2007 Pac-10 Volleyball Guide

Aug. 14, 2007

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Pac-10 volleyball continues to dominate the collegiate game. Over the last six seasons, the Pac-10 has sent 12 teams to the Final Four and captured five national titles. During those six seasons, the league has posted an impressive 568-171 (.769) record against non-conference opponents. In NCAA Tournament action over that same span, the Pac-10 has posted a mark of 95-25 (.792). With 17 Volleyball FAB 50 recruits added to this year's Pac-10 rosters, the league is determined to continue to add to its success.

Here's a brief look at the teams of the Pac-10 as they prepare for the 2007 season:

After being shut out of the postseason for the first time in 11 seasons, the Wildcats look to bounce back behind the strength of six returning starters led by senior middle blocker Dominique Lamb. Lamb (2.54 kpg/1.55 bpg) and sophomore Jacy Norton (1.67 kpg/1.48 bpg) give the Wildcats a quality pair of middle blockers. Arizona ranked eighth in the nation with 3.42 blocks per game. Sophomore outside hitter Whitney Dosty (3.39 kpg/3.83 ppg), a Pac-10 All-Freshman selection, and junior Brooke Buringrud (3.52 kpg/2.45 dpg/4.27 ppg) will once a again get a majority of the Arizona attacks. Coach David Rubio has added a pair of FAB 50 recruits in outside hitter Tiffany Owens and setter Paige Webber that should aid the charge to return to the postseason.

The Sun Devils are coming off their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2002, and the outlook appears to be even better in 2007 as the Sun Devils return four starters, plus senior Sydney Donahue - their record-breaking libero. Donahue (6.57 dpg) holds the Pac-10 single-season record with 742 digs, and holds the Sun Devil career mark with 1,745 digs. While ASU will look to its six seniors for sound leadership (no Pac-10 squad has more seniors on their roster than the Sun Devils), it will be sophomore setter Marina Mercer that will run the offense. She earned Pac-10 All-Freshman Team honors last year, posting 1,183 assists (10.56 apg). Senior middle blockers Staci Smith (.279/2.01 kpg/0.93 bpg) and Colette Meek (1.25 kpg/0.91 bpg) will provide the Sun Devils with solid play at the net. Coach Brad Saindon will look to take a veteran squad to consecutive postseason trips for the first time since the 1999-2000 seasons.

Coach Rich Feller looks to lead the Bears to a sixth straight appearance behind the play of AVCA All-American senior outside hitter Angie Pressey. Pressey became the first Golden Bear to earn All-Pac-10 three straight years, and for good reason. She led Cal with 487 kills (4.29 kpg) in 2006, giving her 1,262 kills for her career. She also posted 300 digs (2.70 dpg) and 86 blocks (0.77 bpg). Cal will also turn to sophomore hitters Hana Cutura (392 kills/3.84 kpg) and Morgan Beck (306 kills/2.78 kpg). Senior Ellen Orchard (301 kills/2.71 kpg) anchors the middle for the Bears. A challenge for the Bears will come in replacing a four-year starter in setter Samantha Carter. FAB 50 recruit Carli Lloyd will get first crack at the opportunity and will have plenty of options in order to ease the transition.

In 2006, the Ducks posted their first winning season since 1990 and returned to the postseason for the first time since 1989. With four returning starters, including one of the league's top liberos, coach Jim Moore looks to make the postseason a common occurrence again for the Ducks Sophomore middle blocker Sonja Newcombe (3.56 kpg/2.99 dpg/0.86 bpg) leads a strong group of middles that includes sophomore Neticia Enesi (2.38 kpg) and senior Karen Waddington (1.32 bpg).Oregon will need to replace a pair of quality outside hitters and with only one senior and one junior on the roster that have any experience, the newcomers will need to be ready to contribute as the schedule includes 15 matches against teams that played in the 2006 NCAA Tournament.

The Beavers were challenged last year with a young squad the included nine freshmen. However, with 10 of the 11 returning letterwinners seeing action in at least half of the team's 93 games played last season, coach Terry Liskevych has a Beaver squad that is now loaded with depth and experience. Sophomore outside hitter Rachel Rourke was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman team after leading the squad with 4.25 kills per game (387 kills). Sophomore middle blocker Lexie Rathgeber led the Beavers at the net with 89 blocks (1.00 bpg) and earned honorable mention Pac-10 All-Freshman accolades. It'll be tough for the Beavers to use the home court advantage as they will play their first 13 matches of the season on the road or in neutral venues.

Just like last season when Stanford captured its 10th Pac-10 title and went on to reach the NCAA Championship finals for the 12th time in school history, the Cardinal return five starters, including three AVCA All-Americans in senior setter Bryn Kehoe (13.39 apg), junior outside hitter Cynthia Barboza (4.21 kpg) and junior middle blocker Foluke Akinradewo (3.90 kpg/1.44 bpg). While Stanford loses the services of four-time All-Pac-10 selection Kristin Richards, coach John Dunning has added four FAB 50 recruits. Among those four recruits is highly-touted outside hitter Alix Klineman, the Gatorade National Player of the Year. With all that talent, could it be de ja vu for the Cardinal in 2007?

UCLA returned to the Final Four in 2006 for its' first national semifinals appearance since 1994. In order to make a deep run into the Tournament again in 2007, Coach Andy Banachowski will rely on All-American setter Nellie Spicer (13.66 apg) to lead the way for the Bruins. She will have quality options at outside hitter with juniors Kaitlin Sather (310 kills/2.95 kpg) and Ali Daley (324 kills/2.92 kpg. The two were efficient last season, as they combined to hit .242. The Bruins will have a big hole to fill with departed All-American middle blocker Nana Meriwether. However, UCLA joins Stanford and USC as one of three Pac-10 schools to have inked four FAB 50 recruits and should receive immediate contributions from freshman outsider hitters Dicey McGraw and Juliane Piggott, and middle blocker Katie Mills.

The Women of Troy provide the Pac-10 with the league's top hitting tandem in senior opposite Asia Kaczor (4.94 kpg) and senior outside hitter Diane Copenhagen. (3.99 kpg). Behind these two, coach Mick Haley will look to guide a USC squad that returns its entire starting lineup (minus the libero) deep into the postseason. Taking charge of the USC offense will be sophomore setter Taylor Carico (12.68 apg), the Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. Haley also has added a large and talented group of eight freshmen that include four who earned Volleyball Magazine FAB 50 honors - two of those FAB 50 honorees, middle blocker Zoe Garrett and outside hitter Kimmee Roleder joined Carico to comprise one-fourth of the U.S. Junior National Team roster.

The Huskies have appeared in three consecutive Final Fours and posted a 89-9 (.908) record during that span. Coach Jim McLaughlin has the firepower to make a run at a fourth consecutive Final Four. At outside hitter, senior All-American Christal Morrison (4.56 kpg/3.11 dpg) is the reigning Pac-10 Player of the Year and will be joined by senior Stevie Mussie (3.82 kpg) and junior Jill Collymore (3.16 kpg). The Huskies will have solid net play with a pair of All-American middle blockers in senior Alesha Deesing (2.51 kpg/1.03 bpg) and junior Jessica Swarbrick (2.67 kpg/1.47 bpg). The one mystery for the Huskies is replacing All-American and four-year starting setter Courtney Thompson. Her leadership and Pac-10 best 14.50 apg will be sorely missed. With four setters on the roster, including FAB 50 recruit Jenna Hagglund, competition is not lacking for a starting spot and a chance to lead the Huskies back to the Final Four.

The Cougars opened last season by winning 12 of their first 13 matches. Coach Brian Heffernan will look for the Cougars to perform on that level throughout the entire 2007 season in an attempt to return to the postseason for the first time since 2002. Heffernan will rely on sophomore Adetokunbo Faleti (3.51 kpg) and junior Brittany Johnson (3.78 kpg) to contribute from the outside hitter positions, and senior Tara West (1.14 bpg) and sophomore Cassie Robbins (1.05 bpg) to perform in the middle to provide a balanced attack for the Cougars. Sophomore libero Kelly Hyder (5.33 dpg) set the school single-season digs record (565 digs) and will be key in gettting the WSU offense started.

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