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

Photo courtesy of BYU athletics.

Sure, a five-year national championship drought may seem like nothing for a conference, but it feels like an eternity for the MPSF.

Several MPSF teams, though, have the potential to end the conference’s longest title slump and win the 2019 NCAA championship.

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

UCLA

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: No. 2
Preseason MPSF coaches poll ranking: No. 1
2018 record: 26-8 (9-3 MPSF)
2018 postseason finish: Lost in NCAA Tournament finals
Notable losses: Opposite Christian Hessenauer (First-Team All-MPSF); Outside attacker Jake Arnitz (First-Team All-MPSF); Libero/outside attacker JT Hatch (Second-Team All-MPSF)
Notable returners/additions: Setter Micah Ma’a (First-Team All-American); Middle attacker Daenan Gyimah (First-Team All-American, Ryan Millar Award); Outside attaker Dylan Missry (Second-Team All-MPSF); Outside attacker Austin Matautia (transfer from Hawai’i); Opposite Brandon Rattray (transfer from Hawai’i); Middle attacker Matt Younggren (transfer from UC Irvine)
Top non-conference match: UCLA at Long Beach on Feb. 16
OTB bold prediction: Despite losing four starters from their national runner-up team, the Bruins have reloaded and will roll through a tough MPSF conference undefeated. – Brandon Johnson

BYU

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: No. 5
Preseason MPSF coaches poll ranking: No. 2
2018 record: 22-7 (10-2 MPSF)
2018 postseason finish: Lost in NCAA Tournament semifinals
Notable losses: Middle attacker Price Jarman (First-Team All-MPSF); Outside attacker Brenden Sander (First-Team All-American); Setter Leo Durkin (First-Team All-MPSF); Assistant coach Luka Slabe (U.S. Women’s National Team); Assistant coach Jaylen Reyes (Nebraska women’s volleyball); Sports information director Royce Hinton
Notable returners/additions: Gabi Garcia Fernandez (Second-Team All-American, MPSF Freshman of the Year); Middle attacker Felipe de Brito Ferreira (All-MPSF Honorable Mention, 2018 MPSF All-Freshman Team); Setter Will Stanley; Middle attacker Miki Jauhiainen (Finnish Men’s National Team); Assistant coach Devin Young (former Cougar player); BYUtv play-by-play announcer Jarom Jordan
Top non-conference match: Hawai’i at BYU on March 23
OTB bold prediction: Gabi Garcia Fernandez will lead the country in kills per set as he will shoulder a heavy work load this season. – Brandon Johnson

Pepperdine

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: No. 6
Preseason MPSF coaches poll ranking: No. 3
2018 record: 15-8 (8-4 MPSF)
2018 postseason finish: Lost in MPSF Tournament quarterfinals
Notable losses: Outside attacker Alex Harthaller (2018 All-American Honorable Mention); Opposite Colby Harriman
Notable returners/additions: David Wieczorek (Second-Team All-American, MPSF Player of the Year); Opposite Michael Wexter (Second-Team All-MPSF); Middle attacker Max Chamberlain (Second-Team All-MPSF); Setter Robert Mullahey (Freshmen All-American, MPSF All-Freshman Team); Middle attacker Kevin Vaz (transfer from Cal Baptist)
Top non-conference match: Pepperdine at UC Irvine Jan. 27
OTB bold prediction: The Waves return a strong core behind the likes of Wieczorek, Wexter and Mullahey. Behind this nucleus, they will finish second in the MPSF in 2019. – Brandon Johnson

Stanford

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: No. 13
Preseason MPSF coaches poll ranking: No. 4
2018 record: 6-20 (3-9 MPSF)
2018 postseason finish: Lost in MPSF Tournament quarterfinals
Notable losses: Middle attacker Kevin Rakestraw (Second-Team All-MPSF); Libero Evan Enriques (2016 Erik Shoji Award)
Notable returners/additions: Jaylen Jasper (Freshman All-American, First-Team All-MPSF), Kyler Presho (All-MPSF Honorable Mention, MPSF All-Freshman Team); Libero Kyle D’Agostino; Setter Paul Bischoff
Top non-conference match: Ohio State at Stanford Jan. 12
OTB bold prediction: Much of the success the Cardinal will accomplish this year depends on the health of Jasper. If healthy, he could be among the leaders in kills per set in NCAA Division I-II and the Cardinal will make noise. If not, Stanford might find themselves in the middle of the pack in the MPSF. – Brandon Johnson

USC

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: Receiving votes
Preseason MPSF coaches poll ranking: No. 5
2018 record: 8-20 (3-7 MPSF)
2018 postseason finish: Lost in MPSF Tournament semifinals
Notable losses: None
Notable returners/additions: Middle attacker Sam Lewis (MPSF All-Freshman Team); Outside attacker Jack Wyett (All-American Honorable Mention, First-Team All-MPSF); Outside attacker Gianluca Grasso (All-MPSF Honorable Mention); Opposite Ryan Moss (All-MPSF Honorable Mention); Assistant coach Greg Walker (Sacred Heart).
Top non-conference match: USC at Hawaii Jan 12
OTB bold prediction: The Trojans are very top heavy in talent, and should they stay healthy, they will be a competitor in the MPSF. One or two injuries could throw a wrench in these plans though. The Trojans will need to develop some talent to get them through a tough schedule. – Brandon Johnson

Concordia-Irvine

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: No. 12
Preseason MPSF coaches poll ranking: No. 6
2018 record: 16-16 (5-7 MPSF)
2018 postseason finish: Lost in MPSF Tournament semifinals
Notable losses: Libero Jacob Weiser (Erik Shoji Award winner)
Notable returners/additions: Setter Chandler Gibb (Second-Team All-MPSF); Middle attacker Hunter Howell (All-American Honorable Mention, Second-Team All-MPSF)
Top non-conference match: Concordia-Irvine at Hawaii Jan. 11
OTB bold prediction: This team could be called the no-name team as they are well-rounded without very many true stars. They are well-coached and bring enough talent back to make some noise. – Jonathan Bates

Grand Canyon

Preseason national coaches poll ranking: No. 14
Preseason MPSF coaches poll ranking: No. 7
2018 record: 18-11 (4-8 MPSF)
2018 postseason finish: Lost in MPSF Tournament quarterfinals
Notable losses: Middle Blocker Ashton King (Second-Team All-MPSF); Outside attacker Cullen Mosher (All-MPSF Honorable Mention); Libero Sky Engleman (All-MPSF Honorable Mention)
Notable returners/additions: Outside attacker Trevor Weary; Opposite Will Schwob; Libero Avery Enriques
Top non-conference match: Grand Canyon vs. Lindenwood (at the Off the Block Grow the Game Challenge) on Jan. 19
OTB bold prediction: Arguably no other team was rocked by graduation worse than the Lopes. However, they have one of the best home court advantages outside of Provo and Manoa. It will be a growing season but don’t be surprised to see an upset in Phoenix. – Jonathan Bates