NCAA Men's Volleyball Countdown: No. 8 UC Irvine

NCAA Men's Volleyball Countdown: No. 8 UC Irvine
Photo: Glenn Feingerts
FloVolleyball is excited to introduce our NCAA Men's Countdown, ranking the top 10 collegiate men's volleyball teams in the country leading up to the start of the 2017 season.

The No. 8 spot goes to UC Irvine this year, and here's why:

The Upshot


The Anteaters have plenty of seniors, plus a star freshman who was the No. 1 recruit in the nation.

Last Season


10-19 overall, 7-15 in MPSF (eighth place)
0-1 in MPSF Tournament (lost 3-0 at BYU)
Final 2016 RPI: 16
Team Hitting Percentage: .265 (#21 in NCAA)
Team Blocks Per Set: 1.92 (#28)



The Players


RETURNING STARS
Tamir Hershko | 6-foot-6 | Senior | Outside Hitter
3.71 kills/set; .299; 1.93 digs/set  
Michael Saeta | 6-5 | Senior | Setter/Opposite
1.97 kills/set; .319 (#26 in NCAA); 0.35 blocks/set; 0.52 aces/set (#4)
Dante Chakravorti | 6-4 | Sophomore | Setter
9.58 assists/set (#20 in NCAA)
Dillon Hoffman | 6-1 | Senior | Libero
2.13 digs/set (#22 in NCAA)
David Parker | 6-1 | Junior | Outside Hitter
1.02 kills/set; .180; 1.60 digs/set

PROMISING NEWCOMERS
Scott Stadick | 7-0 | Freshman | Middle Blocker
Matthew Younggren | 6-8 | Freshman | Middle Blocker
Grant Friedman | 6-5  | Redshirt Freshman | Outside Hitter

BIGGEST LOSSES
Jason Agopian | 6-7 | Middle Blocker
2.01 kills/set; .385 (#13 in NCAA); 0.77 blocks/set
Marty Ross | 6-10 | Middle Blocker
1.31 kills/set; .431; 1.06 blocks/set (#16 in NCAA)
Kyle Russell | 6-9 | Outside Hitter
2.88 kills/set; .243; 0.34 blocks/set

Nonconference Matches to Watch


March 11 at Ohio State

Outlook


The Anteaters look healthy after battling injuries last season. Coach David Kniffin says senior outside hitter Tamir Hershko, a first-team All-American, looks strong and hungry after being limited to playing just 41 sets in 2016. Junior David Parker has the inside track for the other outside slot but may be pushed by senior Andrew Benz. Opposite is still up in the air, since senior Michael Saeta has proven he can play both right side and setter. If Saeta stays on the pins, then sophomore Dante Chakravorti is the likely setter, with senior Dillon Hoffman anchoring the defense at libero. On an otherwise veteran team, two freshmen may start in the middle, 7-0 Scott Stadick and 6-8 Matthew Younggren. Stadick, the nation's top recruit, has decent bulk for his height and youth. His parents own a bison ranch in Wisconsin, and he has six immediate family members who played collegiate volleyball.



Prediction


This could be the most unpredictable team in the NCAA, with a potentially high ceiling amid a number of question marks. Look for many upsets along the way.


FloVolleyball NCAA Men's Volleyball Countdown


10. USC
9. Stanford
8. UC Irvine
7-1. Check back each day to see the complete rankings!


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