Final week of Pac-12 volleyball determines Conference champion

The volleyball regular season comes to a close this week and two big matches could decide the crown. Pac-12 leaders #7 WASHINGTON and #8 UCLA go head-to-head in Seattle on Wednesday looking to get an edge for the Conference crown. The match will be televised on the Pac-12 Network. The Huskies are looking to capture a second-straight Pac-12 title and third in four years, while the Bruins have not won the league since 1999.

Also within reach, but needs some help from the league leaders is #12 STANFORD. The Cardinal goes head-to-head with #19 OREGOn on Wednesday on the Pac-12 Network. The Cardinal is just one match back of first place and is looking for its second title in three years. Though only two matches back, the Ducks can not make up the difference because of the matchup between the Huskies and Bruins.

USC and #25 WASHINGTON STATE have a lot at stake, as well. The Trojans and Cougs battle in Pullman both looking to boost their postseason resume, as are #17 UTAH and ARIZONA in a match in Tucson.

The season ends on Friday and Saturday with the final matches of the rivalry series, all of which will be televised on Pac-12 Network.

Pac-12 volleyball dates back to the 1986 campaign. Since then, only twice has the champion had four league losses, at most - 2009 and 2016.

• NCAA SELECTION... The NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship bracket will be announced on Sunday, November 27, 2016 at 9 p.m. on ESPNU. The 2016 Division I Women’s Volleyball championship provides for a field of 64 teams to compete in a single elimination tournament. Of the 64 teams, 32 teams will receive automatic qualification while the remaining 32 teams are selected on an at-large basis by the Division I Women’s Volleyball Committee. NCAA Tournament action begins Dec. 1.

THIS WEEK’S AVCA POLL … After winning three of its last four matches, WASHINGTON STATE is back in the AVCA Coaches poll this week, coming in at No. 25, giving the Pac-12 six ranked teams this week.

Leading the Pac-12 standings, WASHINGTON and UCLA remain in the top 10, earning a No. 7 and No. 8 rating, respectively. STANFORD is No. 12, UTAH is No. 17 and OREGON is No. 19. USC and Arizona are 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, as well.

NCAA RPI … Nine Pac-12 teams have RPI in the top 100, including eight in the top 45. Stanford’s No. 9 RPI is the best in the Conference, followed by No. 11 Washington and No. 12 UCLA.

NCAA STATS LEADERS … Three of the nation’s top-17 blocking teams in the country are in the Pac-12, with Washington State and Stanford leading the way at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, the Cougars averaging 3.34 blocks per set and the Cardinal just under that. Washington ranks 17th in the category with a 2.75 average.

UCLA is putting up impressive numbers, ranking sixth in the country in digs per set (17.86) to lead the Conference, but also ranking 21st in kills (14.27) and 14th in assists (13.51) per set.

OREGON is the league’s leader in assists per set (13.55) and hitting percentage (.275), ranking ninth and 15th, respectively, in the nation in the categories. Four 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 Taylor Mims ranking sixth with a 1.54 average to lead the league. She is one of two Cougs to be in the top 15 with teammate Claire Martin checking in at 12th (1.46). A pair of Cardinal are also in the top 15 in the category, including Inky Ajanaku (8th, 1.49) and Audriana Fitzmorris (11th, 1.46).

Utah’s Adora Anae is 10th in the country in kills per set (4.71) and points per set (5.27). USC’s Elise Ruddins is one of the most efficient hitters in the country, posting the third-best hitting percentages in the nation at .433. The Bruins’ Taylor Formico, the 2015 Pac-12 Libero of the Year,is collecting 5.15 digs per set to rank 21st in the category, while Ajanaku is 21st with a .391 hitting percentage.

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 became the 31st player in Pac-12 history to go over the 1,700-kills threshold,(1,714). 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 (4,982). Snuka is the 28th player in Pac-12 history to go over the 4,000-assist mark and is on the verge of becoming just the 13th player all-time in league history with 5,000.

RACE FOR THE PAC-12 CROWN … Only three times in the history of Pac-12 volleyball has the champion recorded three losses (2009 and 2010), and 2009 and 2016 are the only instances where the champion lost four league matches. Heading into this week’s action, the three teams that are still in mathematical contention are separated by just one match, so it is not out of the realm of possibility that this year’s champion could have more than four setbacks. Six Pac-12 teams are ranked in this week’s AVCA poll and eight have RPI in the top 45.

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

The Cougs’ 20 overall wins and 10 league wins are the most since winning 24 and 11, respectively, in 2002.

DUCKS TOP WINS … The Ducks have put together another strong campaign with postseason implications, winning 12 league matches their most since 2013. Their 19 overall wins are more than all of last season. Oregon is just two matches back of the leaders heading into the week but the matchup between UCLA and Washington leaves UO out of the championship picture.

UCLA LOOKING FOR TITLE … The Bruins go into the weekend tied for the Conference lead, looking for their first Pac-12 title since earning a share of the crown in 1999. UCLA’s 14 league wins ties for the most since 2012, the year after the Bruins captured the 2011 NCAA title.

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.

The Utes’ 11 league victories are the most for the program since joining the Pac-12 and the most conference victories since winning 11 in 2010 in the Mountain West. Utah has also doubled its overall win total from last year (10).

• WASHINGTON IN THE HUNT AGAIN … The Huskies are looking to capture a second-straight Pac-12 title after claiming a share of the crown last year under then-first year head coach Keegan Cook. UW has been in the title mix the last four seasons, including 2016, finishing in first twice (2013, 2015).

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.

• STANFORD GETTING IT DONE … After the announcement that Hayley Hodson was taking a medical leave of absence for the remainder of the season on Oct. 5, the Cardinal went 2-3 in its next matches, with upsets from Utah and Arizona at home. Since then, however, Stanford has won eight of nine matches and is just one match back of the Conference leaders in the standings heading into the final week. Hodson was the AVCA and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, and was also an AVCA All-American.

• 1,000 AND COUNTING … USC won its 1,000th all-time match in a victory over Arizona State  on Oct. 5, making the Trojans the 17th program in NCAA Division I women's volleyball history to reach the milestone. Head coach Mick Haley has led USC to each of its 100-match milestones since the program's 600th win.

PRESEASON COACHES POLL … 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.

WHAT’S BACK … 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 14-4 24-4
UCLA 14-4 23-5
Stanford 13-5 19-7
Oregon 12-6 19-8
Utah 11-7 20-9
Washington State 10-8 20-10
USC 10-8 18-11
Arizona 9-9 17-13
Colorado 5-13 13-15
Oregon State 4-14 11-18
Arizona State 3-15 10-20
California 3-15 9-19

UPCOMING SCHEDULE (All Times Pacific)

Wednesday, Nov. 23    
#17 UTAH at ARIZONA Live Stream 3 p.m. PT
OREGON STATE at CALIFORNIA Live Stream 3 p.m. PT
#8 UCLA at #7 WASHINGTON P12N 7 p.m. PT
COLORADO at ARIZONA STATE P12N 7 p.m. PT
#19 OREGON at #12 STANFORD P12N 7 p.m. PT
USC at #25 WASHINGTON STATE Live Stream 7 p.m. PT
Friday, Nov. 25    
#19 OREGON at OREGON STATE P12O 12 p.m. PT
COLORADO at #17 UTAH P12M 12 p.m. PT
CALIFORNIA at #12 STANFORD P12B 5 p.m. PT
Sunday, Nov. 26    
ARIZONA at ARIZONA STATE P12A 2 p.m. PT
#7 WASHINGTON at #25 WASHINGTON STATE P12W 2 p.m. PT
USC at #8 UCLA P12LA 5 p.m. PT

2016 PAC-12 VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

Offensive/Freshman: Kathryn Plummer, Fr., Stanford
Defensive: Taylor Formico, Sr., UCLA

ALSO NOMINATED:
Offensive
: Taylor Agost, ORE; Jennie Frager, UCLA; Elise Ruddins, USC; Adora Anae, UTAH; Courtney Schwan, WASH.
Defensive: Amanda Benson, ORE; Morgan Hentz, STAN; Taylor Whittingham, USC: Brianna Doehrmann, UTAH; Crissy Jones, WASH; Taylor Mims, WSU.
Freshman: Ronika Stone, ORE; Torrey Van Winden, UCLA; Khalia Lanier, USC; Bailey Choy, UTAH; Kara Bajema, WASH; Alexis Dirige, WSU.

2016 PAC-12 VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK

  Offensive Defensive Freshman
Nov. 21 Kathryn Plummer, STAN Taylor Formico, UCLA Kathryn Plummer, STAN
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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