Anyone doubting how tight the race for the MPSF championship could be this season just needs to look at the conference’s preseason coaches poll.
The top four teams all came within nine votes of each other as BYU and Long Beach State finished tied for first place in the MPSF preseason poll released Thursday afternoon.
Long Beach State and the defending-MPSF champions BYU each received three-first place votes to finish in a tie for the top spot with 126 points. In addition, there was even nearly three-way tie for the No. 1 spot as UC Irvine finished one-point behind BYU and Long Beach, while UCLA came in fourth place with 117 points.
Both Long Beach State and BYU return a majority starters and a National Player of the Year from last season.
BYU ended last season winning season its first conference title in almost a decade and advanced to the NCAA Tournament championship match. All-American outside attacker Taylor Sander also returns for his senior season after being named the 2013 Volleyball Magazine National Player of the Year.
Long Beach State finished last season in third place in the MPSF and was narrowly missed the lone at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. In addition, outside attacker Taylor Crabb comes back to the 49ers following winning the 2013 AVCA National Player of the Year and the Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Players’ Choice National Player of the Year.
The two-time defending NCAA champions UC Irvine fell one-point short of a share for the top spot in the conference poll despite receiving the most first-place votes with six. The third-place finish in the conference poll comes one day after the Anteaters were ranked No. 1 in the AVCA preseason national coaches poll.
UCLA under its second-year coach John Speraw was the only other school to receive a first-place vote.
Along with BYU, Long Beach State, UC Irvine and UCLA, Stanford finished in fifth place with 99 points to round-out the top five.
The MPSF season will begin in January and concludes with the conference tournament in April.
MPSF Preseason Coaches Poll
T-1. BYU — 126 (3) points
T-1. Long Beach State — 126 (3) points
3. UC Irvine — 125 points
4. UCLA — 117 points
5. Stanford — 99 points
6. Pepperdine — 90 points
7. UC Santa Barbara — 79 points
8. USC — 74 points
9. Hawai’i — 51 points
10. Cal State Northridge — 47 points
11. Pacific — 38 points
12. UC San Diego — 24 points
13. Cal Baptist — 18 points