Juniata College and Kean University top the 2018 Continental Volleyball Conference Preseason Poll. Juniata, the defending CVC Tournament Champion, is expected to finish first in the West Division while Kean, starting their first year in the conference, is expected to take first in the East Division.
Juniata picked up 36 total points in the poll, receiving nine first-place votes. Under first-year head coach Glenn DeHaven the Eagels finished 22-11 overall last year. They bring back 16 players including six starters. Quinn Peterson, a junior, is back after totaling 434 kills, 150 digs, and 69 total blocks last season while earning All-Conference honors. Seniors Mahlon Bender (190 kills) and Matt Vasinko (202 kills) give the Eagles' attack depth while fellow senior Chris Heron (267 digs) joins the duo in adding to the on the court experience. Sophomore setter Michael Young returns after topping 1,000 assists in his first season with the Eagles and helping the team finish first in the league with a .267 hitting percentage. Newcomers Will Hafen and Danny Voronov will look to contribute to the program.
Marymount University, the defending CVC regular-season champion, picked up 24 total points to finish second in the poll. The Saints return five starters from last year's team that finished 19-10 overall and went 13-1 in league play, securing the program's first-ever conference regular season title. The Saints will welcome in a new head coach though in Dan Liberto, who takes over a team laden with seniors. The Saints will be led senior opposite TJ Wiechecki, who led the conference last season with 438 kills and earned CVC Player of the Year and AVCA First Team All-America honors. Also back is setter Erich Bratke, who finished with 709 assists. Juniors Remington Shahan and Eric Wiles gained plenty of experience last season and will be expected to contribute to the attack. Among the newcomers that should see time on the court will be middle blockers Evan Flesher.
Eastern Mennonite University was chosen third in the West with 22 total points, receiving the only other first-place nod among West Division teams. The Royals burst onto the scene last year, going 22-11 overall and securing the program's first-ever trip to the CVC Tournament. The Royals will be led by new head coach Danielle Lickey, who returns 10 players and five starters. The All-Conference duo of Micah Buller and William Ragland will be at the forefront for the team in 2018. Ragland finished with 286 kills last season while hitting .280 and leading the team with 41 service aces. Buller earned All-Conference honors as a libero, finishing with 225 digs. Also back is senior Tim Callahan, who finished second on the team with 292 kills, and setter Christian Taylor, who led the CVC with 1251 assists. The Royals will need to overcome the graduation of their leader hitter Scott Brigham and the departure of 2017 CVC Freshman of the Year Josh Elmore.
CVC first-year member Southern Virginia University picked up 13 points in the poll. The Knights were 22-6 overall last season under head coach Tom Peterson and return five starters. Among those starters is Paul Clark, who led the team with 312 kills last year while hitting .267 and adding 41 service aces. In fact, the Knights bring back four of their top five hitters from last season. Daniel Aina (190 kills), Colby Wilson (145 kills), and Mitch Usevitch (106 kills) join Clark in the attack rotation. Kaipo Tagaloa, a sophomore setter, returns to run the offense after finishing with 729 assists. Top newcomers include Nahuel Aguero, Braden Liu, and Jahren Makanoa.
Thiel College rounds out the West Division with five points. The Tomcats, coached by Adam Roche, will be a young team in 2018. The roster, which includes three returning starters, will consist of all freshmen and sophomores. Those starters include Jacob Burkley, Jacob DeRue, and Mitchell Patterson. Burkley hit .278 as a freshman last season while DeRue finished fourth on the team in kills and third in total blocks. Patterson returns after an impressive collegiate debut last year in which he totaled 308 kills and finished 6th in the conference in points per set. Coach Roche will need to replace a solid group of players that graduated last year and will look to Stephen Borgen, Chance Hoffman, and Ryan Sumarsono to accomplish that.
Kean received 35 total points, including eight first-place votes, as the favorites in the East Division. Kean was 26-9 overall last season and went a perfect 9-0 in the Skyline Conference before joining the CVC. The Cougars are coached by Charlie Ginex, who has led the team to 114 wins in his four years as head coach. He welcomes back 14 players including all six starters. The trio of Shayron Taylor, Jared Warner, and Steven Zarzycki will be looked on once again this year. All three players finished with over 149 kills with Taylor and Warner also each topping 77 total blocks. Sophomore setter Ian Capp led the team last year with 605 assists while senior libero Steve Schrank is back after totaling 105 digs. Newcomers Zach Gerken and Seth Russell could see time on the court as well.
Rutgers University-Newark picked up 26 points including one first-place vote. The Scarlet Raiders are coached by Pedro Trevino and return a strong core of players, with 12 returners and five starters. Corey Pieper, a senior outside hitter, returns after leading the squad with 279 kills last season. Fellow seniors Ricky Crumlish (192 kills), Justin Sandy (189 kills) and Jalen Sorrell (152 kills) also return for coach Trevino and give the team their top four hitters back from last year. Setter Brendon Frank led the team with 504 assists last season while libero Jake Connors finished with 265 digs. Top newcomers include Nick Arce-Cox, Travis Emenaker, and Kyle Loesner.
Ramapo College, another new member of the league, received 23 points and one first-place vote. The Roadrunners went 18-12 overall last season while playing in the Skyline Conference. They return eight players and three starters and are coached by Mike Hrehovcik. Ramapo will need to replace a pair of All-Conference players from last season, Nick Amos and Justin Feigeles. Junior outside hitter Paul Close is the team's leading returning attacker, finishing with 185 kills last season. Also back is sophomore Eric Van Thyune, who played in 21 of the team's matches as a freshman and hit .304 on the season. Conor Charlow, a freshman middle hitter, should work his way into the rotation.
Cairn University was picked 4th with 10 total points. First-year head coach Nate Seidle brings back six players and three starters from last year's squad that went 4-27 overall. The Highlanders will have to overcome the loss of their top attacker (Andy Willits) and the unexpected loss of starting setter Matt Gump. Top returners include opposite Micah Godshall and junior Ryan Ludvik. Godshall was second on the team with 175 kills last season while also adding 132 digs and 30 total blocks. Ludvik will be making the move from libero to setter this season. Scott Bassill and Anton DeLeon are two newcomers that will be looked upon to join the rotation on the court for the Highlanders.
Neumann University, the final new addition to the CVC, picked up five points. The Knights are a first-year program and will be coached by Joan Braid. The Knights first ever match in program history will be January 19th as they compete in the Misericordia Tournament.