The NCAA Division I men’s volleyball season kicks off in earnest this weekend. Before you dive in, read our season preview, which highlights the teams we think will come up big this year. Please note, the teams are listed alphabetically, not ordered in any kind of ranking.

Ball State

2015 Record: 13-16
2015 Postseason: MIVA Tournament, Quarterfinals
Head Coach: Joel Walton
Key Returners: Edgardo Cartagena (RS Jr., OH, 6-5), Hiago Garchet (S, Sr., 6-6), Marcin Niemczewski (Sr., OH, 6-5), Mike Scannell (Jr., OH, 6-3), Brendan Surane (Jr., OH, 6-6), Matt Walsh (So., MB, 6-11)
Key Losses: Matt Sutherland (OH, 6-3), David Ryan Vander Meer (L, 5-9), Shane Witmer (OH, 6-3)
Newcomers: Jeff Hill (RS Fr., L, 6-0), Jake Romano (Fr., S, 6-6), Parker Swartz (Fr., MB, 6-5), Lemuel Turner (Fr., MB, 6-6), Adam Wessel (Fr., L, 5-11)

Preseason All-MIVA selection Matt Walsh will lead the Cardinal in the 2016 season. The sophomore middle blocker ranked third in the nation in blocks last year and boasted the second-best hitting percentage on his team. The Cardinal will face tough challenges from MIVA opponents Lewis, Loyola, and Ohio State, but should be able to string together a strong season with a good group of returning upperclassmen along with five players looking to make their college debuts.

BYU

2015 Record: 17-10
2015 Postseason: MPSF Quarterfinals
Head Coach: Shawn Olmstead
Key Returners: Tim Dobbert (RS So., Opp., 6-10), Michael Hatch (Sr., MB, 6-8), Joseph Grosh (Jr., MB, 6-7), Price Jarman (So., MB, 6-8), Jake Langlois (Jr., OH, 6-10), Kiril Meretev (Jr., OH, 6-8), Ben Patch (So., Opp., 6-8), Brendan Sander (So., OH, 6-4), Robbie Sutton (Sr., S, 6-6), Matt Underwood (Sr., Opp., 6-6)
Key Losses: Phil Fuchs (OH, 6-4), Jaylen Reyes (L, 6-1), Josue Rivera (OH, 6-3)
Newcomers: Chandler Gibb (RS Fr., L, 6-1), Andrew Lincoln (Fr., S, 6-7), Christian Rupert (Fr., MB, 6-7), Tanner Skabelund (Fr., OH, 6-9)

With a new coachformer BYU women’s coach Shawn Olmstead, who took over the men’s team after the 2015 season for Chris McGownand the return of the 2013 Freshman of the Year Ben Patch adding to a deep and experienced roster, the Cougars could be back to top form this year. In 2015, they failed to make the NCAA tournament after a national runner-up finish in 2013 and a national semifinalist performance in 2014. The 6-foot-10 Jake Langlois led the Cougars in 2015 with 246 kills and will be a big part of the offensive effort again in 2016. The second and third biggest offensive contributors from the 2015 Cougar squad, Matt Underwood (212 kills) and Brendan Sander (163 kills), also return. Patch and Langlois gained valuable international experience over the summer playing for Team USA at the Pan Am Games in Toronto, but Tim Dobbert, reappearing as a sophomore after being granted a medical redshirt for the 2015 season, will challenge for playing time on the right pin. The Cougars weak point is likely to be passing, and senior Evan Chang, sophomore Erik Sikes, or redshirt freshman Chandler Gibb will have to step up to fill the hole left by libero Jaylen Reyes graduation. BYU opens the season on January 8 with a tough challenge as it hosts reigning national champs Loyola.

George Mason

2015 Record: 15-13
2015 Postseason: MIVA Runner-up
Head Coach: Jay Hosack
Key Returners: Christian Malias (Jr., L/OH, 6-2), Brian Negron (So., S, 6-7), Radoslav Popov (Jr., OH, 6-2), Paco Velez (RS Jr., Opp., 6-3), Jack Wilson (RS Jr., OH, 6-6)
Key Losses: Hunter Stevens (MB, 6-8)
Newcomers: Kyle Barnes (Fr., OH, 6-4), Seth Blevins (Fr., L/OH, 6-0), Will Calaman (Fr., L, 5-9), Justin Coleman (Fr., S, 6-3), Aaron Cymbor (Fr., OH, 6-3), Bryant Ekstein (Fr., MB, 6-6), Garrett Kollar (RS Fr., MB 6-6), Langston Payne (RS Fr., Opp., 6-5)

With new head coach Jay Hosack at the helm after six seasons as an assistant at Penn State, look for George Mason to make a statement this year. The Patriots lost only one starter from the 2015 MIVA runner-up squad, in addition to welcoming six true freshmen (five of whom are in-state recruits) and benefitting from two other players entering the lineup conversation after redshirting last year. To kick off the season, the Patriots will host UCLA and then travel to Provo, Utah, to play UC Irvine and BYU. Juniors Radoslav Popov and Jack Wilson will lead the offense again, with Paco Velez, the top server in the EIVA last year, returning to terrorize opponents from behind the service line. Redshirt freshman Garrett Kollar or true freshman Bryant Ekstein will challenge upperclassmen Dom Edgley and Ryan Rosenmeier to replace the graduated Hunter Stevens at the middle blocker position.

Hawaii

2015 Record: 24-7
2015 Postseason: National Play-In Match
Head Coach: Charlie Wade
Key Returners: Kupono Fey (Jr., OH, 6-5), Jennings Franciskovic (Jr., S, 6-5), Kolby Kanetake (Sr., L, 5-8), Sinisa Zarkovic (Sr., OH, 6-4),
Key Losses: Taylor Averill (MB, 6-7), Scott Hartley (OH, 6-5), Davis Holt (MB, 6-9), Brook Sedore (Opp., 6-5)
Newcomers: James Anastassiades (Fr., OH, 6-4), Colton Cowell (Fr., OH, 6-1), Steven Duhoux (Jr., S, 6-4), Nainoa Frank (Fr., MB, 6-5), Patrick Gasman (Fr., MB, 6-8), Mamane Namahoe (RS Fr., L, 6-0), Luke Owens (RS Fr., MB, 6-7), Brandon Rattray (Fr., OH, 6-4), Jasper Rhodes (Fr., OH/Opp., 6-5), Brett Rosenmeier (Fr., OH, 6-5), Dalton Solbrig (Fr., MB, 6-6), Stijn Van Tilburg (Fr., OH/Opp., 6-8), Joe Worsley (Fr., S, 6-0)

With nine incoming freshmen and only three returning starters from the 2015 Hawaii squad that went to the NCAA tournament play-in match, this will be a transition year for Hawaii. However, the three returners include a couple of AVCA Honorable Mention All-AmericansSinisa Zarkovic and Jennings Franciskovicas well as outside hitter Kupono Fey, who alongside Franciskovic competed for the U21 national team this summer. If they can help head coach Charlie Wade harness the power of the large and talented group of freshmen, transfer Steven Duhoux and three redshirt freshmen, Hawaii could maintain some momentum from its successful 2015 season.

Lewis

2015 Record: 27-4
2015 Postseason: National Runner-Up
Head Coach: Dan Friend
Key Returners: Scott Fifer (Sr., S, 6-3), Jacob Schmiegelt (RS Jr., MB, 6-6), Bobby Walsh (Sr., MB, 6-9)
Key Losses: Eric Fitterer (Opp., 6-9), Greg Petty (OH, 6-6), Geoff Powell (OH, 6-4), Lucas Yanez (L, 5-10)
Newcomers: Ryan Coenen (Fr., OH, 6-9), Kai Cromwell (Fr., L, 6-0), Evan Gebert (Fr., OH, 6-3), Dalen Instenes (Fr., OH, 6-5), Jacob Kerschner (Fr., S, 6-4), Danny Maurer (So., MB, 6-8), Julian Moses (RS Fr., OH, 6-4), Mitch Perinar (RS Fr., Opp., 6-6), Giovanni Llinas Rosa (RS Jr., OH, 6-7), Michael Simmons (RS Fr., OH, 6-4), Jake Walenga (RS Fr., L, 6-0), Matt Yoshimoto (Fr., S, 6-5)

Lewis lost its top three offensive producersGreg Petty, Geoff Powell, and Eric Fittererto graduation last spring, along with libero Lucas Yanez. However, with 22 men on the roster, Coach Friend will not be without options to replace these key players. Four redshirt freshmen will make their college debuts after sitting out last season, and the Flyers also bring in six true freshman and two transfers. The three returning starters from the national runner-up squad will carry a heavy burden, but as theyve proven many times before, it’s never a good idea to count out the Flyers.

Long Beach State

2015 Record: 15-13
2015 Postseason: MPSF Tournament, First Round
Head Coach: Alan Knipe
Key Returners: Matt Butler (Jr., S, 6-0), Dan Glamack (Sr., OH, 6-6), Taylor Gregory (Sr., MB, 6-7), Cody Martin (Sr., OH/Opp., 6-1), John La Rusch (Sr., Opp., 6-6), Andrew Sato (RS Jr., L, 5-10), Curtis Stallings (Jr., S, 6-5), Bryce Yould (Jr., MB, 6-4)
Key Losses: Ryan Windisch (L, 6-0)
Newcomers: Davis Cannon (RS So., Opp., 6-7), T.J. DeFalco (Fr., OH, 6-4), Kyle Ensing (Fr., OH, 6-7), Amir Lugo-Rodriguez (RS Jr., MB, 6-7), Kysen Olsen (Fr., Opp., 6-4), Josh Tuangia (Fr., S, 6-3), Jeff Utupo (So., OH, 6-4)

This will be an interesting year for Long Beach State. The 2015 season was certainly not one of the 49ers best, but standout libero Andrew Sato returns for 2016 after taking a redshirt year, and four freshmenincluding the nation’s top recruit T.J. DeFalco, who spent the summer training with the national teamwill join the roster. In an exhibition match on November 6, LBSU swept 2015 national runner-up Lewis by the impressive scores of 25-8, 25-15, and 26-24, and DeFalco and his fellow freshmen Kyle Ensing and Josh Tuaniga made significant contributions to the effort, all of which bodes well for the 49ers this seasonand for a few seasons to come.

Loyola Chicago

2015 Record: 28-2
2015 Postseason: National Champion
Head Coach: Mark Hulse
Key Returners: Peter Hutz (Sr., S, 6-4), Jeff Jendryk (So., MB, 6-10), Owen McAndrews (RS Jr., MB, 6-5), Trevor Novotny (Sr., OH, 6-0), Nicholas Olson (Sr., MB, 6-10), Ben Plaisted (So., Opp., 6-5), Jake Selsky (So., L, 5-11)
Key Losses: Cody Caldwell (OH, 6-6), Thomas Jaeschke (OH, 6-6)
Newcomers: Avery Aylsworth (Fr., L, 6-0), Baron Hahn (Fr., MB, 6-8), Dane Leclair (Fr., S, 6-4), Collin Mahan (Fr., OH, 6-5), Markus Melbardis (Fr., OH, 6-4), Cole Murray (Jr., OH, 6-4), Paul Narup (Fr., MB, 6-7), Will Tischler (Fr., OH, 6-7)

The reigning 2014 and 2015 national champion Loyola Ramblers enter the 2016 season facing a couple of big challenges: fill the gaping holes left on the outside by graduating senior Cody Caldwell and the 2015 AVCA National Player of the Year Thomas Jaeschke, who decided to forgo his senior season to turn pro, and get used to seeing a different face at the head of the bench. Former assistant coach Mark Hulse took over the program when Shane Davis departed in late December for Northwestern women’s team. Three of the Ramblers’ seven incoming freshman are outsides and could step up to fill one or both of the vacant spots, with 6-foot-7 Will Tischler and Collin Mahan the likely front-runners. Trevor Novotny, the undersized senior outside hitter from Wisconsin who has gotten sporadic playing time throughout his Loyola career, could also finally have a chance to shine. The players who earn the starting spots will also have to have rock-solid serve receive since Caldwell and Jaeschke, along with libero Jake Selsky, made up the core of LUC’s reception. The Ramblers will rely heavily on the leadership of Selsky and senior setter Peter Hutz, and sophomore middle Jeff Jendryk will come up big for the Ramblers again.

Ohio State

2015 Record: 22-9
2015 Postseason: MIVA Semifinals
Head Coach: Pete Hanson
Key Returners: Christy Blough (Jr., S, 6-5), Gabriel Domecus (Jr., OH, 6-3), Driss Guessous (RS Jr., MB, 6-8), Miles Johnson (Jr., OH, 6-6), Nicolas Szerszen (So., OH, 6-4)
Key Losses: Michael Henchy (OH, 6-7), Shawn Herron (MB, 6-9)
Newcomers: Will Eichel (Fr., S, 6-5), Blake Leeson (RS Fr., Opp., 6-7), Kevin Sowski (Fr., MB, 6-7), Darcy Taig (Fr., OH, 6-6), Sanil Thomas (Fr., L/S, 6-0), Zach Yerington (Fr., MB, 6-5)

Led by head coach Pete Hanson, who was inducted into the AVCA Hall of Fame during the organization’s 2015 Convention in Omaha, the Buckeyes have the makings of a team that could challenge the rebuilding Lewis and Loyola for the MIVA title. Despite suffering two big losses in kills leader Michael Henchy and No. 1 blocker Shawn Herron, the Buckeyes have returners Christy Blough, Gabriel Domecus, and Nicolas Szerszen (who was the 2015 MIVA Freshman of the Year and ranked second on the team in total kills behind Henchy last season). Ace-leader Miles Johnson anchors the team that includes rookie and Fab 50 selection Will Eichel, who will challenge setter Blough for playing time.

Penn State

2015 Record: 21-10
2015 Postseason: National Semifinals
Head Coach: Mark Pavlik
Key Returners: Matt Callaway (RS Jr., MB/Opp., 6-7), Taylor Hammond (RS Sr., S, 6-4), Chris Nugent (Jr., OH, 6-4), Jalen Penrose (RS So., OH, 6-8), Matt Seifert (RS Sr., MB, 6-9)
Key Losses: Connor Curry (L, 6-3), Nick Goodell (Opp., 6-9), Aaron Russell (OH, 6-9)
Newcomers: Luke Braswell (Fr., S, 6-4), Royce Clemens (RS Fr., L, 6-1), Jason Donorovich (Fr., OH, 6-9), Kevin Gear (RS Fr., MB, 6-7), Matthew McLaren (RS Fr., OH, 6-4), Frank Melvin (Fr., OH, 6-5), Calvin Mende (Fr., Opp., 6-11), Lee Smith (RS Fr., OH, 6-6)


The Nittany Lions only lose three players from their 2014 national semifinalist roster, but the losses include their two biggest kill generators, Aaron Russell and Nick Goodell, and four-year starting libero Connor Curry. However, redshirt sophomore Jalen Penrose, who started seven matches for the Lions in 2014 and put away 128 kills and 13 aces, gained some international experience playing for Team USA at the World University Games over the summer and could perhaps help fill the hole left by Goodell’s graduation. In addition, all four incoming PSU freshmenincluding Pennsylvania natives Luke Braswell and Frank Melvinmade the 2015 Volleyball magazine Fab 50 list, and they, along with the four athletes who chose to redshirt last year, could also enter the playing time conversation. Chris Nugent, who ranked third on the team with 221 kills last year, will shoulder a large portion of the offensive load, but he should be up to the challenge.

Stanford

2015 Record: 10-18
2015 Postseason: N/A
Head Coach: John Kosty
Key Returners: Kyle Dagostino (So., S/L, 5-9), Evan Enriques (So., L, 6-2), Madison Hayden (Sr., OH, 6-3), Conrad Kaminski (Sr., MB, 6-8), James Shaw (Sr., S, 6-8), Gabriel Vega (RS Jr., OH, 6-7)
Key Losses: Grant Delgado (L, 5-9), Spencer Haly (MB, 6-7), Daniel Tublin (OH, 6-8)
Newcomers: Russell Dervay (Fr., S, 6-1), Jordan Ewert (Fr., OH, 6-4), Matt Klassen (Fr., OH/Opp., 6-6), Chris Moore (Fr., MB, 6-5), Ryan Smith (Fr., OH, 6-6)

Last year, Stanford, missing setter James Shaw for half of the season, suffered at the hands of its MPSF opponents and failed to make the postseason. In 2016, the 6-8 All-American Shaw returns to the starting lineup, and kills leader Madison Hayden and blocking leader Conrad Kaminski are back for their senior seasons, hoping to help the Cardinal climb back to national prominence. Coach Kosty also brought in a solid recruiting class, including Jordan Ewert, one of the top five recruits in Volleyball’s 2015 Boys Fab 50 list. The Cardinal will be tested early with road matches at Ball State, IPFW, and BYU.

UC Irvine

2015 Record: 28-5
2015 Postseason: National Semifinals
Head Coach: David Kniffin
Key Returners: Jason Agopian (Sr., MB, 6-7), Andrew Benz (Jr., MB, 6-5), Tamir Hershko (Jr., Opp., 6-6), Kyle Russell (Sr., OH, 6-9), Michael Saeta (Jr., Opp., 6-5)
Key Losses: Michael Brinkley (L, 5-10), Zack La Cavera (Opp., 6-4), Roberto Frazzoni (S, 6-2), Travis Woloson (OH, 6-4)
Newcomers: Karl Apfelbach (RS Fr., Opp., 6-8), Matthew August (Fr., MB, 6-4), Dante Chakravorti (Fr., S, 6-3), Sando Feng (RS Fr., MB/Opp., 6-7), Grant Friedman (Fr., OH, 6-5), David Parker (RS Fr., OH, 6-1), Matthew Younggren (Fr., MB/Opp., 6-9), Logan Zotovich (RS Fr., S, 6-2)

Returning big hitters Tamir Hershko, Kyle Russell, and Jason Agopian will make the difference for the Anteaters this year. Hershko is the only Volleyball magazine First Team All-American or AVCA First Team All-American to return to NCAA competition this year, and the Israeli National Team player will likely have another banner year. The loss of First Team All-Americans Zack La Cavera and Michael Brinkley stings, as does the graduation of setter Roberto Frazzoni. Redshirt freshman Logan Zotovich and true freshman Dante Chakravorti are the only setters listed on the roster.

UCLA

2015 Record: 13-14
2015 Postseason: MPSF Tournament, Quarterfinals
Head Coach: John Speraw
Key Returners: Jake Arnitz (So., OH, 6-7), Jackson Bantle (Jr., L, 6-1), Michael Fisher (Jr., OH, 6-5), J.T. Hatch (So., OH, 6-1), Christian Hessenauer (So., Opp., 6-5), Eric Matheis (So., S, 6-2), Hagen Smith (Jr., S, 6-0), Mitch Stahl (Jr., MB, 6-7),
Key Losses: Trent Kersten (MB, 6-9)
Newcomers: Dominic Brousard (Fr., OH, 6-1), Davis Gillett (Fr., L, 5-9), Jonah Kay (Fr., MB, 6-5), Micah Maa (Fr., S/Opp., 6-3), Dylan Missry (Fr., OH, 6-4), Spencer Sachs (Fr., L, 5-11)

Ranked fifth in the AVCA’s Preseason Poll, UCLA hopes to take advantage of a year when they lost just one starter. Last year’s team points leader JT Hatch and fellow sophomore Jake Arntiz return to produce from the pins, with Christian Hessenauer and Mitch Stahl joining the offensive effort. Freshman setter and opposite Micah Maa has already proved his worth in the fall season and in the Bruins exhibition match versus the University of British Columbia, running a 6-2 with Hagen Smith. Another freshman, Davis Gillet, could challenge junior Jackson Bantle for the libero role. With no seniors on the roster, other players will need to step up and fill leadership roles, but with national team head coach John Speraw at the helm, UCLA could be a legitimate threat this season.

UC Santa Barbara

2015 Record: 17-10
2015 Postseason: MPSF Tournament, First Round
Head Coach: Rick McLaughlin
Key Returners: Hayden Boehle (So., L, 6-1), Bobby Curtis (RS So., Opp., 6-5), Jacob Delson (RS Jr., OH, 6-5), Ryan Hardy (RS Sr., MB, 6-7), Austin Kingi (RS Sr., OH, 6-4), Jonah Seif (Sr., S, 6-8)
Key Losses: Kevin Donohue (OH, 6-3), Weston Nielson (OH, 6-6), Jake Staahl (MB, 6-6)
Newcomers: Corey Chavers (Fr., OH, 6-6), Henri Cherry (RS Fr., MB, 6-6), Connor Drake (RS Fr., MB, 6-8), Kevin Fults (Fr., Opp., 6-3), Jackson Hollister (RS Fr., Opp., 6-6), Brandon Hopper (Fr., MB, 6-7), Owen Karlenzig (Fr., OH, 6-5), Jake Lorscheider (Fr., OH)

UCSB is poised to make waves this year, and its four-set defeat of defending national champ Loyola in the first weekend of the season proves the Gauchos are ready to battle through a tough MPSF schedule. Second team All-American setter Jonah Seif will have to find a new go-to hitter after the graduation of Kevin Donohue, but he has several good options in Jacob Delson, Austin Kingi, Connor Drake, and Matt Marsh. Middle Ryan Hardy will have to help make up for the departure of Jake Staahl, who led the team with 113 blocks last year (one more than Hardy’s 112). Libero Hayden Boehle returns to anchor the defense, while five true freshmen and three redshirt freshmen will enter the battle for playing time.

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