The defending national champions will start the season where it ended last season in the national rankings.
UC Irvine received nine of 18 first-place votes to finish No. 1 in the preseason national coaches poll that the AVCA released Wednesday afternoon.
The Anteaters last season became the first team in almost 20 years to win back-to-back NCAA championships. A majority of starters also return for UC Irvine this upcoming season — including three Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Preseason All-Americans with outside attacker Connor Hughes, middle attacker Collin Mehring and libero Michael Brinkley.
UC Irvine received 246 votes in the preseason poll to finish eight votes ahead of second-place UCLA.
The Bruins last season under their first-year head coach John Speraw finished in fourth place in the MPSF and advanced to the conference tournament semifinals. In addition, outside attacker Gonzalo Quiroga returns for his senior season and was named a Preseason All-American.
The top five teams in the preseason coaches poll all received at least one first-place vote.
The defending MPSF champions BYU picked-up four first-place votes and was ranked No. 3 in the preseason poll. No. 4 Long Beach State and No. 5 Stanford also each received one first-place vote.
Beyond the top-five spots in the preseason, Loyola was the highest ranked MIVA team at No. 7, while Penn State was the highest ranked EIVA team at No. 9. Both Loyola and Penn State enter this year after winning conference championships last season and reaching the NCAA Tournament semifinals.
The college men’s volleyball regular season begins Jan. 1 and concludes with the NCAA Tournament semifinals and championship match in May in Chicago.
AVCA NCAA Division I-II Preseason Coaches Poll
1. UC Irvine — 246 (9) points
2. UCLA — 238 (3) points
3. BYU — 235 (4) points
4. Long Beach State — 218 (1) points
5. Stanford — 202 (1) points
6. Pepperdine — 175 points
7. Loyola — 126 points
8. UC Santa Barbara — 116 points
9. Penn State — 107 points
10. Lewis — 99 points
11. USC — 87 points
12. Ohio State — 78 points
13. Hawai’i — 72 points
14. Cal State Northridge — 48 points
15. Cal Baptist — 32 points
Others receiving votes: Pacific 24; Ball State 17; Harvard 14; Princeton 11; UC San Diego 5