It’s the start of October and that means three months remain before the start of the 2015 college men’s volleyball season.
With the regular season set to begin in less than 100 days, there are plenty of reasons to have excited anticipation. Check out 25 reasons to be excited about the 2015 season.
More marquee non-conference matches – The aftermath of the last year’s controversy surrounding the NCAA Tournament at-large bid selection process resulted in more West Coast teams looking to add non-conference matches. Everything from a rematch of last year’s NCAA championship match to USC going on the road to play Grand Canyon is now scheduled for the upcoming season.
Christenson’s final season – The success of Micah Christenson at the FIVB World League and FIVB World Championships this summer proved he is the setter of the future for the U.S. Men’s National Team. This season, though, is the final chance for the three-time All-American setter to try to lead USC to a NCAA championship.
Russell on the outside – Coach Mark Pavlik surprised some people last season when he called Aaron Russell one of the top three outside attackers in the nation. The two-time EIVA Player of the Year backed-up his coach’s remarks with his play in the postseason, and now Russell enters his senior season as possibly the best outside attacker in the nation.
Loyola’s repeat chances – A team repeating as national champions has happened twice in the last 20 years. The Ramblers return a majority of their starters from last year’s NCAA championship team and have a chance to become the first Midwest team to achieve the repeat feat.
Ball’s farewell season – After founding the IPFW men’s volleyball team in 1981 and being the only head coach in its entire program history, this will be the final season on the sidelines for AVCA Hall of Fame coach Arnie Ball. The next seven months is a chance to say farewell and pay respect to one of the top 10 coaches in college men’s volleyball history.
Depth at setter – This is one of the deepest group of returning starting setters in the recent history of NCAA men’s volleyball. All three finalists for the 2014 Lloy Ball Award — Pepperdine’s Matt West, Stanford’s James Shaw and Christenson — return to the court, along with two more setters who earned first-team all-conference honors last year.
Revenge of the Waves – No team has more reason to be disgruntle with how its season ended than Pepperdine given the at-large bid controversy. With All-American setter Matt West and All-American outside attacker Josh Taylor returning, though, Pepperdine may not have to worry about the at-large bids — it’s capable of winning the MPSF.
Penn State loaded everywhere – When the Nittany Lions had a young starting line-up two years ago, Penn State fans were eagerly waiting for the possibility of this year. The Nittany Lions return all but one of their starters from last season’s team and are looking to win their first national title in seven years.
The Smith Fieldhouse crowd – There are 5,000 screaming BYU fans confined to a tight space for almost every Cougars’ home match. It’s the college men’s volleyball equivalent of playing in Poland for the FIVB Men’s World Championships.
Next challenge for Speraw – This upcoming season could be one of biggest coaching challenges for UCLA coach John Speraw. The Bruins lost a majority of starters from last year’s team. However, if people learned anything this summer from the U.S. Men’s National Team — never count out a young team coached by Speraw.
New college men’s volleyball teams – There will be three new NCAA Division I-II men’s volleyball teams for the upcoming season. North Greenville and Emmanuel will compete in the Conference Carolinas, while Charleston will compete as an independent.
More new teams coming – Concordia-Irvine announced during the summer that it will begin the three-year transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II. In addition, Alderson-Broaddus and Holy Names are in the process of becoming NCAA Division II members for men’s volleyball.
Ohio State reloaded – Ohio State last season for the first time in almost 50 years finished outside of the top four in the MIVA standings. With two Off the Block/Springbak, Inc. Freshmen All-American Team selections returning, though, the Buckeyes could have a big bounce-back season in 2015.
Championship Friday – Forget about Conference Championship Saturday. The EIVA, MIVA and MPSF have all opted for the upcoming season to move their title matches up one day to the Friday night before Selection Saturday.
Anteater breakthrough season – UC Irvine opposite Zack La Cavera last season did not earn all-conference honors despite having a team-high 3.42 kills per game average. The all-conference and All-American accolades could come this season as La Cavera he has the potential to put up even bigger numbers.
Erskine vs. Mount Olive rivalry – A new element was added to the emerging Conference Carolinas rivalry during the off-season when former Mount Olive coach Cole Tallman was hired as the new head coach at Erskine. These two teams last season met in the Conference Carolinas championship match, and both could meet there again this upcoming season.
More Powell – The All-American opposite Geoff Powell carried Lewis in the second-half of the season and right into the NCAA Tournament last year. Powell now returns for his senior season and seems ready to out-pace his team-high 3.89 kills per game average from last season.
Gauchos ready for next step – UC Santa Barbara was the positive surprise of the MPSF last season as it ended the regular season in fourth place and reached the conference tournament semifinals. With all-conference setter Jonah Seif returning the Gauchos have a chance to go even further this postseason.
The giant video screen – Long Beach State is adding to the Pyramid a 60-foot video screen, which will be the nation’s biggest wall-mount video screen for an on-campus college facility. Now, the big question is who will appear on the video screen as the 49ers look to replace some big parts of its starting lineup from last year’s team.
Beware of the Ivy – Princeton and Harvard each received votes at various times last season in the national coaches poll, and the two rivals met in the conference tournament semifinals. Both teams return a majority of starters, added strong recruiting classes and should make things that much more interesting in the EIVA this upcoming season.
Hawai’i postseason push – All-American Tyler Averill was the best middle attacker in the nation last season, and now he will try to help lead the Rainbow Warriors back to the postseason for the first time since 2013.
Final leg of an unusual path – Michael McMahon entering his senior season has gone from being the starting libero at Pepperdine to transferring and ending last year as the Conference Carolinas Defensive Player of the Year. The Barton incoming senior last season also set the single-season record during the 25-point game rally scoring era with 355 digs.
The I-69 Rivalry – There’s respect along with mutual animosity between Ball State and IPFW players. It’s the best rivalry in college men’s volleyball. The in-state conference rivalry gets renewed once again in Ball’s final year with IPFW.
Sander the sequel – All Taylor Sander did at BYU was become a four-time All-American and shatter the school record book. Now time to see what his younger brother Brenden Sander can do.
NCAA Tournament location – It’s Palo Alto, California in May. Regardless of the teams playing in it, the NCAA Tournament will have one amazing backdrop.
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