It’s been about one week since Ohio State won the 2016 national championship so it only makes sense to start predicting the 2017 championship.
Check out Off the Block’s early projections of what teams will be in the top 10 of the preseason national rankings for the upcoming season that starts in eight months.
1. Ohio State — The defending national champions return the 2016 AVCA National Player of the Year and All-American outside attacker Nicolas Szerszen, All-American opposite Miles Johnson and All-American setter Christy Blough. The Buckeyes are poised to a legitimate run at repeating with the 2017 NCAA Tournament being played at Ohio State.
2. BYU — All but one starter return for the Cougars after being one win away from capturing the program’s first national championship in more than a decade. In addition, the continuing development of All-American outside attackers Brendan Sander and Jake Langlois will make BYU even more of a challenge for defenses next year.
3. UCLA — UCLA is back to annually being a national title contender. Add one more year of experience to a starting lineup that last season was still comprised mostly of freshmen and sophomores along with more time running the 6-2 offense and watch Bruins continue to dominate.
4. Long Beach State — All-American outside attacker TJ DeFalco returns after being the 2016 AVCA Newcomer of the Year and the runner-up for the 2016 Karch Kiraly Award. In addition, both Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Freshmen Team selections opposite Kyle Ensing and setter Josh Tuaniga are back. The 49ers have a lot of senior leadership to replace but will be preseason favorites to return to the NCAA Tournament.
5. UC Irvine — No team experienced more injuries to starters last season than the Anteaters. With its potential All-Americans now healthy and another strong recruiting class, UC Irvine should have a big bounce-back season in 2017.
6. Lewis — The Flyers spent all of last season incorporating freshman and sophomore starters into their lineup and started peaking towards the end of the season to reach the MIVA Tournament finals. If Lewis can successfully replace its graduated senior setter Scott Fifer, its pin-hitters of Mitch Perniar and Julian Moses will keep Lewis in most matches.
7. George Mason — George Mason will not only enter 2017 as the defending-EIVA champions but with a majority of starters returning will likely be preseason favorites to repeat. Seriously, let that sit in for a few months. A team other than Penn State could be the preseason favorites to win the EIVA. Talk about the conference improving.
8. Loyola — It took most of last season but the Ramblers found a dynamic offensive combination with All-American middle attacker Jeff Jendryk and pin-hitters Ben Plaisted and Collin Mahan. Similar to Lewis, though, Loyola will have the challenge of replacing an All-American setter.
9. Hawai’i — There are a lot of reasons for the Rainbow Warriors to be optimistic with the late-season play of setter Joe Worsley and Freshman All-American opposite Stijn van Tilburg. However, finding a way to replace the offensive production of All-American outside attacker Sinisa Zarkovic and the defensive production of Erik Shoji Award finalist libero Kolby Kanetake will be a challenge.
T-10. Ball State — Ball State had the defense last season to make a deep postseason run, but it just lacked the offense. Outside attacker Brendan Surane returning for his senior season and perhaps one of the program’s best recruiting classes in recent years could solve the Cardinals’ offensive woes.
T-10. CSUN — All the pieces return for the Matadors after narrowly missing the MPSF Tournament last season. The 2017 season could finally be the year CSUN ends its postseason drought.