Players to watch for the 2013 AVCA Player of Year award

BYU outside attacker Taylor Sander and UC Irvine outside attacker Kevin Tillie are the preseason favorites to win the biggest individual award in college men’s volleyball, but the field is still wide open.

With the NCAA men’s volleyball season beginning this week, there are several candidates who could be the 2013 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
Taylor Sander — BYU outside attacker
Quick breakdown:
Despite missing a month with a hand injury, Sander ended last season leading the MPSF and second in the nation with a 4.89 kills per game average and was named a First-Team All-American.
Chances of winning: Sander is considered by many coaches the best player in the game and should put up big numbers once again ,this year. This could be the year the junior breaks through and wins it after coming close last season.

Kevin Tillie — UC Irvine outside attacker
Quick breakdown:
Tillie in his first season in the NCAA after he transferred from a Canadian college was 11th in the nation with a 3.80 kills per game average and helped the Anteaters win a NCAA championship last season.
Chances of winning: Tillie is the early front-runner along with Sander, but may not put up the offensive numbers like Sander because of UC Irvine’s depth at outside attacker. However if UC Irvine can win the MPSF, history has shown that goes a long way with voters and could tip the scales to Tillie.

Jay Petty — Lewis outside attacker
Quick breakdown:
Petty last season was second in the MIVA and sixth in the nation with a 4.01 kills per game average to earn Second-Team All-American honors.
Chances of winning: Petty was voted the Preseason MIVA Player of the Year and looks poised to top his numbers from last season. In order for Petty to win National Player of the Year, though, he will need a strong head-to-head performance against Sander when Lewis and BYU play each other to gain the West Coast votes.

Micah Christenson — USC setter
Quick breakdown:
Christenson, the 2012 AVCA National Newcomer of the Year, was a Second-Team All-American selection after finishing eighth in the nation last season with a 10.75 assists per game average.
Chances of winning: Christenson may be the best setter in the game but two things work against him: he’s a sophomore and the Trojans have won back-to-back player of the year award. Winning as a sophomore is rare and a school three-peating is even more rare for voters.


Maurice Torres — Pepperdine outside attacker
Quick breakdown:
Torres, a Second-Team All-American, was eighth in the nation last season with a 3.98 kills per game average and tied for ninth in the nation with a 0.42 aces per game average.
Chances of winning: Pepperdine will have one of the best offenses in the nation and Torres will could put up even better numbers than last year. Pepperdine will likely have to finish in the top three of the MPSF for Torres to have a chance at this award.

Joseph Smalzer — Loyola outside attacker
Quick breakdown:
Smalzer led the MIVA and was sixth in the nation with a 0.49 aces per game average, while also finishing last season in nation’s top 25 with a 3.44 kills per game average to earn Second-Team All-American honors.
Chances of winning: It’s rare for a non-West Coast player to win National Player of the Year. Smalzer will need to have bigger numbers than last year and will have to get Loyola past preseason conference favorites Lewis to win MIVA for him to be a serious contender for this honor.

THE DARK HORSE CANDIDATES
BJ Boldog — Lewis setter
Quick breakdown:
Boldog, a 2012 Second-Team All-American, was seventh in the nation last season with a 10.76 assists per game average and guided the Flyers’ offense to a conference-best .321 attack percentage.
Chances of winning: Boldog can make a big splash with voters in the first weeks of season if Lewis wins a majority of matches on its West Coast road trip. However, Boldog could become overshadowed by his teammate Petty when it comes time for voting.

Brian Cook — Stanford outside attacker
Quick breakdown:
Cook was in the nation’s top 20 with both a 3.50 kills per game average and a .308 attack percentage last season.
Chances of winning: With All-American outside attacker Brad Lawson now graduated, Cook is the top offensive weapon for Stanford. If Stanford is in the running for a Final Four berth, Cook will be on the short-list for National Player of the Year.

Jeremy Dejno — UC Irvine outside attacker
Quick breakdown:
Dejno last season was 11th in the nation with a 0.38 aces per game average and was in the nation’s top 40 with a 2.95 kills per game average.
Chances of winning: UC Irvine is deep at outside attacker and Dejno and Tillie could both take votes away from each other. That could really hurt Dejno’s chances, even if he has the offensive numbers

Matt West — Pepperdine setter
Quick breakdown:
West was second in the nation last season with an 11.38 assists per game average and helped guide Pepperdine’s offense to a .284 attack percentage.
Chances of winning: It will be tough for West to win National Player of the Year because he could be easily overshadowed by Torres. In addition, voters historically have not given the award to a sophomore, regardless of how impressive the stats.

Aaron Russell — Penn State middle attacker
Quick breakdown:
Russell led Penn State with a 0.94 blocks per game average and was in the nation’s top 40 with 25 aces.
Chances of winning: Russell is a long shot but probably the EIVA’s best chance of winning the award this year. For that to happen, Russell will have to put up big numbers starting with the Nittany Lions’ season opening road trip to the Outrigger Invitational.

Taylor Crabb — Long Beach State outside attacker
Quick breakdown:
Crabb was second on Long Beach State and in the nation’s top 50 with a 2.75 kills per game average.
Chances of winning: If Long Beach State can be a surprise team this season and reach the Final Four, Crabb will likely be the top candidate from the 49ers to win this award.