(Photo by BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
PROVO, Utah – BYU men's volleyball has been selected as the preseason 2016 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation favorite. The poll, which was released on Thursday, is voted on by the conference's head coaches.
BYU collected 112 points and eight first-place votes to finish at the top of the poll. The Cougars return 2013 AVCA Newcomer of the Year and MPSF Freshman of the Year Ben Patch at opposite after returning from his LDS mission, alongside all-conference outside hitter Jake Langlois and middle blocker Michael Hatch. 2014 AVCA Women’s National Coach of the Year Shawn Olmstead takes over as head coach of the team this year.
UC Irvine finished second in the poll, totaling 106 points and a pair of first-place votes. The Anteaters return five starters from last year’s MPSF Championship team, including First-Team All-American hitter Tamir Hershko and first-team all-conference middle Jason Agopian.
Placing third with 95 points and one first-place vote is UCLA, who returns five starters, including MPSF Freshman of the Year JT Hatch. Long Beach State took fourth with 89 points, as All-American Taylor Gregory returns along with every starter from 2015. The 49ers also welcome one of the nation’s top recruiting classes. UC Santa Barbara placed fifth, receiving the final first-place vote and 86 points, followed by Hawaii with 75 points in rounding out the top-half of the conference. Two-time All-American setter Jonah Seif is back to lead the Gauchos. The Warriors are coming off an NCAA Play-in appearance, as setter Jennings Franciskovic and outside Sinisa Zarkovic return.
Pepperdine placed seventh, reaching the MPSF Championship match a year ago. Highlighting the returning Waves’ are Matt Tarantino and Mitchell Penning. Stanford was eighth with 53 points, projected to get back into the postseason after missing last year. Back for the Cardinal are All-Americans James Shaw and Conrad Kominski.
USC (50), CSUN (30), Cal Baptist (21), and UC San Diego (12) complete the poll. The Trojans were MPSF Semifinalists last year, and return All-American middle Andy Benesh. MPSF conference action gets underway on January 13.
The 2016 MPSF Championship Tournament begins with the top-four seeds hosting quarterfinal action on April 16. The conference semifinals are on April 21, on the home floor of the best remaining seed. That evening’s winners will battle on April 23 for the MPSF Championship, contested at the semifinal site, with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament on the line (May 3-7 at Penn State).