The preseason talk and hype surrounding a team typically can be summed up in one or two sentences.
With the NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball season starting in earnest this week, check out the quick-hit breakdown of every team in the nation entering the 2017 season.
BYU — All of the pieces are back for BYU, including one of the best pin-hitter combinations in the nation. This is as good of a year as any for the Cougars to get over the hump and win their first NCAA championship in more than a decade.
UCLA — The Bruins may have benefitted the most from the experience of playing in the NCAA Tournament last season. All the starters come back one-year wiser, and coach John Speraw has the Bruins back to being an annual title contender.
Long Beach State — All-American outside attacker TJ DeFalco, All-American setter Josh Tuaniga and opposite Kyle Ensing statistically were one of the greatest freshmen trios in recent college men’s volleyball history. Now time for the sophomore-year encore performance with a NCAA championship in their sight.
UC Irvine — The injury-plagued nightmare of the 2016 season is over. The Anteaters now have a powerful pin-combination of Tamhir Hershko and Michael Saeta, along with a possible AVCA Newcomer of the Year candidate in freshman middle attacker Scott Stadick.
Pepperdine — Business should be booming for The Malibu Roofing Company this season. Whether the Waves can move into the top four of the MPSF will come down to their offensive production at the pins.
Hawai’i — Don’t sleep on the Rainbow Warriors this year. Hawai’i has the passing and the offensive firepower to knock off any team in the MPSF — especially when playing at home.
Stanford — Stanford graduated the best setter and best middle attacker in the nation. A favorable MPSF schedule and an experienced head coach in John Kosty, though, could make the Cardinal a top-five MPSF team at the end of the season.
UC Santa Barbara — The Gauchos under coach Rich McLaughlin have made the eight-team MPSF Tournament each of the last four seasons. With a roster primarily comprised of freshmen and sophomores, UC Santa Barbara will be fighting to keep that streak alive.
CSUN — So many returning starters could mean this finally could be year CSUN gets back to the MPSF Tournament — and maybe even win its first postseason match since 2010.
Cal Baptist — Cal Baptist was one of the most improved teams in the nation last season. The program’s trajectory should only continue to go up with several starters returning, including the middle attacker Enrique de Diego Garcia who led the nation with a .481 attack percentage in 2016.
USC — Despite an 11th-place finish in the MPSF last season, there are reasons for USC to be optimistic. The big thing is just giving second-year head coach Jeff Nygaard time to develop his young players.
UC San Diego — This will be the year UC San Diego gets a MPSF victory and maybe even pull off a big upset before the season’s over.
Ohio State — Everything is aligned for the Buckeyes to repeat as national champions — the 2017 NCAA Tournament is on their home court and all but one starter returns, including outside attacker and 2016 AVCA National Player of the Year recipient Nicolas Szerszen. A 2017 title, though, won’t be an inevitability because spoiler — there are other good teams.
Lewis — Preseason All-American opposite Mitch Perinar is one of the best pin-hitters in the conference, and middle attacker Jacob Schmeigelt has the potential to win the Ryan Millar Award. How deep of a postseason run the Flyers have may largely depending on the development of their new starting setter Matt Yoshimoto.
Loyola — Jeff Jendryk made a case in the second-half of last season why he is the best middle attacker in the nation. Much like Lewis, though, how much of a MIVA title contender Loyola is this season will largely depend on the ability to replace its graduated All-American setter.
Ball State — The Cardinals are one of the best defensive teams in the nation. The off-season addition of several dynamic outside attackers is just what Ball State needed to be in contention for a MIVA title.
McKendree — The Bearcats last season had their first postseason victory in program history. Things are only continuing to get better for this fourth-year program that returns a lot of starters.
Grand Canyon — The Antelopes almost quietly last seaon set a program-record with 17 victories. The loss of graduated All-MIVA opposite Gerrard Lipscombe will be difficult to replace, but Grand Canyon is fully capability of setting the single-season program record for wins again.
Fort Wayne — The rebuilding process continues for second-year head coach Rock Perrotte. While a MIVA title is unlikely this year, the Mastodons will be much more competitive in all of their matches.
Lindenwood — Outside attacker Jake Duckworth and opposite Ryan Moore may be the most underrated pin-combo in the conference.
Quincy — MIVA coaches always seem to vote Quincy to finish in last place in the preseason polls, but every year Quincy doesn’t finish in last place. Give credit to coach Hadley Foster for continuing to make this program more competitive each season.
George Mason– The Patriots have gone from being the pursuer to the pursued and the preseason favorite in the EIVA. George Mason has a veteran roster and a head coach capable of handling the preseason expectations and returning to the NCAA Tournament.
Penn State — Yes, Penn State last season didn’t win the EIVA for the first time since Bill Clinton was in office, but it’s not like the entire season was a train wreck — the Nittany Lions beat four nationally ranked teams. The EIVA is much improved, but Penn State will still be in contention for the conference title.
St. Francis — The Red Flashes have the pin hitters and setter needed to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in their program history. The only thing more electrifying than its St. Francis offense is its Rummy Rascals student section.
Princeton– The Tigers potentially have one of the best middle attacker combination in the conference with Junior Oboh and freshman George Huhmann. Princeton should fare better than its seventh-place finish in the EIVA last season.
NJIT — Preseason All-American outside attacker Jabarry Goodridge is one of the most dynamic players in the conference. The Highlanders are now looking to take that next step and get back into the postseason for the first time since the conference went to a four-team EIVA Tournament format in 2012.
Harvard — Harvard continues to be one of these teams that just overachieves. While the Crimson were picked in the preseason to finish the EIVA in sixth place, they will be likely vying for a postseason berth at the end of the season.
Sacred Heart — There are some good things developing at Sacred Heart under coach Greg Walker. If the Pioneers can find a way to make the EIVA Tournament, it would be a big step for the program.
Charleston — The Golden Eagles made the splashiest move of the off-season hiring former Wake Forest women’s volleyball coach Ken Murczek. The third-year program is improving and should get its first conference victory in program history by the end of the season.
CONFERENCE CAROLINAS PREVIEW
Barton — The Bulldogs under coach Jeff Lennox may be the best turnaround story in the nation. With the way Lennox has recruited in recent years, this year could be the start of something special.
Mount Olive — The Trojans suffered countless injuries last year but still found a way to finish in the top half of the Conference Carolinas standings. Mount Olive will have a deceiving overall record because of a brutal non-conference schedule, but will be more than capable of winning the Conference Carolinas.
King — King set all-conference outside attacker Jeff Sprayberry a conference-high 1,227 times last season. Sprayberry has the capabilities to take over a match, and the Tornado have enough other solid players to win a conference title.
Limestone — Expect both outside attacker Bruno Kretzschmar to put up big offensive numbers in his senior season and for the Saints to compete with the top teams in the Conference Carolinas.
Belmont Abbey — No senior in nation meant more to his team last season than Belmont Abbey outside attacker Nolan Albrecht. Replacing him will be difficult but trust in the process of coach Sean Manzi.
Erskine — The defending Conference Carolinas champions have a new coach and roster with all but four freshmen. It’s not a criticism to call this a rebuilding season — it just is one.
North Greenville — If you are going to pick a team to win a conference title that finished outside the top five in their conference’s preseason poll, take Hawai’i or North Greenville. The third-year program has made serious strides this off-season.
Lees-McRae — The Bobcats were so depleted at times last season that first-year coach Henry Chuang didn’t even have enough players to do six-on-six scrimmages at practice. With the addition of Chuang’s first recruiting class, Lees-McRae will likely be the most improved team in the nation.
Pfeiffer — It’s a time of transition at the university but Paul Lawson is still one of the best coaches in the conference
Emmanuel — Another year transitioning from NAIA to NCAA Division II makes the Lions ineligible for the postseason. They might not make the Conference Carolinas Tournament but they will beat several teams who do make that tournament.
Coker — Coach Eric Synder developing a Brazilian recruiting pipeline is continuing to payoff for this program. The Cobras could legitimately get near 20 wins this season.
Concordia-Irvine — Concordia-Irvine scheduled like a team that will be joining the MPSF next season. The Eagles should be more competitive in those matches versus MPSF opponents and even win a few this year.
Alderson Broaddus — The Battlers play five matches against EIVA opponents this season. Don’t be surprised if Alderson Broaddus makes a statement and wins a couple of those matches.
Lincoln Memorial — Who knows what to expect from this first-year program. We’re just popping open a celebratory Not Your Father’s Root Beer at Off the Block here in Nashville because another Tennessee school has added men’s volleyball.