Quick-hits: What to know about Big West teams for 2019 season

Photo courtesy of Long Beach State athletics.

[Editor’s note: Off the Block will preview each NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball conference leading up to the 2019 season opener on Dec. 30. This conference previews examines every team in the Big West.]

Just how tough is the Big West — being No. 11 in the national coaches poll barely cracks the top five of the conference’s preseason poll.

Off the Block associate editor Jonathan Bates and Off the Block special contributor Brandon Johnson breakdown the Big West and what to know about each team entering the 2019 season.

Long Beach State

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: No. 1
Preseason Big West poll ranking: No. 1
2018 record: 28-1 (9-1 Big West)

2018 postseason finish: Won the NCAA championship 

Notable losses: Outside attacker Bjarne Huus
Notable returners/additions: Outside attacker TJ Defalco (U.S. Men’s National Team, Three-time First-Team All-American, Two-time Karch Kiraly Award winner, Big West Player of the Year, 2017 AVCA National Player of the Year); Setter Josh Tuaniga (Three-time All-American, Two-time Lloy Ball Award winner, AVCA National Player of the Year, First-Team All-Big West, NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player); Opposite Kyle Ensing (U.S. Men’s National Team, Bryan Ivie Award winner, Two-time All-American, First-Team All-Big West); Middle attacker Simon Andersen (Freshman All-American, All-American Honorable Mention, All-Big West Honorable Mention); Middle Blocker Nick Amado (Second-Team All-American, First-Team All-Big West)

Top non-conference match: Long Beach State at UCLA on Jan. 19

OTB bold prediction: One year after winning the national championship and finishing with just one loss, the 49ers will raise the trophy yet again, this time at home in the Pyramid. However, the 49ers will lose at least two regular season matches along the way. –Brandon Johnson
 

Hawai’i

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: No. 3
Preseason Big West poll ranking: No. 2
2018 record: 19-8 (6-4 Big West)

2018 postseason finish: Lost in the Big West Tournament finals

Notable losses: Libero Larry Tuileta (First-Team All-American); Outside attacker Austin Matautia (transferred to UCLA); Opposite Brandon Rattray (transferred to UCLA)
Notable returners/additions: Outside attacker Stijn Van Tilburg (Two-time First-team All-American, First-Team All-Big West, International Player of the Year finalist); Setter Joe Worsley (Second-Team All-American, First-Team All-Big West); Opposite Rado Parapunov (All-American Honorable Mention, All-Big West Honorable Mention); Middle attacker Pat Gasman (All-American Honorable Metion, First-Team All-Big West)

Top non-conference match: Hawai’i at BYU on March 23

OTB bold prediction: The Rainbow Warriors return strong, top-end talent, but losing some roster depth due to transfers will result in a third-place finish in the Big West. –Brandon Johnson
 

UC Irvine

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: No. 4
Preseason Big West poll ranking: No. 3
2018 record: 21-10 (6-4 Big West)

2018 postseason finish: Lost in the NCAA Tournament opening round
Notable losses: Jordan Cheng (assistant coach); Middle attacker Matthew Younggren (transferred to UCLA
Notable returners/additions: Opposite Karl Apfelbach (Second-Team All-American, First-Team All-Big West) Setter Dante Chakravorti (All-Big West Honorable Mention), Middle attacker Scott Stadick (National Blocker of the Year, Second-Team All-American, First-Team All-Big West, Ryan Millar Award finalist); Outside attacker Aaron Koubi (All-American Honorable Mention, First-Team All-Big West), Outside attacker Joel Schneidmiller (Freshman All-American, All-American Honorable Mention, Big West Freshman of the Year); Opposite Jonny Bowles (freshman, U.S. Men’s Junior National Training Team)

Top non-conference match: UC Irvine at Loyola on Jan. 4
OTB bold prediction: Newcomer Jonny Bowles will unseat Preseason All-American Karl Apfelbach for the starting opposite spot by midseason. –Brandon Johnson

UC Santa Barbara

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: No. 10
Preseason Big West poll ranking: No. 4
2018 record: 11-13 (4-6 Big West)

2018 postseason finish: Lost in the Big West Tournament quarterfinals 

Notable losses: None

Notable returners/additions: Outside attacker Corey Chavers (First-Team All-Big West); Opposite Keenan Sanders (All-Big West Honorable Mention); Middle attacker Randy Drake (All-Big West Honorable Mention); Middle attacker Jack Truman (Big West All-Freshman Team)
Top non-conference match: BYU at UC Santa Barbara on Feb. 1-2

OTB bold prediction: The Gauchos will finish with the top strength of schedule in the nation and will have a chance to finish within the RPI top five. – Jonathan Bates

CSUN

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: No. 11
Preseason Big West poll ranking: No. 5
2018 record: 16-11 (5-5 Big West)

2018 postseason finish: Lost in the Big West Tournament semifinals
Notable losses: Opposite Arvis Greene (Second-Team All-American); Middle attacker Eric Chance; Middle attacker Josiah Byers

Notable returners/additions: Outside Hitter Dimitar Kalchev (First-Team All-Big West); Outside attacker Maciej Ptaszynski (Big West All-Freshman Team); Libero Emmett Enriques (among Big West leaders averaging 2.02 digs per game last season)

Top non-conference match: UCLA at CSUN on Jan. 9

OTB bold prediction: The Matadors will struggle to replace the production of Greene but will use strong outside hitter play to finish top four in the tough Big West. – Brandon Johnson

UC San Diego

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: Did not receive votes
Preseason Big West poll ranking: No. 6
2018 record: 9-19 (0-10 Big West)

2018 postseason finish: Lost in the Big West Tournament quarterfinals
Notable losses: Opposite Tanner Syftestad (Division II National Player of the Year, All-American Honorable Mention); Setter Milosh Stojcic (sixth Triton player with more than 2,000 assists); Middle attacker Alec Flowers; Middle attacker Bryan Zhu

Notable returners/additions: Outside attacker Wyatt Harrison (Big West All-Freshman Team); Libero Ryan Lew (Erik Shoji Award preseason watch list); Setter Blake Crisp (freshman, U.S. Men’s Junior National Team)

Top non-conference match: UC San Diego at Stanford Feb. 23
OTB bold prediction: The Tritons are going to miss Stojcic and Syftestad, but be on the lookout for Blake Crip to make the Freshman All-American Team. –Jonathan Bates