One of the biggest non-conference tournaments at the start of the 2016 season is coming to BYU.
BYU announced Wednesday that it will play host to the annual AVCA Showcase with UC Irvine, George mason and the two-time defending NCAA champions Loyola also competing in the event.
The two-day tournament starting Jan. 8 will feature each team playing two matches against non-conference opponents.
UC Irvine and George Mason will open the tournament followed with Loyola versus BYU later that night. In addition, the Ramblers and Anteaters the next day will play each other in a rematch of the 2015 NCAA Tournament semifinals, while the Patriots and Cougars will close out the tournament.
This will be the second consecutive year that Loyola and BYU have played each other in their season opener. The Ramblers defeated the Cougars in four games last season at the AVCA Showcase as part of their 13-match winning steak to begin the season.
“We look forward to the 2016 men’s volleyball season,” BYU coach Shawn Olmstead said said in a statement. “It will be an exciting and unique opportunity to open at home with Loyola.”
Loyola returns a two All-American starters — setter Peter Hutz and middle attacker Jeff Jendryk — and are attempting to become the first school in more than 30 years to complete a national championship three-peat.
BYU finished last season in fifth place in the MPSF and lost in the conference tournament quarterfinals. However, the Cougars return a majority of starters and add All-American opposite Ben Patch who returns from a two-year church mission.
UC Irvine returns to Provo, Utah, after last season ending BYU’s conference home winning streak that stretched back to 2012. The defending-MPSF champions also return All-American outside attacker and 2015 Karch Kiraly Award finalist Tamir Hershko.
George Mason is entering its first year under new head coach Jay Hosack. The Patriots last season advanced to the EIVA Tournament finals and setter Brian Negron was named the EIVA Newcomer of the Year.
Along with its season-opening home tournament, BYU announced Wednesday that it will play non-conference road matches against Princeton and NJIT in the upcoming season.
This is the first time the Cougars have traveled to play either school. In addition, it will be BYU’s first matches on the East Coast since 2005.