Lavaja, Sander honored as Preseason All-Americans

(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – The Off the Block Preseason All-America Teams were announced with BYU’s Russ Lavaja and Taylor Sander among those honored on the First Team. 

A nationwide voting committee selected 20 players to the Off the Block Preseason All-America Teams, recognizing the NCAA Division I-II’s men’s volleyball players projected to be the best in the nation during the upcoming season.

Senior middle blocker Russ Lavaja led the Cougars in 2012 in blocks (168), block assists (157) and hitting percentage (.431). Named to the All-MPSF Second Team, Lavaja finished last season ranked sixth in the NCAA in blocks per set.

Junior outside hitter Taylor Sander, who received All-America First Team accolades in 2012, was the kills (435), kills per set (4.89) and aces (44) leader for BYU last season. Sander finished the season ranked No. 2 in hitting percentage, No. 2 in kills per set and No. 5 in aces per set in the NCAA, while leading the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in kills per set.

USC led all teams with three players earning Preseason All-American honors. The Trojans return a majority of their starters from last season after winning the MPSF regular season championship and reaching the NCAA championship match.

BYU, Lewis, Loyola, Pepperdine, Stanford and UC Irvine each had two Preseason All-American selections. Of these schools BYU and Lewis were the only teams to have multiple players on the Preseason All-America First Team list.

Along with these seven teams, Long Beach State, Pacific, Penn State, UCLA and UC Santa Barbara each had one player selected to a Preseason All-America Team.

Players eligible for the Preseason All-America Teams had to be on an active roster of a Division I-II men’s volleyball team.

The 18-member voting committee was comprised of men’s volleyball head coaches and volleyball reporters from around the nation.

This is the second year that Off the Block has organized voting for the Preseason All-America Teams. Off the Bock is a website that launched in January 2011 and solely focuses on college men’s volleyball news and analysis.

Below is the complete list of the teams.

Off the Block Preseason First-Team All-American
Setter: Micah Christenson, USC
Setter: BJ Boldog, Lewis
Middle attacker: Russ Lavaja, BYU
Outside attacker: Jay Petty, Lewis
Outside attacker: Aaron Russell, Penn State
Outside attacker: Taylor Sander, BYU
Outside attacker: Joseph Smalzer, Loyola
Outside attacker: Kevin Tillie, UC Irvine
Outside attacker: Maurice Torres, Pepperdine
Libero: Henry Cassiday, USC

Off the Block Preseason Second-Team All-American
Setter: Matt West, Pepperdine
Middle attacker: Dylan Davis, UC Santa Barbara
Middle attacker: Robert Feathers, USC
Middle attacker: Eric Mochalski, Stanford
Outside attacker: Brian Cook, Stanford
Outside attacker: Taylor Crabb, Long Beach State
Outside attacker: Jeremy Dejno, UC Irvine
Outside attacker: Gonzalo Quiroga, UCLA
Libero: Javier Caceres, Pacific
Libero: Peter Jasaitis, Loyola