Four Pac-12 volleyball teams tied for league lead

The race for the Pac-12 regular-season title is heating up and four teams sit at the top of the standings heading into this week’s action. #16 OREGON and #9 STANFORD swept their matches last week to move into a tie for first place in the Conference with #13 UCLA and #11 WASHINGTON. #25 ARIZONA is the only other team last week to pick up two wins.

The Pac-12 Networks’ Spike Night match on Wednesday is a pivotal one with #19 UTAH traveling to OREGON. With not much room for error, the Ducks look to hold on to first place in the standings. The Utes looks to break away from a three-way tie for fifth, which is currently just two matches back from the leaders.

Also of note, the Wildcats, who are making their first appearance in the polls this week, travels to face Washington. UA is also just two matches back from the Huskies and the three other teams tied for first. That match takes place on Thursday.

The only other top-25 matchup is UCLA heading to Stanford on Saturday. The Bruins and Cardinal are the two winningest programs in Pac-12 history and could be battling for the Conference lead.

Pac-12 volleyball dates back to the 1986 campaign. Since then, no champion had more than four losses, occurring just once in 2009.

THIS WEEK’S AVCA POLL … Half the league’s teams are ranked in this week’s AVCA Coaches Poll. Two teams dropped out, but Arizona makes its season debut at No. 25. Stanford is also now the highest-ranked team in the poll, coming in at No. 9.

Behind the Cardinal is Washington at No. 11, then UCLA at No. 13. Oregon is No. 16 and Utah is No. 19. COLORADO, USC and WASHINGTON STATE are all receiving votes.

The Pac-12 has had up to eight teams ranked this season, coming during the week of Sept. 26. Nine different Pac-12 teams have earned a national ranking at least once this season.

NCAA STATS LEADERS … Three of the nation’s top-20 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 3.35 blocks per set and the Cougs just under that at 3.33. Washington ranks 16th in the category with a 2.80 average.

UCLA is putting up impressive numbers, ranking fifth in the country in assists per set (13.63) to lead the Conference, but also leads the league and ranks fourth in the nation in digs per set (18.29) and eighth in kills per set (14.44).

Oregon can be found in the top 15 in assists (12th, 13.50), hitting percentage (10th, .280) and kills per set (14th, 14.31). Three Pac-12 teams boast kill averages in the top 25 in the country.

Individually, four of the top 25 blockers in the nation reside in the Pac-12, with Washington State’s Claire Martin ranking fifth with a 1.55 average to lead the league. She is one of two Cougs to be in the top 15 with teammate Taylor Mims checking in at 11th (1.49). A pair of Cardinal are also in the top 15 in the category, including Inky Ajanaku (6th, 1.52) and Audriana Fitzmorris (13th, 1.47).

Utah’s Adora Anae can be found among the top 10 in the country in kills per set (8th, 4.72) and points per set (8th, 4.72). UCLA’s Taylor Formico’s 5.11 digs per set ranks her 22nd in the country in the category.

NCAA ACTIVE LEADERS … The Conference’s active leader in kills, 2015 All-Pac-12 honoree Washington State’s Kyra Holt ranks the top five in the NCAA in career kills among active players and went over the 1,600-kills threshold, putting her inside the top 40 in Pac-12 history (1,655) at No. 37. Arizona’s Penina Snuka also hit a significant milestone this season, going over the 4,000-assist mark, ranking third in total assists among the NCAA’s active leaders (4,804). 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 four teams tied for first with identical 10-4 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 seven teams are separated by just two matches, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that this year’s champion could have four or more setbacks. Six Pac-12 teams are ranked in this week’s AVCA poll and seven have RPI in the top 35.

COUGS LOOK FOR BOUNCE BACK … 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. But in the last nine matches, Washington State has won just twice. It will need to bounce back in the final three weeks to make a run at its first postseason bid since 2009.

WSU 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. It has also posted wins over teams ranked in the top 25, including three of the four teams tied for first this week.

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 5-5 so far this season against top-25 teams.

UA’S TRAVELING BROOM … Then-unranked Arizona got in on the history-making action. Now ranked 25th, the Wildcats swept the LA schools over the weekend for the second weekend this season, marking the first time the program has swept the series vs. both teams. Its first weekend sweep of UCLA and USC marked the first UA had beaten both teams on the road in the history of the program. The Wildcats are now 5-4 this season vs. ranked opponents and making a strong case for a postseason bid.

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  10-4  20-4 
UCLA  10-4  19-5 
Oregon  10-4  17-6 
Stanford  10-4  16-6 
Utah  8-6  17-8 
USC  8-6  16-9 
Arizona  8-6  16-10 
Washington State  7-7  17-9 
Colorado  5-9  13-11 
Oregon State  3-11  10-15 
California  3-11 9-15 
Arizona State  2-12  9-17 

UPCOMING SCHEDULE (All Times Pacific)

Wednesday, Nov. 9    
#19 UTAH at #16 OREGON P12N 7 p.m. PT
Thursday, Nov. 10    
COLORADO at #16 OREGON Pac-12 Plus 7 p.m. PT
#19 UTAH at OREGON STATE Live Stream 7 p.m. PT
USC at #9 STANFORD ESPNU 7:30 p.m. PT
#25 ARIZONA at #11 WASHINGTON P12N 8 p.m. PT
#13 UCLA at CALIFORNIA P12N 8 p.m. PT
Friday, Nov. 11    
ARIZONA STATE at WASHINGTON STATE Live Stream 7 p.m. PT
Saturday, Nov. 12    
USC at CALIFORNIA Live Stream 3 p.m. PT
COLORADO at OREGON STATE Live Stream 7 p.m. PT
#13 UCLA at #9 STANFORD Pac-12 Plus 7 p.m. PT
Sunday, Nov. 13    
ARIZONA STATE at #11 WASHINGTON Live Stream 11 a.m. PT
#25 ARIZONA at WASHINGTON STATE P12W 11 a.m. PT

2016 PAC-12 VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive: Andi Sullivan, Jr. Stanford
Defensive: Katie Rogers, Sr., Utah
Goalkeeper: Jane Campbell, Sr., Stanford

ALSO NOMINATED:
Offensive
: Kelly Fitzgerald, CAL; Alex Anthony, USC; Becca Schoales, WASH; Kaitlyn Johnson, WSU.

Defensive: Tegan McGrady, STAN; Mandy Freeman, USC; Dominiq Bond-Flasza, WASH.
Goalkeeper: Emily Boyd, CAL; Sammy Jo Prudhomme, USC; July Mathias, UTAH.

2016 PAC-12 WOMEN'S SOCCER PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

  Offensive Defensive Goalkeeper
Aug. 23 Darian Jenkins, UCLA Alana Cook, STAN Teagan Micah, UCLA
Aug. 30 Hailey Skolmoski, UTAH Caitlyn Wong, ORE Jane Campbell, STAN
Sep. 6 Jessie Fleming, UCLA MacKenzie Cerda, UCLA Sammy Jo Prudhomme, USC
Sep. 12 Megan Turner, STAN Ally Prisock, USC Sammy Jo Prudhomme, USC
Sep. 20 Darian Jenkins, UCLA Hailie Mace, UCLA Teagan Micah, UCLA
Sep. 27 Jessie Fleming, UCLA Mandy Freeman, USC Jalen Tompkins, COLO
Oct. 4 Taylor Kornieck, COLO Alana Cook, STAN Jalen Tompkins, COLO
Oct. 11 Hailey Skolmoski Morgan Stanton, COLO Emily Boyd, CAL
Oct. 18 Averie Collins, STAN Savannah Levin, USC Sammy Jo Prudhomme, USC
Oct. 25 Maryn Beutler, ORE Caitlyn Wong, ORE Sammy Jo Prudhomme, USC
Nov. 1 Andi Sulivan, STAN Katie Rogers, UTAH Jane Campbell, 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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