2011 Men’s NCAA Season Preview

Team VBM
Ohio State's Steven Kehoe (#1)

Experience will be the name of the game in 2011 as several of the top contenders have senior-heavy rosters with their eyes on the prize. After Stanford capped off its magical run from “worst to first” by capturing the NCAA title in 2010, this year’s field will be as competitive as ever. Below we take a look at the 10 teams who could make a run for the NCAA Men’s Volleyball National Collegiate Championship, to be hosted by Penn State on May 5 and 7 at Rec Hall.

They come from the three men’s volleyball national Division I-II conferences, the EIVA (Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association), the MIVA (Midwestern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association) and the MPSF (Mountain Pacific Sports Federation). The winner of each of the three conference tournaments, along with an at-large bid selected by the NCAA Championship committee, earns a bid and the right to play for the national title.

All of these teams have at least one senior returning in their starting lineup and some have as many as four or five. They have been through the rigors of their regular conference seasons and tournaments, and many even have that invaluable experience of NCAA action and have learned the mental toughness it takes to perform consistently at such a high level. Seven of these programs already have NCAA titles to their names, and the last seven champions (from six different schools) are included on this list. Read on to learn a little more about some of the top teams in NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball this season, in alphabetical order.

Brigham Young

2010 Record: 22-9 (15-7 MPSF)
2010 Postseason: 3-2 loss to CSUN in MPSF Semifinals
Head Coach: Rob Neilson
Career Record: First Season
Key Returners: Robb Stowell (Jr., OPP), Kevin Sagers (Sr., OH), Russell Lavaja (Jr., MB), Futi Tavana (Jr., MB)

Key Losses: Reed Chilton (S), Joel Silva (L), Andrew Stewart (OH), Kent Tuttle (OPP)

Additions: Josue Rivera (6-3, OH), Taylor Sander (6-4, OH)

Snapshot: The Cougars return blocking stalwart Tavana, who last year ranked second in the NCAA with 1.62 blocks per game (151 total blocks), along with offensive threat Robb Stowell who last season was second on the squad with 414 total kills. BYU will need to replace kills leader Stewart (463 kills) along with setter Chilton (1,203 assists) and libero Silva (223 digs) but in addition to Tavana, also return Lavaja, who posted 165 total blocks last season.

Hawaii

2010 Record: 19-10 (14-8 MPSF)
2010 Postseason: 3-0 loss to Stanford in MPSF Semifinals
Head Coach: Charlie Wade
Career Record: 19-10
Key Returners: Jonas Umlauft (So., OH), Josh Walker (Sr., OH), Steven Hunt (Jr., OH), Nejc Zemljak (Sr., S)

Key Losses: Matt Rawson (MH), Steven Grgas (MH), Ric Cervantes (L)

Additions: Shane Welch (6-10, MH), Scott Hartley (6-5, OH), Davis Holt (6-9, MH), Sina Aghassy (5-9, L), Mason Waugh (5-9, S)

Snapshot: Several key players are back for the Warriors, led by MPSF Freshman of the Year Umlauft, who led the NCAA in kills per game with 5.29, and Walker who averaged 4.32 kills per game with 467 kills. Setter Zemljak also returns after distributing more than 1,400 assists a year ago. Hawaii will need to fill the shoes of blocking leader Rawson (127 total blocks) and defensive leader Cervantes (282 digs).

Ohio State

2010 Record: 22-8 (11-1 MIVA)
2010 Postseason: MIVA Champions – 3-0 loss to Stanford in NCAA Semifinals
Head Coach: Pete Hanson
Career Record: 515-282
Key Returners: Steven Kehoe (Sr., S), Shawn Sangrey (Jr., OPP), Mik Berzins (Jr., OH/L), Kevin Heine (Sr., MB), John Klanac (Sr., OH), Jason Tobkin (Sr., OH)

Key Losses: Ted Schoenfeldt (MB)

Additions: Scottie Chapel (6-5, OH), Peter Heinen (6-3, S), Shawn Herron (6-8, MB), Andrew Lutz (6-6, OPP), Coleman Palm (6-7, MB), Michael Piechowski (6-0, L), Alejandro Velez (6-0, L)

Snapshot: The Buckeyes bring back almost their entire squad from last year’s NCAA National Semifinal team, including offensive leaders Sangrey (430 kills, 4.73 kpg) and Klanac (376 kills, 3.96 kpg). Fifth-year senior setter Kehoe returns to again direct the offense, as last year he dished out close to 1,400 assists and led the team to a .300 hitting percentage while also ranking first on the team in service aces with 38. Berzins is back for the defense (232 digs) while blocking leader Heine (95 blocks) also returns.

Penn State

2010 Record: 24-8 (10-0 EIVA)
2010 Postseason: EIVA Champions - Lost to Stanford 3-0 in NCAA Championship
Head Coach: Mark Pavlik
Career Record: 390-113
Key Returners: Dennis Del Valle (Sr., L), Edgardo Goas (Jr., S), Joe Sunder (Jr., OH), Nick Turko (So., MH), Ryan Wolf (Jr., OH)

Key Losses: Max Lipsitz (MH), Will Price (OPP)

Additions: Connor Curry (6-0, L), Nick Goodell (6-4, OH), Jace Olsen (6-7, OH), Peter Russell (6-5, OH), Joe Yasalonis (6-8, MH/OPP)

Snapshot: The Nittany Lions will be looking for their third NCAA Championship match appearance in the last four years but will need to fill the holes left by the graduation of Price (499 kills, 4.54 kpg) and Lipsitz (3.61 kpg, NCAA leader in hitting percentage at .524, team leader in blocks). Back for Penn State is the Puerto Rican setter-libero connection of Goas (13.79 assists per game) and Del Valle (3.54 digs per game) along with Sunder, who last year posted 440 total kills.

Pepperdine

2010 Record: 16-10 (14-8 MPSF)
2010 Postseason: 3-2 loss to Hawaii in MPSF Quarterfinals
Head Coach: Marv Dunphy
Career Record:507-199
Key Returners: Kasey Crider (Sr., S), Corey Riecks (Sr., OH), Tyler Jaynes (Sr., MH), Maurice Torres (So., OPP)

Key Losses: JD Schleppenbach (OH), Sean Grubbs (L), Rodni Santos (MH)

Additions: Kyle Gerrans (6-1, OH), Kyle Gregan (6-8, MH), Parker Kalmbach (6-7, OH), Ryan Leung (6-4, OH), Ryan Plueger (5-11, L), Woody Quinn (6-5, OH), Mike McMahon (5-10, L)

Snapshot: The Waves return four key players from last year’s squad, including Crider, who last season led the NCAA in assists (14.05 assists per game). Offensive leaders Riecks (350 kills, 3.89 kpg) and Torres (391 kills, 3.87 kpg) are also back for Pepperdine, as is Jaynes, the team leader in blocks with 158 who also ranked fourth in the country in blocking (1.52 bpg). The Waves will need to replace Schleppenbach (297 kills, 17 aces, 195 digs) and defensive leader Grubbs (222 digs).

Southern California

2010 Record: 16-11 (13-9 MPSF)
2010 Postseason: 3-1 loss to CSUN in MPSF Quarterfinals
Head Coach: Bill Ferguson
Career Record: 62-54
Key Returners: Murphy Troy (Sr., OPP), Riley McKibbin (Sr., S), Austin Zahn (Sr., MH), Tony Ciarelli (Jr., OH), Maddison McKibbin (So., OH), Tri Bourne (Sr., OH)

Key Losses: Hunter Current (MH)

Additions: Henry Cassidy (6-3, L), Tanner Clayton (6-9, MH), Joey Booth (6-5, OH)

Snapshot: The Trojans return a majority of their lineup from a year ago, and it’s a very talented lineup at that, as one MPSF coach stated that all of the starters could end up being recognized as All-Americans at the end of the season. Troy and Ciarelli carried the offense last year as they provided more than 400 kills each (4.62 and 3.90 kills per game, respectively) and they also were the team leaders in service aces, while Riley McKibbin is back to direct the offense. USC will need to find a way to replace blocking leader Current (108 total blocks).

Stanford

2010 Record: 24-6 (16-6 MPSF)
2010 Postseason: MPSF and NCAA Champion – 3-0 win over Penn State in NCAA Championship
Head Coach: John Kosty
Career Record: 65-53
Key Returners: Gus Ellis (Jr., MH), Brad Lawson (Jr., OH), Spencer McLachlin (Sr., OH), Erik Shoji (Jr., L)

Key Losses: Evan Romero (OPP), Kawika Shoji (S), Garrett Werner (MH)

Additions: Brian Cook (6-5, OH), Grant Delgado (5-9, L), Denny Falls (6-7, MH), Steven Irvin (6-5, OH), Eric Mochalski (6-5, OH/OPP), Scott Sakaida (5-9, L), Daniel Tublin (6-7, OH)

Snapshot: The Cardinal return four key players from last year’s NCAA Championship squad, including Lawson, the 2010 NCAA Championship Co-Most Outstanding Player and team leader in kills (522, 4.92 kpg). Also back is Erik Shoji, the team defensive leader (365, 3.41 dpg), and Ellis, the team blocking leader (123, 1.18 bpg), but the squad will have to contend with the loss of 2010 NCAA Championship Co-Most Outstanding Player setter Kawika Shoji, who led the offense to the top hitting percentage in the NCAA (.356).

UC Irvine

2010 Record: 15-15 (10-12 MPSF)
2010 Postseason: 3-1 loss to Stanford in MPSF Quarterfinals
Head Coach: John Speraw
Career Record: 139-74
Key Returners: Carson Clark (Jr., OPP), Jordan DuFault (Sr., OH), Cory Yoder (Sr., OH), Kevin Wynne (Sr., MB), Anthony Spittle (Sr., S), Austin D’Amore (Jr., MB), Will Montgomery (So., OH/L)

Key Losses: Cole Reinholm (OH), Bryan Simmons (MH), Kevin Welch (Lib)

Additions: Daniel Stork (6-4, S), Scott Kevorken (6-9, MB), Jeremy Dejno (6-4, OH), Ian Castellana (6-6, OH), Nick West (6-8, MB), Taylor Averill (6-6, S/OH), Collin Mehring (6-7, MB), Travis Woloson (6-4, OH)

Snapshot: Picked as the co-favorite along with Southern California in the MPSF Preseason Coaches Poll, the Anteaters return a veteran lineup and most of its offense. Clark was one of only four players in the nation who averaged more than five kills per game (5.04) and is joined by DuFault (483 kills, 4.06 kpg). UC Irvine also returns a deep roster, as six players who recorded more than 125 kills are back, along with Spittle who dished out more than 560 assists. Blocking leader D’Amore (127 total blocks) is back as is Wynne, who ranked second with 113 total blocks.

UCLA

2010 Record: 16-14 (11-11 MPSF)
2010 Postseason: 3-1 loss to BYU in MPSF Quarterfinals
Head Coach: Al Scates
Career Record: 1201-267
Key Returners: Jack Polales (Jr., OPP), Nick Vogel (Jr., MH), Thomas Amberg (Jr., MH), Tom Hastings (Sr., L)

Key Losses: Garrett Muagututia (OH), Kevin Ker (S),

Additions: Spencer Rowe (6-6, OPP), Robart Page (7-0, OH), Gonzalo Quiroga (6-3, MH)

Snapshot: The Bruins will need to find a way to replace top offensive producer Muagututia, who led the squad with 3.91 kills per game a year ago (446 total kills), along with Ker, the team leader in assists (1,152) and aces (40). However, UCLA does return a bulk of its offense from a year ago, including Polales (3.67 kpg), Vogel (2.04 kpg) and Amberg (2.19 kpg), along with its top defender in Hastings (2.35 digs per game). Vogel and Amberg also combined for 228 total blocks last season.

UC Santa Barbara

2010 Record: 13-16 (9-13 MPSF)
2010 Postseason: N/A
Head Coach: Rick McLaughlin
Career Record: 21-29
Key Returners: Jeff Menzel (Sr., OH), Cullen Irons (Sr., OH/OPP), Vince Devany (Sr., S), Scott Slaughter (Sr., MB), Dylan Davis (So., MB), Andy McGuire (Sr., L)

Key Losses: Jake Rosener (OPP), Sam Moisenco (MB)

Additions: Jake Staahl (6-6, MB), Kevin Donohue (6-2, OH/OPP), Weston Nielsen (6-6, OH), Chris Hartig (6-6, OPP)

Snapshot: The Gauchos return a senior-laden lineup led by Menzel, who ranked first on the team and second in the country last year in kills per game (5.16) while also recording the highest kill total in the nation (588). Irons and Slaughter also provided more than 200 kills a year ago while Devany returns to direct the offense. McGuire picked up more than 300 digs last season as Slaughter led the way with 95 total blocks.

Originally published in February 2011

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