With the return of four decorated seniors, the UCSB men’s volleyball team has been ranked third in the American Volleyball Coaches Association preseason poll for the 2021 season.
UCSB, 14-2 last season, placed behind BYU (17-1) and Hawai’l (15-1) in the poll.
They’re followed by Long Beach State (10-1), Lewis (15-4), UC Irvine (10-7), Pepperdine (7-6) and UC San Diego (13-5), UCLA (10-9) and Grand Canyon (14-7) in the top 10.
Also ranked are Penn State (11-7), Concordia-Irvine (10-1), George Mason (10-7), Ohio State (11-8) and Stanford (6-11).
Opposite hitters Randy DeWeese and Roy McFarland, setter Casey McGarry, and middle blocker Keenan Sanders earned selection to both the All-Big West teams and to the AVCA All-American lists at the conclusion of last season.
McGarry was named a first-team All-American, DeWeese and Sanders were on the second team, and McFarland was an honorable mention pick.
They agreed to return to complete their final season of eligibility after the NCAA last March granted spring-sport student athletes an additional season of competition and an extension of their period of eligibility.
UCSB was off to a 14-2 start before last season was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The only losses came at BYU.
At the time of the cancellation, the Gauchos were on an eight-game winning streak.
Head coach Rick McLaughlin was selected as the Big West Coach of the Year and the AVCA National Coach of the Year.
In the AVCA poll, BYU received all 14 first-place votes. The Cougars, coached by Carpinteria High alum Shawn Olmstead, return their entire starting lineup, including 2020 National Player of the Year Gabi Garcia Fernandez and All-Americans Zach Eschenberg, Davide Gardini and Wil Stanley.
The schedule for the 2021 season is still to be determined.
— Noozhawk sports editor Barry Punzal can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk Sports on Twitter: @NoozhawkSports. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.