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

All the preseason talk surrounding a team usually can be summed up in one or two sentences — and that’s what we did.

With the NCAA men’s volleyball season beginning today, check out the quick-hit breakdown of every team in the nation as they enter the 2015 season.


MPSF PREVIEW
Pepperdine —
This team has put last year’s controversy of missing the NCAA Tournament behind them. All-American setter Matt West and All-American outside attacker Josh Taylor will make sure the Waves aren’t left out of the NCAA Tournament this season.

UC Santa Barbara — The Gauchos have become the New England Patriots of college men’s volleyball: grinds-out victories with defense, maximizes the talent on its roster and its head coach wears the same clothing item for every match. If its outside attackers can develop throughout the season, UC Santa Barbara will be in the hunt for a MPSF title.

USC — Two of the only things missing from All-American setter Micah Christenson’s college resume is a National Player of the Year award and a national championship. Everything is in place for him to get both of those this year.

UCLA — With a youthful roster this summer, coach John Speraw led the United States to its first FIVB World League title since 2008. Give Speraw a UCLA roster with 14 of the 17 players freshmen and sophomores and just watch this team improve throughout the season.

UC Irvine — Similar to last year, expect for coach David Kniffin to use multiple starting lineup combinations at the beginning of the year. However, they will find the right combination by the end of the season and in time to make a deep postseason run.

BYU — Welcome to life without All-American outside attacker Taylor Sander. The improvement of opposite Tim Dobbert will make the new reality for BYU a lot more comfortable this season.

Hawai’i — This is the most depth on the Hawai’i roster since coach Charlie Wade took over the program. There are high preseason expectations for this team to return to the postseason and for good reason.

Cal State Northridge — The Matadome has a new look and feel this season with a black playing surface. It’s perfect timing for a team that has a new feel of a playoff team after missing the postseason the last two years.

Stanford — The Cardinal will go through some rebuilding pains this season. However, having All-American setter James Shaw on the court and coach John Kosty on the sidelines won’t make it that painful or long.

Long Beach State — Coach Alan Knipe is back in the underdog role this season. Few coaches thrive better than Knipe when put in the underdog role.

Cal Baptist — Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong for Cal Baptist last season. With players coming back healthy, things should be better for the Lancers in 2015.

UC San Diego — This will be one of the youngest teams in the MPSF. The Tritions may not finish with a winning record, but could pull off one or two upsets towards the end of the season.


MIVA PREVIEW
Loyola —
No Midwest or East Coast team has repeated as NCAA champions. With five starters returning, Loyola looks like it could pull off that feat.

Lewis — Preseason All-American outside attackers Geoff Powell and Greg Petty make the Flyers a MIVA title contender. It’s effectiveness at implementing a new starting setter could make this team a national title contender.

IPFW — It’s the final season for Hall of Fame coach Arnie Ball before he retires. This team is all set to give Ball one more deep postseason run.

Ohio State — The Buckeyes have not advanced beyond the MIVA Tournament quarterfinals for the last two seasons. With two Freshmen All-Americans returning to Ohio State, don’t expect this team to have an early postseason exit.

Ball State — The biggest question for the Cardinals entering the season is establishing a new starting setter. If Ball State figures that out, it will be in contention for a top-four finish in the MIVA.

Grand Canyon — It was an odd season last year for Grand Canyon going 12-6 in non-conference play and 2-12 in the MIVA. That deceiving conference record should correct itself in 2015.

Lindenwood — All-conference opposite Colin Hacksworth will help keep Lindenwood in a lot of matches. Don’t be surprised if the Lions pull off a big upset this year.

Quincy — The Hawks take steps in the right direction every season. Making the eight-team MIVA Tournament would another positive step for this program.

McKendree — McKendree could be in store for difficult inaugural season as a MIVA member. However, the Bearcats should only continue to get better throughout the year.


EIVA PREVIEW
Penn State —
Outside attacker Aaron Russell is among the preseason favorites to win the National Player of the Year. More importantly, the All-American senior and the five other returning starters also make the Nittany Lions a heavy favorite to win the NCAA championship.

Princeton — Princeton has become relevant and it now preseason expectations to contend for an EIVA title. Talk about the job coach Sam Schweisky has done building up this program.

George Mason — This is the best young team no one is talking about in college men’s volleyball. Outside attacker Radoslav Popov and incoming freshman setter Brian Negron will be reason enough for people to talk about George Mason by the end of the year.

Harvard — Another highly ranked recruiting class is coming to Harvard. Time to now see if this program can take the next step and pull off some upsets to win its first conference championship.

St. Francis — All-EIVA opposite Mike Marshman had at least a .500 attack percentage in 10 matches last season. Marshman could have a big breakout season in a rebuilding year for St. Francis.

NJIT — First-year head coach Danny Goncalves takes over a program that has not ended a season with a winning record since 2007. The Highlanders will show improvement, but it will take time to end that streak.

Sacred Heart — Coach Kalani Efstathiou said during the preseason that he feels his team could compete with the top teams in the nation. The Pioneers will get a chance to prove that in the few weeks of the season with a competitive non-conference schedule.

CONFERENCE CAROLINAS PREVIEW
Erskine —
Six starters return from last year’s Conference Carolinas championship team, including three all-conference selections. The Fleet have a new coach, but the expectations of repeating remain.

Pfeiffer — The Falcons will not get much buzz outside of the Conference Carolinas because they play a conference-low three non-conference matches in the upcoming season. However, all-conference outside attacker Sonny Hirini helps make this team a conference title contender.

Mount Olive — Mount Olive being without outside attacker Angel Dache is the Conference Carolinas equivalent of BYU being without Sander. The good news for Mount Olive is coach David Heller has restocked the Trojans with more international players poised to have a breakout year.

Limestone — The Saints will open the season playing three MPSF teams at the UC Santa Barbara Invitational. The results from that tournament may look ugly, but playing top quality teams will only benefit Limestone come the Conference Carolinas Tournament.

Barton — Barton has shown improvement in the first two seasons under head coach Jeff Lennox. The Bulldogs now have preseason expectations — something they have never experienced in their three-year program history.

Lees-McRae — Outside attacker Brady Markle was among the national leaders last season with a 3.94 kills per game average. Don’t be surprised if Markle has more than 1,000 attack attempts this season and leads the Bobcats to a berth in the Conference Carolinas Tournament.

King — With an expanded eight-team Conference Carolinas Tournament and several starters returning, King has a good reason to feel optimistic about making the postseason for the first time in its program history.

Belmont Abbey — All-conference outside attacker Nolan Albrecht returns after missing all of last season because of an injury. That alone should make Belmont Abbey better than its 3-25 finish last season.

Emmanuel — The Lions make their NCAA Division II debut after finishing last season No. 8 in the NAIA national coaches poll. Emmanuel may stumble a little in its first full season in the Conference Carolinas, but it still can contend for a top-five conference finish.

North Greenville — This school was so excited to have a new men’s volleyball team it even provided a live online video stream to its preseason matches. More important than the record in its inaugural year, North Greenville has bought into men’s volleyball.

INDEPENDENT TEAMS PREVIEW
Alderson Broaddus —
Coach Greg Walker takes over a program transitioning to NCAA Division II. Walker has a history of building up programs — expect that trend to continue here.

Charleston — Pay attention to how Charleston during its inaugural season performs in its four matches against EIVA opponents. Those match-ups could become conference matches within the next few years.

Coker — Getting to double-digit wins this season would be a big step for this third-year program.

Holy Names — Give Holy Names and its new coach Ali Oliver a lot credit for scheduling several matches against the MPSF in its first season after gaining NCAA Division II membership. This can only help the Hawks as they grow their program.

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