The field is wide open this year for the biggest individual award in college men’s volleyball.
With the NCAA men’s volleyball season starting this week, there are numerous candidates who could be the 2012 AVCA Player of the Year this season.
Check out the preseason favorites and the dark horse candidates who could win the Division I-II AVCA Player of the Year at the end of the regular season.
THE PRESEASON FAVORITES
Kyle Caldwell — UCLA, setter
Quick breakdown: Caldwell will be the Bruins’ starting setter in 2012 after playing outside attacker for part of last year and averaging 2.51 kills per game
Chances of winning: A bit of a dark horse that being included with the contenders. If UCLA lives up to the preseason hype, expect Caldwell to get more consideration throughout the season.
Tony Ciarelli — USC, outside attacker
Quick breakdown: Ciarelli last season was in the nation’s top 25 with both a 3.61 kills per game average and .317 attack percentage.
Chances of winning: Several MPSF coaches in the preseason were calling Ciarelli the best player in the conference. However former USC outside attacker Murphy Troy won the award last year, and it’s rare for a school to win back-to-back Player of the Year awards.
Carson Clark — UC Irvine, outside attacker
Quick breakdown: Clark was third in the nation last season with a 4.53 kills per game average and led the MPSF with 47 aces.
Chances of winning: Clark will have a new setter setting to him this season but will still be the featured offensive weapon in coach John Speraw’s offense, which is always one of the best in the nation.
Wes Dunlap — UCLA, middle attacker
Quick breakdown: Dunlap led the nation with a .446 attack percentage and was second on UCLA with a 2.56 kills per game average last season.
Chances of winning: Middle attacker are often not considered for this award that tends to favor offensive players. Dunalp, though, is one of the best offensive middle attackers in the nation.
Brad Lawson — Stanford, outside attacker
Quick breakdown: Lawson was seventh in the nation last season with a 4.33 kills per game average and led the team with a 0.47 aces per game average.
Chances of winning: Lawson will be the featured player in Stanford’s offense and will continue to put up big numbers. Stanford will likely be in contention for a Final Four berth, which will help Lawson’s candidacy.
Taylor Sander — BYU, outside attacker
Quick breakdown: Sander was the 2011 AVCA National Newcomer of the Year after leading BYU and being 14th in the nation with a .336 attack percentage.
Chances of winning: Sander will put up big numbers and will be one of the top teams in the nation — all things that have been big for voters in previous years. However, Sander is a sophomore and it’s rare for an underclassman to win this award.
Shawn Sangrey — Ohio State, outside attacker
Quick breakdown: Despite missing almost one month of the regular season in 2011 because of an emergency appendectomy, Sangrey finished 15th in the nation with a 3.92 kills per game average
Chances of winning: Unless Sangery loses another organ during the season, he will put up big numbers this year. The challenge for Sangery will be getting enough West Coast votes to win the award.
Erik Shoji — Stanford, libero
Quick breakdown: Shoji was second in the MPSF and third in the nation with a 2.62 digs per game average last season.
Chances of winning: A libero has never won the Player of the Year. If a libero has a chance to do accomplish the feat, though, it’s Shoji entering his senior season.
Robb Stowell — BYU, outside attacker
Quick breakdown: Stowell was 10th in the nation and had a team-high 4.08 kills per game average, while also being in the nation’s top 20 with a .326 attack percentage last season.
Chances of winning: Stowell will continue to put up big numbers with opponents having to split attention between Sander and him. The question becomes will Sander and Stowell cancel each other out and split the votes going towards a BYU player.
Joe Sunder — Penn State, outside attacker
Quick breakdown: Sunder, the 2011 EIVA Player of the Year, led the conference and was fourth in the nation with a 4.54 kills per game average last season.
Chances of winning: It’s only happened twice that a non-West Coast player has won the Player of the Year. Sunder will likely have to put big numbers in Penn State’s non-conference matches against MPSF schools to get the West Coast votes needed to win.
THE DARK HORSE CANDIDATES
Evan Barry — Stanford, setter
Quick breakdown: Barry was fourth in the nation and third in the MPSF last season with an 11.56 assists per game average.
Chances of winning: Several of the top setters from last year have graduated, and Barry could gain ground throughout the season running Stanford’s offense. Barry was a highly under-rated player last season, not even receiving All-MPSF honors.
Mike Bunting — Loyola, outside attacker
Quick breakdown: Bunting had a 4.21 kills per game average and a .372 attack percentage last season — one of three players to be in the nation’s top 10 for both categories.
Chances of winning: Loyola plays several non-conference matches versus MPSF teams this year. If Bunting can put up big numbers in those matches and help lead Loyola to the Final Four, expect him to get consideration.
Taylor Crabb — Long Beach State, outside attacker
Quick breakdown: Crabb was second on Long Beach State and in the nation’s top 60 with a 2.60 kills per game average last season.
Chances of winning: Crabb began to make a name for himself playing for the United States in the World Championships this summer. If Long Beach State can finish atop the MPSF, he will get consideration.
Edgardo Goas — Penn State, setter
Quick breakdown: Goas, a 2011 Second-Team All-American, led the EIVA and was eighth in the nation with an 11.03 assists per game average last season.
Chances of winning: Goas will put up the numbers to get consideration. One thing that will hurt his chances is setting most of his balls to Sunder, who is also a candidate for this award.
Mark Jones — George Mason, outside attacker
Quick breakdown: Jones was fifth in the nation last season with a 4.46 kills per game average and was an All-EIVA selection.
Chances of winning: Jones has the longest shot of any of these players to get this award, especially if George Mason can’t upset Penn State and make the Final Four. With his offensive numbers, though, Jones should get All-American consideration this year.