UCLA, Washington sit atop Pac-12 volleyball standings

Over the last three weeks, No. 9 UCLA has put together a six-match win streak to move into a tie for first place with No. 8 WASHINGTON, and still it is a tight race for the Pac-12 crown with just four weeks remaining in the regular-season.

ARIZONA travels to No. 25 USC for Wednesday’s Spike Night on Pac-12 Networks for a rematch from earlier in the season. The Wildcats have had success against ranked opponents, posting four victories against ranked foes this season including one against the Trojans on Oct. 7. On the other hand, USC’s only losses since Sept. 3 have come against ranked opponents and UA. Both teams are looking to bolster their resume for postseason consideration.

Friday’s lineup of six league matches includes a top-20 tilt between No. 20 OREGON at UW. The Ducks and the Huskies are two of the top hitting teams in the country, both ranking in the top 20 in hitting efficiency, while also ranking in the top 15 in kills per set. The Ducks could have their hardest week at the net with the Huskies also ranking seventh in the country in blocks per set, then facing the second-best blocking team in the nation in No. 23 WASHINGTON STATE on Sunday.

On Saturday, No. 19 UTAH hosts No. 13 STANFORD in another big matchup. The Utes are 21st in the nation in kills per set, but the Cardinal is the best blocking team in the country.

THIS WEEK’S AVCA POLL … The Pac-12 has seven teams ranked in the AVCA Coaches poll again, UCLA making its way back into the top 10 for the first time since Sept. 19. The Bruins have been ranked as low as No. 20 and have put together a six-match win streak.

WASHINGTON leads the way at No. 8 as the Conference has seven teams in the top 25 for the second-straight week. Eight Pac-12 teams were ranked during the week of Sept. 29.

Four additional teams appear in the ranking with STANFORD checking in at No. 13. UTAH is No. 19 and OREGON is No. 20. WASHINGTON STATE comes in at No. 23, while USC is tied for 25th.

Arizona and Colorado, who have both posted significant victories this season, are also receiving votes.

NCAA STATS LEADERS … Three of the top-10 blocking teams in the country are in the Pac-12, with Stanford and Washington State leading the way at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, the Cardinal averaging 3.38 blocks per set and the Cougs just under that. Washington ranks seventh in the category with a 2.92 average.

UCLA is putting up impressive numbers, ranking third in the country in assists per set (13.71) to lead the Conference, but also leads the league and ranks fifth in the nation in digs per set (18.24) and kills per set (14.58).

OREGON can be found in the top 15 in assists (10th, 13.47), hitting percentage (12th, .279) and kills per set (13th, 14.32). In fact, four Pac-12 teams boast kill averages in the top 25 in the country.

Individually, five of the top 25 blockers in the nation reside in the Pac-12, with Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week Stanford’s Inky Ajanaku ranking fourth in the category with 1.57 blocks. She is one of two Cardinal in the top 15 in the category. WSU has two blockers in the top 10, Claire Martin (1.56) and Taylor Mims (1.52) checking in at fifth and seventh, respectively. Ajanaku also ranks 13th in the country in hitting percentage (.400).

UTAH’s Adora Anae can be found among in the top 10 in the country in kills per set (9th, 4.73) and points per set (sixth, 5.32).

NCAA ACTIVE LEADERS … The Conference’s active leader in kills, 2015 All-Pac-12 honoree Washington State’s Kyra Holt ranks in a tie for fourth in the NCAA in career kills among active players and went over the 1,600-kills threshold, putting her just outside the top 40 in Pac-12 history (1,619) at No. 41. Arizona’s Penina Snuka also hit a significant milestone in this short season, going over the 4,000-assist mark, ranking third in total assists among the NCAA’s active leaders (4,721). Snuka is the 28th player in Pac-12 history to go over the 4,000-assist mark and ranks 14th all-time.

RACE FOR THE PAC-12 CROWN … With UCLA and Washington tied for the Conference lead this week with identical 9-3 records, it could be history in the making. Only twice in the history of Pac-12 volleyball has the champion recorded three losses (2009 and 2010), and 2009 is the only instance where the champion lost four league matches. Heading into this week’s action, the top eight teams are separated by just three matches, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that this year’s champion could have four or more setbacks. Seven Pac-12 teams are ranked in this week’s AVCA poll and eight have RPI in the top 40.

COUGS LOOKING GOOD … The last five years under head coach Jen Greeny, Washington State has recorded strong outings during the non-conference slate, last year going 11-1. However, WSU has struggled to carry that momentum into Conference play. The Cougs seem to have been able to take some of that momentum into Conference play, opening league competition with a pair of road top-10 wins, going 2-0 for the first time since 2003. Their win in Seattle was their first since 2001 and the win at UCLA was the team’s first victory on the Bruin campus since 1997.

WSU followed up the Conference opening-weekend with another sweep which included a win over then-No. 9 Stanford. It was only the fourth WSU victory for the Cougs in the series.

WSU is 4-4 in matches vs. top-25 opponents this season. It was also 4-0 to start Pac-12 play, its best start to league play since head coach Jen Greeny was a player on the squad in 1997.

UTES POST UPSETS … The Utes got off to a historic start in league play, going 2-0 to start the Pac-12 slate for the first time in school history, upending Colorado in Boulder in a five-set thriller. The Utes also took down Stanford in four sets for the program’s first=ever win over the Cardinal. Utah is 5-4 so far this season against top-25 teams.

UA’S TRAVELING BROOM … Unranked Arizona got in on the history-making action over the weekend. Of the five upsets over the weekend the Wildcats accounted for two after taking down the LA schools for a pair of top-25 road victories, the first time in the history of the program it had swept the LA teams on the road. The Wildcats are 3-4 this season vs. ranked opponents.

TROJANS FOR THE (1,000TH) WIN …  USC reached a historic milestone, recording the program’s 1,000th all-time win on Oct. 5, defeating Arizona State. The Trojans also helped head coach Mick Haley post his 400th victory at USC (407-101) earlier this season.

HODSON OUT FOR THE SEASON … Stanford’s Hayley Hodson has taken a medical leave of absence for the remainder of the season, the Cardinal announced on Oct. 5. Hodson was the AVCA and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, and was also an AVCA All-American.

• Stanford was voted the Pac-12 preseason favorite by the league’s 12 coaches. The Cardinal received nine first-place votes to finish ahead of UCLA, which received one first-place vote. UW was second in the polling with one first-place vote and Oregon was voted fourth.

• Three AVCA All-Americans return from last year, including Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Hayley Hodson of Stanford. She was a second team All-American last year. Also back from last year are third-team All-American and Pac-12 Libero of the Year Taylor Formico, as well as the Cardinal’s Merete Lutz.

• Nine of the 14 players named to the 2015 All-Pac-12 team return for 2016. Additionally, Stanford's Inky Ajanaku, a three-time All-American, also comes back after sitting out all of 2015 because of injury.

• Pac-12 teams have had early success in recent years, posting an impressive 332-81 (.804) record in the first weekend of play since 2002. Last season, league teams won a combined 27 matches while posting a .794 winning percentage.

• The Pac-12 welcomes three new coaches to the sidelines this season. Stevie Mussie took over at ARIZONA STATE after serving two seasons at volleyball powerhouse Penn State, helping the Nittany Lions win a national title in 2014. Jesse Mahoney did not have a long drive to get to Colorado. An alum, receiving his undergraduate and lay degree from CU, he returned to Boulder after spending four years as head coach at Denver. Oregon State will be led by Mark Barnard, who is no stranger to the Beavers. He spent the last 11 seasons in Corvallis under former head coach Taras Liskevych.

• FAB Freshman … Pac-12 volleyball continues to recruit marquee student-athletes. Four Pac-12 teams landed at least two Volleyball Magazine FAB 50 recruit with STANFORD pacing the Conference with five. USC also signed the No. 1 recruit in the nation in freshman Khalia Lanier.

• Once again, the Pac-12 will have the most comprehensive volleyball television coverage of any league in the country. 94 total matches will be broadcast live, with 91 being televised on the Conference’s Pac-12 Network. Another three more were selected to be televised on ESPNU. For the full television schedule, visit pac-12.com.


CONFERENCE STANDINGS (Expanded standings)

Teams Pac-12 Record Overall Record
Washington  9-3  19-3 
UCLA  9-3  18-4 
Oregon  8-4  15-6 
Stanford  8-4  14-6 
Washington State  7-5  17-7 
Utah  7-5   16-7 
USC  7-5   15-8 
Arizona  6-6 14-10 
Colorado  4-8  12-10 
California 3-9  9-13 
Oregon State  2-10  9-14 
Arizona State  2-10  9-15 

UPCOMING SCHEDULE (All Times Pacific)

Wednesday, Nov. 2    
t-#25 USC at ARIZONA P12N 7 p.m. PT
Friday, Nov. 4    
#13 STANFORD at COLORADO P12N 5 p.m. PT
#9 UCLA at ARIZONA P12Plus 6 p.m. PT
t-#25 USC at ARIZONA STATE Live Stream 6 p.m. PT
#20 OREGON at #8 WASHINGTON P12N 7 p.m. PT
OREGON STATE at #23 WASHINGTON STATE Live Stream 7 p.m. PT
CALIFORNIA at #19 UTAH P12N 7 p.m. PT
Saturday, Nov. 5    
#9 UCLA at ARIZONA STATE P12N TBD
#13 STANFORD at UTAH Live Stream 6 p.m. PT
Sunday, Nov. 6    
CALIFORNIA at COLORADO P12N 11 a.m. PT
#20 OREGON at #23 WASHINGTON STATE P12N 11 a.m. PT
OREGON STATE at #8 WASHINGTON Live Stream 3 p.m. PT

2016 PAC-12 VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive: Inky Ajanaku, RSr., Stanford
Defensive: Taylor Formico, Sr., UCLA
Freshman: Kathryn Plummer, Fr., Stanford

ALSO NOMINATED:
Offensive
: Kendra Dahlke, ARIZ; Alexa Smith, COLO; Lindsey Vander Weide, ORE; Mary-Kate Marshall, OSU; Torrey Van Winden, UCLA; Reni Meyer-Whalley, USC; Adora Anae, UTAH; Courtney Schwan, WASH.
Defensive: Laura Larson, ARIZ; Cierra Simpson, COLO; Amanda Benson, ORE; Lanesha Reagan, OSU; Morgan Hentz, STAN; Taylor Whittingham, USC; Berkeley Oblad, UTAH; Crissy Jones, WASH.
Freshman: Devyn Cross, ARIZ; Jolie Rasmussen, ORE; Torrey Van Winden, UCLA; Khalia Lanier, USC; Brianna Doehrmann, UTAH; Kara Bajema, WASH.

2016 PAC-12 VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

  Offensive Defensive Freshman
Oct. 31 Inky Ajanaku, STAN Taylor Formico, UCLA Kathryn Plummer, STAN
Oct. 24 Lindsey vander Weide, ORE Lauren Page, ORE Torrey Van Winden, UCLA
Oct. 17 Torrey Van Winden, UCLA Taylor Formico, UCLA Khalia Lanier, USC
Oct. 10 Courtney Schwan, WASH Tawnee Laufalemana,UTAH Shayne McPherson, WASH
Oct. 3 Taylor Mims, WSU Taylor Whittingham, USC Ronika Stone, ORE
Sep. 26 Kyra Holt, WSU Claire Martin, WSU Bailey Choy, UTAH
Sep. 19 Adora Anae, UTAH Megan Shughrou, UTAH Kathryn Plummer, STAN
Sep. 12 Crissy Jones, WASH Amanda Benson, ORE Kara Bajema, WASH
Sep. 5 Audriana Fitzmorris, STAN Naghede Abu, COLO Audriana Fitzmorris, STAN
Aug. 29 Jennie Frager, UCLA Audriana Fitzmorris, STAN Audriana Fitzmorris, STAN

2016 NATIONAL WEEKLY HONORS

  Outlet Player
Sep. 28 ESPNW Kyra Holt, WSU
Sep. 6 AVCA Audriana Fitzmorris, STAN

HISTORICALLY SPEAKING

  • The Pac-12 has captured six of the last 15 NCAA crowns (2011 - UCLA, 2005 - Washington, 2004 - Stanford, 2003 - USC, 2002 - USC, 2001 - Stanford) and 14 NCAA titles overall.
  • The current group of Pac-12 volleyball coaches finished the 2015 season with over 5,000 Division I victories to its credit, having compiled 5,040 wins in a combined 230 years of head coaching experience. That averages out to nearly 22 wins a season for each coach per season.
  • In addition, these coaches have guided NCAA Division I teams to 38 NCAA semifinal appearances and eight NCAA titles. In the last 14 years, seven different coaches have been named the ASICS/Volleyball Magazine Coach of the Year and/or the AVCA Coach of the Year - Arizona’s David Rubio (2001 ASICS), California’s Rich Feller (2007 ASICS, 2010 ASICS and AVCA), Stanford’s John Dunning (2001 AVCA), UCLA’s Mike Sealy (2011 AVCA), USC’s Mick Haley (2003 AVCA, 2015 AVCA), Washington’s Jim McLaughlin (2004 ASICS and AVCA), and UCLA’s Andy Banachowski (2006 ASICS and AVCA).
  • The Pac-12 has had 10 or more All-Americans selections in seven of the last 10 years. This year, eight were named to the AVCA All-America squad, USC’s Samantha Bricio and Washington’s Lianna Sybeldon were named to the first team, Stanford had a pair of second-team selections in Hayley Hodson and Merete Lutz, with USC’s Alicia Ogoms joining them. On the third team, Stanford’s Madi Bugg and Brittany Howard, and UCLA’s Taylor Formico earned spots. Ten former Pac-12 players have earned All-America honors four times, while 18 players in all have earned All-American honors three times.
  • Since 1990, Pac-12 players garnered AVCA Player of the Year honors 14 times, including the five of the last six - CAL’s Carli Lloyd (2010), USC’s Alex Jupiter (2011), ORE’s Alaina Bergsma (2012), WASH’s Krista Vansant (2013) and the latest honoree in USC’s Samantha Bricio. The NCAA Honda Sports Award honor has been bestowed upon a Pac-12 volleyball player 13 times, including Vansant in 2013.

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