2021 Big West Preview: UC San Diego

Photo courtesy of UC San Diego Athletics

Jonathan Bates / Brandon Johnson

With the first match of 2021 involving Big West teams less than a week away, Off the Block will be previewing each of the conference’s six teams. The Big West finished last year with the best non-conference record of any NCAA Division I/II conference, and currently have five teams ranked in both the AVCA coaches poll and the Off the Block media poll. Today, we preview UC San Diego, who was picked No. 4 in the conference’s preseason coaches poll.

UC San Diego

Final 2020 Poll Rankings: 6/7
2020 Record: 14-5, 2-1 Big West

2020 Team Stats Rankings
● No. 7 nationally in opponent attack percentage (.209)
● No. 9 nationally in blocks per game (2.408 blocks per game)

2020 Individual Stats Rankings
● Setter – Connor Walbrecht – No. 8 nationally with 10.07 assists per game.
● Middle attacker – Shane Benetz – No. 8 nationally with 1.171 blocks per game.
● Outside attacker – Kyle McCauley – No. 9 nationally with 4.06 kills per game.

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2020 Individual Awards
● Outside attacker – Kyle McCauley (First Team AVCA All-American)
● Setter – Connor Walbrecht (Second Team AVCA All-American)

2021 Preseason All-Americans
● Outside attacker – Kyle McCauley (First Team)

Lost to graduation
● Setter – Connor Walbrecht*
● Libero – Ryan Lew*

*starter

New incoming players
● Setter – Andrew Boyle
Middle attacker – Nick Rigo
● Libero – Paya Vatanshenas

Returning starters
● Outside attacker – Kyle McCauley
● Outside attacker – Wyatt Harrison
● Opposite – Collin Shannon
● Middle attacker – Shane Benetz
● Middle attacker – Logan Clark

Returning Production
● Kills: 97.7%
● Assists: 10.3%
● Aces: 80.4%
● Digs: 55.5%
● Blocks: 74.3%

Brandon’s Preview and Bold Prediction
Coming off a historic 2020 season that saw the team finish the year ranked 6th in the AVCA Coaches Poll, UC San Diego returns plenty of the firepower that earned them such a lofty ranking. The conversation begins and ends with Kyle McCauley, a junior college transfer that earned AVCA All-American First Team honors in his first year with the Tritons. Outside attacker Wyatt Harrison and middle attacker Shane Benetz also bring a wealth of experience and production for UC San Diego. Coach Kevin Ring will need to replace the production and leadership of setter Connor Walbrecht and libero Ryan Lew. Blake Crisp and Matt Palma both have court experience in their two years with the program, and if they are able to replace the production of their predecessors, I expect to see UC San Diego fight for the top spot of the Big West Conference.