Two weekends remain in Pac-12 volleyball regular season

Two weekends remain in the regular season and the Pac-12 volleyball race is still very close, with #9 UCLA and #8 WASHINGTON tied for first place to lead the Conference. Five teams are still mathematically in the hunt to claim (outright or shared) the Pac-12 crown, with the teams separated by just two matches.

UCLA looks to gain an advantage in the standings hosting OREGON STATE on Wednesday night on the Pac-12 Network’s Spike Night. The Beavers are in the midst of their best two-week stretch, winning three of their last five and looks to play spoiler.

The Bruins will then host the #19th-ranked OREGON Ducks, who are looking to stay in the mix for the league title, going into the week tied for third and lagging behind by just one match. Both teams also rank in the top 10 in the nation in assists and digs per set, and in the top 20 in kills per set.

Several teams are still looking to build their postseason resume, as they compete for bids. Seven teams have RPI in the top 40 and nine are in the top 100. Friday will be a busy night for Pac-12 volleyball with five matches slated, three on Pac-12 Network, including STANFORD at ARIZONA STATE, Washington at COLORADO, and Oregon State at USC.

The week wraps up with a top-25 clash between #16 UTAH and the Huskies in Salt Lake City on Sunday.

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 … Five Pac-12 teams are ranked this week, with Washington and UCLA representing the Conference in the top 10 at No. 8 and No. 9, respectively. The Huskies have spent most of the season in the top 10 in the country while the Bruins ranked as low as No. 20 before bouncing back up to the top 10.

Stanford comes in at No. 12 in the poll, followed by No. 16 Utah and No. 19 Oregon. ARIZONA dropped out of the polling this week, but is receiving votes, as are WASHINGTON STATE and USC.

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-16 blocking teams in the country are in the Pac-12, with Washington State and Stanford leading the way at No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, the Cougars averaging 3.39 blocks per set and the Cardinal just under that at 3.33. Washington ranks 16th in the category with a 2.78 average.

UCLA is putting up impressive numbers, ranking sixth in the country in digs per set (17.93) to lead the Conference, but also ranking 18th in kills (14.37) and 10th in assists (13.55) per set.

Oregon is the league’s leader in assists per set (13.57) and hitting percentage (.274), ranking eight and 15th, respectively, in the nation in the categories. Three Pac-12 teams boast kill averages in the top 25 in the country.

Individually, four of the top 15 blockers in the nation reside in the Pac-12, with Washington State’s Claire Martin ranking sixth with a 1.53 average to lead the league. She is one of two Cougs to be in the top 10 with teammate Taylor Mims checking in at seventh (1.52). A pair of Cardinal are also in the top 15 in the category, including Inky Ajanaku (8th, 1.52) and Audriana Fitzmorris (13th, 1.46).

Utah’s Adora Anae can be found among in the top 11 in the country in kills per set (9th, 4.70) and points per set (11th, 5.30) Oregon’s Amanda Benson’s 5.21 digs per set ranks her 19th in the country in the category, while Ajanaku is 23rd in hitting percentage (.387).

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 (1,689) at 32nd all-time. 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 (4,820). 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 … 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 five teams still in mathematical contention 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. Five Pac-12 teams are ranked in this week’s AVCA poll and seven have RPI in the top 40.

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. Looking to make its first postseason bid since 2009, the Cougars snapped a four-match losing streak over the weekend, sweeping the Arizona schools for the season time this season, making it the first time the Cougs have claimed all four matches since 1991.

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 five wins over teams ranked in the top 25, including to both teams tied for the Pac-12 lead.

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 6-5 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 5-5 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 12-4 22-4
UCLA 12-4 21-5
Oregon 11-5 18-7
Stanford 11-5 17-7
Utah 10-6 19-8
Washington State 9-7 19-9
USC 9-7 17-10
Arizona 8-8 16-12
Colorado 5-11 13-13
Oregon State 4-12 11-16
California 3-13 9-17
Arizona State 2-14 9-19

UPCOMING SCHEDULE (All Times Pacific)

Wednesday, Nov. 16    
OREGON STATE at UCLA P12N 8 p.m. PT
Thursday, Nov. 17    
WASHINGTON STATE at UTAH P12W 5 p.m. PT
Friday, Nov. 18    
CALIFORNIA at ARIZONA Live Stream 3:30 p.m. PT
STANFORD at ARIZONA STATE P12N 4:30 p.m. PT
WASHINGTON at COLORADO P12N 7 p.m. PT
OREGON STATE at USC P12N 7 p.m. PT
OREGON at UCLA   7 p.m. PT
Saturday, Nov. 19    
OREGON at USC Live Stream 5 p.m. PT
CALIFORNIA at ARIZONA STATE Live Stream 6 p.m. PT
Sunday, Nov. 20    
STANFORD at ARIZONA P12N 11 a.m. PT
WASHINGTON STATE at COLORADO Live Stream 11 a.m. PT
WASHINGTON at UTAH Live Stream 12 p.m. PT

2016 PAC-12 VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive: Tia Scambray, Jr., Washington
Defensive: Taylor Mims, So., Washington State
Freshman: Torrey Van Winden, Fr., UCLA

ALSO NOMINATED:
Offensive
: Kalei Mau, ARIZ; Lindsey Vander Weide, ORE; Mary-Kate Marshall, OSU; Audriana Fitzmorris, STAN; Torrey Van Winden, UCLA; Alysa Ford, USC; Adora Anae, UTAH; Casey Schounlein, WSU.
Defensive: Laura Larson, ARIZ; Amanda Benson, ORE; Inky Anjanaku, STAN; Claire Felix, UCLA; Elise Ruddins, USC; Brianna Doehrmann, UTAH; Crissy Jones, WASH.
Freshman: Devyn Cross, ARIZ; Willow Johnson, ORE; Morgan Hentz, STAN; Khalia Lanier, USC; Brianna Doehrmann, UTAH: Kara Bajema, WASH; Alexis Dirige, WSU.

2016 PAC-12 VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

  Offensive Defensive Freshman
Nov. 14 Tia Scambray, WASH Taylor Mims, WSU Torrey Van Winden, UCLA
Nov. 7 Lindsey Vander Weide, ORE Penina Snuka, ARIZ Audriana Fitzmorris, STAN
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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