MALIBU, Calif. Â The Pepperdine men’s volleyball team, the national runner-up last season, has earned the #3 ranking in the preseason Bison/AVCA national top 15 poll, the organization announced today.
Pepperdine was previously named the co-favorite in the 2009 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation preseason coaches’ poll.
The Waves finished 17-11 last year and tied for fourth in the MPSF with a 12-10 mark, but recorded three straight upsets to claim the 2008 MPSF Tournament title. They then went on to defeat Long Beach State in the NCAA semifinals before falling to top-ranked Penn State in the championship match.
The 2009 Waves return 10 of 14 letterwinners and five starters, plus the libero. However, one of those returning starters, senior outside hitter J.D. Schleppenbach (Ventura, Calif./Ventura HS), will miss the 2009 season with a shoulder injury. Also, the one starter that graduated was an important one in four-time All-American setter Jonathan Winder.
The Waves do return two-time All-American and senior opposite Paul Carroll (Forster, Australia), who led the nation with 6.54 kills last season and was named the top player in Australia earlier this season. Sophomore outside hitter Cory Riecks (Auburn, Calif./Placer HS) was second on the team in kills last season with 3.22 per game.
Defending NCAA champion Penn State is ranked #1, and UCLA (which was listed as the co-favorite with Pepperdine in the MPSF race) is #2. After the Waves, MPSF foes hold the #4 through #9 slots, as well as a total of 10 of the 15 rankings.
Pepperdine is currently in Canada for a pair of exhibition tournaments prior to beginning the regular season at home on January 9 against California Baptist.
The AVCA/Bison national preseason poll is as follows:
1. Penn State (14 first-place votes)
2. UCLA (1 first-place vote)
3. Pepperdine (1 first-place vote)
4. Long Beach State
5. Cal State Northridge
6. UC Irvine
T10. Ohio State
12. Ball State
14. UC Santa Barbara
15. George Mason