, and if he can fill that void he will get consideration.
Cody Caldwell — Loyola, outside attacker
Quick breakdown: Caldwell was the 2011 Volleyball Magazine High School Boys’ Player of the Year and one of the nation’s top ranked high school recruits. The freshman also led the United States in kills at the Youth World Championships this summer.
Chances of winning: The big question is how much playing time Caldwell will get as a true freshman. Loyola has lots of depth at outside attacker, and Caldwell will battle for playing time throughout the season.
Micah Christenson — USC, setter
Quick breakdown: Christenson was a Volleyball Magazine top 50 high school recruit and the 2011 Honolulu Star-Advertiser Boys Volleyball Player of the Year. In addition, Christenson was the United States starting setter at the World Championships this summer and helped lead the team to a fourth-place finish.
Chances of winning: Christenson is one of the most highly touted incoming freshmen in recent men’s volleyball history and will start as a true freshman. If USC finishes the MPSF in the top five, Christenson will get lots of consideration.
Robert Feathers — USC, middle attacker
Quick breakdown: Feathers was a Volleyball Magazine top 50 high school recruit. He also had nine kills and five blocks in an exhibition match against Alberta on Wednesday.
Chances of winning: Feathers will likely be the Trojans’ starting middle attacker alongside Steven Shandrick to open the season. However, Feathers could get overlooked for this award playing with Christenson.
Julius Hoefer — Cal State Northridge, outside attacker
Quick breakdown: Hoefer played high school volleyball in Germany at the same school that produced former All-American outside attacker Jonas Umlauft. He also was member of the German National Team from 2008-10.
Chances of winning: One of the few things listed on Hoefer’s bio page on the Matadors’ athletics department website — besides his favorite TV show being “How I Met Your Mother” — is that he will make “an immediate impact as a true freshman.” Expect Hoefer to have a high kills per game average this year.
JP Marks — Hawai’i, outside attacker
Quick breakdown: Marks is an international student from Germany and played on the German Junior and Youth National Teams from 2008-11. He also helped Germany qualify for the World Championships in 2011.
Chances of winning: Hawai’i has replaced All-American Jonas Umlauft with another outstanding outside attacker from Germany. The Warriors have a young team this year but watch for Marks to contribute throughout the season.
Aarron Russell — Penn State, middle attacker
Quick breakdown: Russell was a Volleyball Magazine top 50 high school recruit. The middle attacker also started for the United States at the Youth World Championships and Youth Pan American Games this summer.
Chances of winning: Coach Mark Pavlik said Russell will likely start the season and have an immediate affect for the Nittany Lions. Russell, though, will likely have to put big numbers in Penn State’s non-conference matches versus the MPSF to get the West Coast votes needed to win this award.
Josh Taylor — Pepperdine, outside attacker
Quick breakdown: Taylor was voted the Honolulu Star-Advertisers’ All-State Player of the Year. The freshman also played for United States at the World Championships this summer — primarily coming off the bench in most matches.
Chances of winning: Coach Marv Dunphy said this week that Taylor will likely start the season as a left outside attacker. Taylor has traditional played opposite, but he has successfully transitioned and could have good offensive numbers in his new position.
Kevin Tillie — UC Irvine, outside attacker
Quick breakdown: Tillie is a junior transfer student who played two seasons for Thompson Rivers and was Second-Team All-Canadian selection last year. The outside attacker is also a member of the French Junior National Team.
Chances of winning: Tillie received a lot of preseason hype and could put up big numbers. However, Tillie did not play in the Anteaters’ season opener Wednesday. With UC Irvine’s depth at outside attacker, he will compete for playing time this season.
Matt West — Pepperdine, setter
Quick breakdown: West was a Volleyball Magainze top 50 high school recruit. He also was the United States’ starting setter at the Youth World Championships and Youth Pan American Games this summer.
Chances of winning: Pepperdine coach Marv Dunphy said that West will start the season as the Waves’ setter. The Waves have the depth at outside attacker for West to put to big assist numbers in his first season.