BYU Photo
Gabi Garcia Fernandez (center) celebrates at the NCAA Tournament last year.

PROVO — The AVCA Division I-II Men’s Preseason Poll was released Thursday, with BYU men’s volleyball coming in at No. 5 in the nation.

BYU earned a 22-7 overall and 10-2 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation record in 2018. The Cougars won the regular-season MPSF title, as well as the conference tournament, giving them a No. 2 overall seed at the NCAA tournament where they advanced to the national semifinals before falling to UCLA.

The Cougars lost six players from last year’s squad, including All-American starters Price Jarman, Leo Durkin and Brenden Sander. BYU welcomes five newcomers this season, all of which are freshmen.

Outside hitter Gabi Garcia Fernandez, the AVCA Newcomer of the Year and a second-team 2018 AVCA All-American, had a team-best 387 kills as a freshman last year and returns to help the Cougars manage the void left by the departure of first-team All-American outside hitter counterpart Sander.

Junior outside hitter Storm Fa’agata-Tufuga returns as BYU’s third-most productive hitter (194 kills) from last season, along with 2018 Volleyball Magazine Freshman All-American middle blocker Felipe de Brito Ferreira, who led the team averaging 1.14 blocks per set. Junior setter Wil Stanley, who played in 90 of BYU’s 112 sets last year, also returns along with sophomore libero Zach Hendrickson, who USA Volleyball named to the Men’s Junior National Team this summer.

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Among BYU’s newcomers is outside hitter Davide Gardini from Ravenna, Italy, a 6-foot-9 international talent who comes to the Cougars after having helped his U-19 National Team win gold at the 2017 European Youth Olympic Festival. His father is former three-time Italian Olympian Andrea Gardini.

Defending national champion Long Beach State was voted as the No. 1 team, receiving all 16 first-place votes. UCLA, Hawai’i and UC Irvine round out the top five ahead of BYU. The Cougars will face 10 of the 15 teams currently ranked in the preseason poll this season. For a complete list of the preseason top-15 selections, visit the AVCA poll page.

BYU begins the season at home, hosting No. 8 Ohio State on Thursday, Jan. 10, at 7 p.m. MST.