The on-campus championship celebration for Loyola hasn’t even happened yet, but it’s time to start looking forward to the 2016 season.
Check out Off the Block’s early projections at what teams will be in the top top 10 of the preseason national rankings for the upcoming season that is eight months away from starting.
1. Loyola — The Ramblers are returning a majority of their starters — including All-American setter Peter Hutz and outside attacker Thomas Jaeschke, the 2015 National Player of the Year. It will be a challenge to replace senior Cody Caldwell, but Loyola has all the pieces in place to make a run at a three-peat.
2. BYU — The Cougars were one dominant pin-hitter away from being in serious contention for a NCAA championship this year. All-American opposite Ben Patch returns next season from his two-year mission trip after being named the 2013 AVCA National Newcomer of the Year.
3. UCLA — All that experience UCLA’s freshmen and sophomores gained this season will pay off in 2016. Add a standout setter recruit to a starting lineup that includes Freshmen All-American outside attackers J.T. Hatch and Jake Arnitz and the Bruins look poised for a national title run.
4. Long Beach State — The T.J. DeFalco era is here. That is reason enough for 49ers fans to rejoice. There are tons of expectations placed on the high school senior but being the youngest player named to the U.S. Men’s National Team roster for the upcoming World League speaks volumes of how highly coaches view his potential.
5. Ohio State — Setter Christy Blough has the potential to emerge as one of the top setters in the nation next season, while Freshman All-American outside attacker Nicolas Szerszen led all freshmen in the nation this season in kills. Expect for Ohio State to push Loyola for the 2016 MIVA championship.
6. UC Irvine — The Anteaters lose their top offensive option in All-American opposite Zack La Cavera and their top defensive player in All-American libero Michael Brinkley. However, Tamir Hershko leading a dynamic group of outside attackers and coach David Kniffin on the sidelines will keep UC Irvine in national championship contention.
7. Penn State — The value of setter Taylor Hammond will be realized in 2016 after two years of being one of the most under-rated players in the nation. The graduation of All-American outside attacker Aaron Russell will be a big blow to the offense, but the emergence of freshman outside attacker Jalen Penrose in the second-half of this season gives the Nittany Lions’ fans plenty of hope.
8. Hawai’i — Everyone witness the re-birth of Hawai’i men’s volleyball this season. The Rainbow Warriors return a majority starters and have enough talent back to not just be a one-year wonder.
9. Stanford — A healthy James Shaw makes all the difference for the Cardinal. With the All-American setter and contender for the 2016 Lloy Ball Award back in the lineup, the Cardinal should be back in the postseason.
10. George Mason — Don’t sleep on George Mason in 2016. Freshman All-American setter Brian Negron is one of the best young setters in the nation, while outside attacker Radoslav Popov and opposite Paco Velez give George Mason the offensive options to legitimately compete with Penn State for the EIVA title.