NCAA Men's Volleyball Countdown: No. 5 Pepperdine

Pepperdine Athletics Pepperdine men's volleyball

FloVolleyball is excited to continue 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. 5 spot goes to Pepperdine this year, and here's why:

The Upshot


Last season's Waves were road warriors. Look out if they put it together at home, too.

Last Season


13-11 overall, 12-10 in MPSF (fifth place)
0-1 in MPSF Tournament (lost 3-0 at Long Beach State)
Final 2016 RPI: 11
Team Hitting Percentage: .295 (#11 in NCAA)
Team Blocks Per Set: 2.73 (#2)

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The Players


RETURNING STARS
David Wieczorek | 6-foot-8 | Sophomore | Outside Hitter
2.94 kills/set; .344 (#19 in NCAA); 0.35 aces/set (#21)
Colby Harriman | 6-4 | Junior | Outside Hitter
2.61 kills/set; .173; 0.68 blocks/set
Joshua Stewart | 6-4 | Senior | Setter
10.12 assists/set (#12 in NCAA)
Weston Barnes | 6-1 | Junior | Libero
2.02 digs/set (#29 in NCAA)
Mitchell Penning | 6-7 | Senior | Middle Blocker
1.53 kills/set; .394; 0.95 blocks/set (#31 in NCAA)

PROMISING NEWCOMERS
Alex Harthaller | 6-6 | Junior | Outside Hitter (transfer from IPFW)
Owen Yoshimoto | 6-2 | Junior | Outside Hitter (transfer from Moorpark College)
Robert Mullahey | 6-4 | Freshman | Setter
Noah Dyer | 6-5 | Freshman | Opposite
Sam Bradley | 6-5 | Freshman | Middle Blocker

BIGGEST LOSSES
Matt Tarantino | 6-8 | Middle Blocker
3.88 kills/set (#11 in NCAA), .309 (#35); 0.81 blocks/set
Tommy Carmody | 6-9 | Middle Blocker
1.58 kills/set; .353; 1.45 blocks/set (#2 in NCAA)

Non-Conference Matches to Watch


January 13 at Loyola-Chicago
January 14 at Lewis

Pepperdine Men's Volleyball Coaches Marv Dunphy


Outlook


The Waves graduated two talented middles but welcome everyone else back to a squad that beat BYU in Provo and Stanford in Palo Alto. This year's pin hitters should be returners David Wieczorek and Colby Harriman, plus IPFW transfer Alex Harthaller. If any of them falters, freshman Noah Dyer may have the chops to step in. Mitch Penning is the only sure thing among the candidates for middle, as coach Marv Dunphy (34 seasons) plans to audition six others for the MB2 position, including senior Kyle Suppes, who returns to the gym after a rare fourth-year redshirt. Libero Weston Barnes returns to lead what Dunphy describes as an unusually deep pool of defensive talent. Joshua Stewart is back at setter, and Dunphy is calling on the senior to distribute more widely this season after leaning heavily on now-graduated Matt Tarantino in 2016. "We're going to have to be more balanced offensively," Dunphy said.

Prediction


Dunphy is as much a teacher as he is a coach, and if his players behave as much like students as they do athletes, the Waves could go far. With such a veteran group, look for Pepperdine to push BYU, UCLA, and Long Beach State for what could be as many as three MPSF spots in the NCAA postseason.


FloVolleyball NCAA Men's Volleyball Countdown


10. USC
9. Stanford
8. UC Irvine
7. Hawaii
6. Lewis
5. Pepperdine
4-1. Check back every day to see the remainder of the rankings!


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