The reigning Continental Volleyball Conference Champions (CVC), Stevenson University, are the favorites in 2017 as well; according to the CVC Coaches Preseason Poll. Stevenson received 47 total points in the poll, picking up six first-place votes, as they will look to defend their conference title.
Stevenson finished 26-8 overall last season, going 11-1 in conference play and capturing the program's first ever CVC Tournament title. The Mustangs advanced to the NCAA Division III semifinals last spring before falling to #2 Springfield. The Mustangs return 11 players from last year's squad but will have to replace a core group of graduating seniors that included 2016 CVC Player of the Year Rob Wingert as well as Kyle Pottieger and Patrick Schuyler. The trio helped the program to three straight CVC championship match appearances and guided the Mustangs to a 83 wins over their four years. The Mustangs need look no further than 2016 CVC Rookie of the Year Landon Shorts as the next man up. Shorts, a sophomore outside hitter, led the Mustangs with 345 kills last season while ranking in the top ten in the conference in service aces, total points, kills, kills per set, and hitting percentage. Also returning are senior middle blocker Nate Ellis and sophomore opposite Jason Gardner. Ellis totaled 220 kills last season while hitting .392 with Gardner finishing with 154 kills. Newcomers Nate Bosse and Kyle Bosko, both middle blockers, and Derek Tangora, a libero, should see time on the court as well. Another newcomer for the Mustangs will be Head Coach Aldis Berzins, who takes over the program after spending the last 14 years as Senior Director of Sports Development and Coaching Education for Special Olympics International.
Marymount University was picked second in the poll, receiving 40 total points and one first-place vote. The Saints were 19-11 overall last season, going 9-3 in conference play. Head Coach Hudson Bates has increased the team's win total each season since the program's birth in 2014. Last year marked the first winning season in program history as they advanced to the CVC Tournament. The Saints are led by senior middle blocker Tomasz Kziazkiewicz. Kizazkiewicz became the program's first ever All-American, earning Second Team honors after finishing with over 200 kills and 100 blocks while hitting .407 last season. Also back is opposite TJ Wiechecki, who has earned All-Conference honors in each the last two seasons, as well as junior setter Erich Bratke, 7.48 assists per match. The Saints have filled out the roster depth with a strong freshman class that includes Shane Limbaugh, James Safley, and Joseph Zanelotti. Coach Bates will put the Saints to the test this season, scheduling 11 non-conference matches against teams that were ranked last year.
Juniata College was chosen to finish third, picking up 38 total points. The Eagles will be led by first year head coach and alum Glenn DeHaven, who takes over the program after serving as the women's volleyball head coach at Stevens Institute of Technology. DeHaven takes over a team that finished 10-16 last season, going 5-7 in the CVC. Senior middle Kyle Seeley is the leader of a youthful Eagles squad that has just four seniors. Seeley led Juniata with 303 kills last season, ranking third in the conference, and added 70 total blocks. Also back is senior Quinn Looper, a setter, who recorded 373 assists in his first year as a starter in 2016. In addition, Jake Dube and Zach Guiciardi will provide added experience for the Eagles. A couple of players looked upon to increase their workload will be Quinn Peterson and Matt Vasinko. Peterson, a sophomore outside hitter, finished with 176 kills last season while Vasinko, a junior outside hitter, totaled 178 kills.
Coming in fourth on the poll is Rutgers University-Newark. The Scarlet Raiders received 29 points including the final first-place vote. Scarlet Raider head coach Pedro Trevino returns seven players and just one starter from last year's team that went 24-4 overall, 10-2 in the CVC, and advanced to their second straight NCAA Division III Tournament. That starter is junior outside hitter Corey Pieper. Pieper finished second on the team last year in kills with 240 while hitting .266 with 51 service aces. Joining Pieper in the regular rotation will be Brendon Frank, Dom Gutowski, and Justin Sandy. The Scarlet Raiders will hope their incoming class that includes Jake Conners and Jalen Sorrell can help offset the loss of standouts Cody Chidsey, Jack Fredricks, and Kevin McCandless; a trio that accumulated 46 wins and two Elite Eight trips over the last two years.
Eastern Mennonite finished fifth in the preseason poll with 28 total points. The Royals bring back every starter and a total of 11 players from last year's squad that finished 12-12 overall and narrowly missed making the CVC Tournament with a 5-7 conference mark. A familiar face will be in charge of the Royals this year, albeit in a different role and new colors. Former CVC standout and Juniata graduate Ross Madden has taken over the Eastern Mennonite program after having coached in the high school ranks and as a club tournament director. Madden will have a strong core to build upon with their top six attackers returning from last year. Senior outside hitter Scott Brigham leads the way, 3.43 kills per set last year, while sophomore Travis Abele and juniors William Ragland and Dan Lutz all reached the 100 kills mark in 2016. Running the offense once again will be sophomore Christian Taylor, who recorded 761 assists last season. Newcomer Josh Elmore, an opposite, will battle for time on the court.
Cairn University was picked sixth in the poll, receiving 18 total points. The Highlanders were 6-14 overall and 1-11 in the CVC under Head Coach Deb Schendel. This will be Coach Schendel's second season at the helm and she will look to build upon last year's season, which featured five freshman players seeing time on the court. Last season it was a pair of sophomores in Micah Godshall and Andy Willits leading the team with Godshall totaling 170 kills and Willits leading the team with 175 kills.
CVC Newcomer Alvernia University was chosen seventh in the poll with 11 total points. This will be the first season of play for the Crusaders program that is led by Coach Deb Schlosser. The Crusaders expect a trio of players (Anthony Dadson, Justin Gibbs, and Collin Welteroth) to help the program find their footing and grow. Dadson is a 6'5" sophomore middle, while Gibbs is a 5'10' junior setter and Welteroth is a freshman outside hitter. With 15 players on the roster, the Crusaders will look to find a strong combination on the court to compete in their first year.
Thiel College was picked eighth, receiving 10 total points in the poll. Thiel, coached by Adam Roche, went 3-16 overall and 1-11 in conference play last season. The Tomcats return all six starters with the trio of Regan Hess, Cody Patterson, and Thad Paunovich once again heading up the attack. Hess totaled 129 kills last year while hitting .221 and Paunovich finished with 128 kills and 82 digs. Patterson led the Tomcats with 193 kills and chipped in with 92 digs. Also returning is Zach Rombach, a senior setter, who recorded 539 assists and 150 digs to lead the team in both categories. Among the newcomers expected to contribute will be Jacob Burkley, Jacob DeRue, and Mitch Patterson.
The CVC is one of the premier men's volleyball conferences in NCAA Division III with eight members. The 2017 season begins on January 12th with the first full slate of conference matches set for February 10th.