Season Preview: Every NCAA men’s volleyball team in a sentence or two

Most preseason talk around a team can be summed up in a few sentences — and that’s what we did.

As the NCAA men’s volleyball season begins in full earnest this weekend, get a quick breakdown of every men’s volleyball team from around the nation as they enter the 2014 season.


Check out what to know about each Division I-II men’s volleyball team for the start of the season.

MPSF
UC Irvine —
The Anteaters are eyeing a potential three-peat. If this season-opening Midwest road trip is any indication, UC Irvine will be in contention all season long for that three-peat.

BYU — All-American outside attacker Taylor Sander returns for his senior season with a chance to not only shatter the BYU record books but led the Cougars their first NCAA title since 2004.

Long Beach State — The 49ers are highly motivated after narrowly missing the NCAA Tournament last season and return two All-Americans. Coach Alan Knipe is on his way to bringing Long Beach State back to the NCAA Tournament.

UCLA — It’s been a long time since UCLA was in the NCAA Tournament. Everything points this veteran group of players led by All-American outside attacker Gonzalo Quiroga ending the eight-year drought.

Pepperdine — All-American setter Matt West has continued to improve throughout his first two seasons. However, West and the Waves will have to replace their top offensive options from last year after Maurice Torres graduated.

Stanford — This team last season looked one-year away from being a front-runner for a NCAA championship. That one year wait is now up.

Cal Baptist — The Lancers are postseason eligible following their successful transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II. The big challenge this season now is for Cal Baptist to get into the postseason.

UC Santa Barbara — Setter Jonah Seif could be primed for a big breakout season. If the Gauchos can fill the void at middle attacker left by graduated All-American Dylan Davis, UC Santa Barbara should be a playoff team.

USC — All-American setter Micah Christenson has been only getting better since playing with the U.S. Men’s National Team this fall and he now has all his outside attackers back and healthy for the 2014 season. The Trojans will have a big bounce-back season.

Hawai’i — All but one stater returns for the Rainbow Warriors. Hawai’i showed last season it is capable to play with the best teams in the nation when it’s serving effectively and passing well.

Cal State Northridge — It’s going to be a rebuilding year for the Matadors. Cal State Northridge, though, will be more than competitive and potentially pull off a few upsets.

Pacific — It’s the final season for Pacific before the university dissolves the men’s volleyball program. Time for one more run at a MPSF Tournament berth.

UC San Diego — Kevin Ring is probably the most under-rated coach in the nation. UC San Diego has low preseason expectations but don’t be shocked if it knocks off a few nationally ranked teams this season.


MIVA
Loyola —
Joseph Smalzer, the 2013 MIVA Player of the Year, is returning for his senior season along with a majority of starters from last year’s team that won the MIVA title. This team has a legitimate chance to win a national championship on its home court.

Lewis — Even after earning All-American honors, BJ Boldog is one of the most under-rated setters in the nation and continues to give this team a chance to reach the NCAA Tournament. Add All-American opposite Geoff Powell and the Flyers can compete with any nationally ranked team.

Ohio State — The expectations are always high for the Buckeyes, especially after being upset last year in the postseason. Ohio State should be a fun team to watch this year with some of its new recruits and will continue to improve throughout the year.

Grand Canyon — Not many people outside of Arizona have high expectations for Grand Canyon. Don’t tell that to the Antelopes or their coaching staff, though, because they all believe they can make a deep postseason run in 2014.

Ball State — Ball State has one of the best middle tandems in the nation with All-American middle attackers Kevin Owens and Matt Leske. However, the Cardinals’ shot at contending for a MIVA title depends on its ability for develop its young outside attackers into all-conference caliber players.

IPFW — Coach Arnie Ball told The News-Sentinel recently that he didn’t want to retire because of the talent on his roster. The Hall of Fame isn’t exaggerating. The Mastodons were a young team last year that pulled off their share of upsets.

Lindenwood — The Lions have a new coach, are postseason eligible and now a full member of NCAA Division II. Lindenwood is continuing to build it’s program and there are tons of reasons for Lions fans to be optimistic.

Quincy — The Hawks had a strong fundraising campaign in the offseason to get renovated locker-rooms — and they were desperately needed. It’s those small off-the-court steps that begin to turn around a program.

EIVA
Penn State —
This is the most scrutinized team in college men’s volleyball. No other program has the expectations from the public of anything less than an undefeated conference season being a complete train wreck. But man do those outside expectations say something about the program Mark Pavlik has built.

Princeton — Cody Kessel last season became the first Tiger to earn All-American honors since Bill Clinton was in office. Kessel and five other returning starters also give Princeton a realistic shot of ending Penn State’s championship reign in the EIVA

Harvard — The culture of the program his completely changed. The players now not only know they can win, but know they can compete a EIVA championship.

George Mason — Returning to the court can be the best escape for the Patriot players as they continue mourning the loss of their former teammate Pat Sibley, who died in August.

St. Francis — It’s been two years of missing the postseason for St. Francis. All-EIVA outside attacker Logan Patterson and a veteran team returning gives the Red Flashes good reason to believe that postseason drought ends this year.

NJIT — Coach Ryan McNeil, besides being one of the most rebellious voters in the national coaches poll, has spent several years focusing on recruiting internationally. The Highlanders have players from Barbados to Poland on its roster and could be an intriguing to watch this season.

Sacred Heart — For as bad as Sacred Heart’s 4-19 record looked last season, the Pioneers were competitive in most of their matches. Expect Sacred Heart to continue to improve in 2014 but a postseason appearance is still a few years away.

Rutgers-Newark — Only one more year before this team officially moves to NCAA Division III, leaves the EIVA and becomes competitive for a league title.

CONFERENCE CAROLINAS
Mount Olive —
Mount Olive has recovered from its postseason disappointment of losing in the conference tournament semifinals. last season The Trojans now are eyeing to become the first team in represent the Conference Carolinas in the NCAA Tournament.

Pfeiffer — The two-time defending Conference Carolinas champions lost its head coach and the conference player of the year from last season. Pfeiffer, though, still has enough returning pieces to be competitive for a third straight title.

Lees-McRae — David Schmidlin begins his first full season as the Bobcats’ head coach. Time to now see if this team can continue the tradition of pulling off some big non-conference upsets.

Limestone — The Saints surprised most people last season reaching the conference championship match after finishing the regular season in fourth place. With all-conference middle attacker Andrew Miller and all-conference outside attacker Eric Zaun returning for another season, Limestone could look even better this season.

Erskine — Erskine has a brutal non-conference schedule with four road matches against nationally ranked teams. That will make this young team well prepared for the heart of its conference season.

Belmont Abbey — The Crusaders will be in contention for a second consecutive postseason appearance. However, for most of nation Belmont Abbey will remain the second most popular abbey in 2014.

King — The Tornado last season lost nine of its final 11 regular season matches and just missed getting the final postseason berth. King earning a postseason berth in 2014 would be a major step forward for this program.

Barton — It took the Bulldogs almost two seasons to win their first match in program history. With that losing streak now behind them, expect Barton to one of the most improved teams this upcoming season.

INDEPENDENT TEAMS
Coker — The Cobras begin their first season as an independent team after school left the Conference Carolinas. Perhaps the bigger story for this team is will Coker find another conference to join for future seasons.

McKendree — It’s the inaugural season for the Bearcats men’s volleyball team. Don’t expect a lot of wins, but like most expansion teams expect this program to improve throughout the year.