Five Pac-12 volleyball teams remain in NCAA title hunt

Five Pac-12 teams still remain in the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament, including defending NCAA Champion and third-seeded STANFORD, which hosts a regional this week. The Cardinal takes on Wisconsin in the regional semifinal, while 11th-seeded UTAH makes the familiar trip to face sixth-seeded Texas. It marks the seventh time in the history of the league that five member schools have advanced to the regional semifinal.

Also advancing to the regional semifinals are 10th-seeded USC and 15th-seeded UCLA. They both travel to Gainesville, Fla., for their round of 16 match. Unseeded-COLORADO heads to Lexington, Ky., for the Kentucky Regional after upsetting 12th-seeded Baylor. Pac-12 teams have the potential to face each other in the regional of the Stanford and Florida Regionals.

All regional semifinals take place on Friday, Dec. 8 with the winners facing off in the regional finals on Saturday, Dec. 9.

The Pac-12 received nine NCAA Tournament bids, the most of any conference in the country, and opened postseason play going 8-1 in the first round. Four of the five seeded league teams are still playing. In addition to the teams above, WASHINGTON was a No. 8 seed, and OREGON, OREGON STATE and WASHINGTON STATE were in the Big Dance.

Teams are playing for a spot in the national semifinals which takes place in Kansas City, Missouri, on Dec. 14 at the Spring Center. The national champion will be determined on Dec. 16.

PAC-12 IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … The Pac-12 has captured 15 out of 36 NCAA titles, including 13 of the last 26. With Stanford winning in 2016, it put it in a tie for the most in the nation by a program with seven. Four different Pac-12 teams have claimed the NCAA crown and has had at least sixth tournament berths for 18-consecutive years. Pac-12 teams have compiled an impressive 454-239 (.655) record in NCAA play. Toss out the 23 postseason matches between Conference teams and the league’s NCAA Tournament record against non-conference foes stands at 251-99 (.717) since 2001 and an overall mark of 387-177 (.686). Over the last 17 years, Pac-12 teams are 111-27 (.804) in the first round, including posting a NCAA-record 10-0 in 2015 after a NCAA record 10 league teams earned bids that year.

PAC-12 HONORS … In a vote of the league’s 12 coaches, STANFORD sophomore Kathryn Plummer was selected the Pac-12 Player of the Year. She is just the second player in league history and second from Stanford to earn the player of the year honor the year after winning the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year nod (since Bev Oden in 1989 and 1990). OREGON STATE’s Kylee McLaughlin was voted the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and sophomores Jenna Gray and Morgan Hentz were tabbed the Conferences Setter of the Year and Libero of the Year, respectively. OSU’s head coach Mark Barnard was voted the Pac-12 Coach of the Year.

The Conference office also announced the 18-member All-Pac-12 team which included four-time honoree Stanford’s Merete Lutz; three-time selections Adora Anae of UTAH and OSU’s Mary-Kate Marshall also made the team. For the full list of All-Conference honorees and All-Freshman team members, click here.

AVCA POLL … The final regular-season AVCA Coaches poll has six Pac-12 teams featured with Pac-12 Champion Stanford leading the way again at No. 4. The Cardinal have appeared in the top five every week this season, including topping out at No. 1 on Aug. 28.

Washington is No. 10 in the polling, followed by No. 13 Utah, No. 14 USC and No. 17 UCLA. Oregon is at No. 24 while Colorado and Oregon State are receiving votes.

NCAA RPI … Four Pac-12 teams appear in the top 11 of the NCAA’s RPI and eight are in the top 31. Additionally, nine are in the top 40, and 10 of the 12 teams are in the top 100. For the full RPI, visit ncaa.com.

STANFORD WINS PAC-12 TITLE … Stanford claimed its 17th Pac-12 crown, by far the most of any team in the Conference. It was the team’s first since 2014. The Cardinal clinched the outright title on Nov. 15, sweeping USC, 3-0, at home.

• In the National Stats … The Pac-12 is the top blocking conference in the nation, collectively averaging 2.42 blocks per set due, in part, to three of the top-15 blocking teams in the nation residing in Pac-12. The Cardinal are third in the category (3.13), followed by Washington at No. 8 (2.98) and Washington State ranks 13th (2.89). Individually, Stanford sophomore Audrianna Fitzmorris leads the Conference with 1.52 blocks per set which is seventh in the country and her teammate Tami Alade is 17th in the nation, collecting 1.46 bps. Washington freshman Lauren Sanders is 18th with a 1.45 blocks average.

• Stanford’s Kathryn Plummer and Oregon State’s Mary-Kate Marshall are two of the nation’s highest point producers. Plummer is sixth averaging league-best 5.40 points per set, while also ranking 11th in kills per set (4.65). Marshall’s 5.40 points per set are 18th in the country while her kills average of 4.34 is 20th. ARIZONA STATE’s Oluoma Okaro ranks 19th in points per set (4.95), also averaging 4.33 kps, good for 21st in the nation. CALIFORNIA’s Antzela Dempi is 11th in the nation in aces per set (0.47) while Stanford’s Jenna Gray’s 12.07 assists per set is the fourth-best average in the NCAA.

• Collectively, the Conference leads the nation in three statistical categories, heading into the week. It is the top blocking conference, but also produces the most points per set (17.04) and most assists (12.61). Pac-12 teams are collectively hitting at a .243 clip which is second-best among all conference behind the Big Ten (.261).

• Six of the top seven assist producers in the Pac-12 are underclassmen, with Stanford sophomore Jenna Gray leading the way with an 12.09 average. Though a senior, UCLA’s Sarah Sponcil is averaging 11.22 assists for second in her first season in the Pac-12, transferring to UCLA this season. Freshmen Brynna Deluzio (COLO) and Kylee McLaughlin (OSU) are third and fourth in the league, respectively.

UPSETS MOUNT … With so many upsets this season, can it really be called an “upset” anymore? There have been 28 upsets (based on the weekly AVCA poll) by Pac-12 teams this season so far, 21 coming in league matches. USC is tied for the most with six, four against league opponents. Colorado has also knocked off six ranked opponents, four in Pac-12 play. Oregon upset five higher-ranked opponents (three in league matchups). Ten Pac-12 teams have recorded at least one upset. Most recently, unranked and unseeded Colorado taking down No. 18 and 12th-seeded Baylor to advance to the regional semifinal for the first time in 20 years.

COLORADO IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … Second-year head coach Jesse Mahoney has the Buffs in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014 and in the regional semifinal for the first time in 20 years. The Buffs knocked off 12th-seeded Baylor to advance. Colorado is in the tournament for the 19th time and has a 13-18 record. In the Kentucky Regional, the Buffs face fifth-seeded Nebraska next.

STANFORD IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … The third-seeded Cardinal are in the tournament for the 37th time with first-year head coach Kevin Hambly leading the team to a No. 3 seed. It is one of just two teams, along with Penn State, to never miss out on a NCAA Tournament. Stanford is the winningest NCAA Tournament team ever, boasting a record 117 wins. It is also tied for the most NCAA titles with seven with the Nittany Lions. The Cardinal continues to host, as the regional rounds take place this weekend. The defending NCAA Champion, which has made the national semifinal a NCAA-record 15 times, it looking for another appearance.

UCLA IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … The No. 15-seed Bruins are in the NCAA Tournament for the 35th time in program history. Only four teams have received more NCAA Tournament invitational than the Bruins. UCLA won the NCAA title in 2011 in head coach Mike Sealy’s second season. The Bruins head to Gainesville, Fla., for the round of 16 to face host and second-seeded Florida, with the potential of facing USC in the following round. UCLA is 90-31 all-time in the tournament.

USC IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … USC is making its 35th all-time appearance, boasting a 78-31 mark. The Trojans won the NCAA title in 1981, and then again in back-to-back years in 2002 and 2003. 10th-seeded USC travels to Gainesville, Fla., to take on seventh-seeded Minnesota with the potential of facing crosstown-rival UCLA in the round of eight. The Trojans have had a remarkable turnaround, finishing tied for second in the league after going just 10-10 last season and tying for seventh.

UTAH IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … Utah is in the NCAA Tournament for the 14th time ever, earning the No. 11 seed, its highest seeding ever and only the second time to be seeded top-16. The Utes are headed to the regional final at Stanford. It is their first trip to the round of 16 since 2008 and their first since joining the Pac-12 in 2011. Utah faces sixth-seeded Texas in the regional semifinal with the potential to meet Stanford for a trip to the national semifinal.

NOTABLES … CALIFORNIA had more overall wins and league wins than each of the last three seasons. With 13 overall wins, the Bears reached double-digit wins for the first time since 2014 … COLORADO records its first 20-win season since 2014 and its 21 wins are the most since setting the program record of 26 in 1993. Its 11 conference wins are the most since joining the Pac-12 in 2011 and are almost double its total from last year (6) … OREGON STATE closed the book on one of its best seasons. Its 11 wins tied for the program record set in 1990 and it was only the second time OSU had recorded double-digit conference victories. Its 21 wins are just the third time since the Pac-12 started sponsoring the sport that it has  had a 20-win campaign … STANFORD picked up its 10th Pac-12 win of the season, marking the 32nd season the Cardinal has won double-digit league matches. The Cardinal has also won at least 13 league wins every year since the Pac-12/10 became sponsoring women’s athletics (dating back to 1986). It has also had a 20-win campaign every year since 2000 … UCLA has recorded a 20-win season in each of the last four seasons and in 18 of the last 19 seasons … USC posted its 20 win campaign, making it more wins than all of last season (18). The Trojans have also won more league games than last year (10) … UTAH has recorded back-to-back 20-win campaigns for the first time since joining the Pac-12. Its 12 Pac-12 wins are a team record, also marking just the second time the Utes have recorded double-digit league wins since joining the Pac-12 … WASHINGTON has had a 20-win campaign every season since 2002. Only Stanford has had a longer streak … WASHINGTON STATE’s back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances are its first since 2000 and 2001.

PAC-12 PRESEASON COACHES POLL … Washington was picked to win the Pac-12 regular-season crown, as decided on by a vote of the league’s coaches. The Huskies edged out the Cardinal for the top spot in the poll. UW received eight first-place votes and 118 points, while Stanford had three first-place votes and 113 points. The Ducks were picked third (93 points) and Utah placed fourth (88 points), also receiving the final remaining first-place vote. The Huskies have won back-to-back regular-season crowns and three of the last four.

WHO’S BACK … Seven AVCA All-Americans return from last year, including Pac-12 Player of the Year Courtney Schwan and AVCA National Freshman of the Year Kathryn Plummer. UW has three 2016 All-Americans on its current roster, while Stanford has two. Senior Adora Anae is also back for the Utes this year, as is Ducks junior Lindsey Vander Weide.

• Eight of the 14 players named to the 2016 All-Pac-12 team return for 2017, including UW’s Schwan, who was tabbed the 2016 Pac-12 Player of the Year. Stanford’s Plummer was voted the 2016 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and looks to build upon an impressive rookie campaign.

NEW COACHES … The Pac-12 welcomes four new coaches to the Conference this season. Sanja Tomasevic takes over the helm at ARIZONA STATE; Matt Ulmer roams the sidelines as head coach in Eugene; while Kevin Hambly takes over a Stanford program that is defending its national crown. Half the Pac-12 teams have put new coaches in place over the last two years, three due to retirement of long-time head coaches. Seven in total have coaches that have been at the helm for three years or less in the Pac-12.

• Pac-12 volleyball continues to attract marquee student-athletes. Eight Pac-12 teams landed at least one Volleyball Magazine FAB 50 recruit with UCLA pacing the league with four.


CONFERENCE STANDINGS (Expanded standings)

Teams Pac-12 Record Overall Record
Stanford 19-1 28-3
Washington 14-6 25-8
USC 12-6 24-9
Utah 13-7 24-9
Colorado  12-8 24-9
UCLA 12-8 21-10
Oregon State 11-9 21-12
Oregon 10-10 18-12
Washington State 6-14 18-16
Arizona  5-15 11-18
California  4-16 13-18
Arizona State 0-20 10-22

UPCOMING SCHEDULE ( PST)

Friday, Dec. 8     
COLORADO vs. No. 5 seed Nebraska ESPN3 11 a.m.
No. 15-seed UCLA at No. 2-seed Florida ESPNU 1 p.m.
No. 10-seed USC vs. No. 7-seed Minnesota ESPNU 3 p.m.
No. 11-seed UTAH vs. No. 6-seed Texas ESPN3 6 p.m.
Wisconsin at No. 3-seed STANFORD ESPNU 8 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 9     
Regional Finals    

2017 PAC-12 VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK (Weekly Honors)

Date Offensive Defensive Freshman
Aug. 28 Khalia Lanier, USC  Zana Muno, UCLA Mac May, UCLA
Sept. 4 Mary-Kate Marshall, OSU Tawnee Luafalemana, UTAH Dani Barton, UTAH
Sept. 11 Taylor Agost, ORE Berkeley Oblad, UTAH Mima Mirkovic, CAL
Sept. 28 Alexa Smith, COLO Halle Harker, ASU Brynna DeLuzio, COLO
Sept. 25 Brittany Abercrombie, USC Victoria Garrick, USC  Mac May, UCLA 
Oct. 2 Brittany Abercrombie, USC Naghede Abu, COLO Brynna DeLuzio, COLO
Oct. 9  Adora Anae, UTAH  Berkeley Oblad, UTAH Lauren Sanders, WASH
Oct. 16  Mary-Kate Marshall, OSU Grace Massey, OSU Maddie Goings, OSU
Oct. 23 Mary-Kate Marshall, OSU Morgan Hentz, STAN Kylee McLaughlin, OSU 
Oct. 30  Kathryn Plummer, STAN Tia Scambray, WASH Brynna DeLuzio, COLO
Nov. 6 Merete Lutz, STAN Madeleine, UCLA Brynna DeLuzio, COLO
Nov. 20 Kathryn Plummer, STAN Audriana Fitzmorris, STAN Kylee McLaughlin, OSU
Nov. 28 Khalia Lanier, USC  Zana Muno, UCLA Jenny Mosser, UCLA

IN THE PRESEASON
Pac-12 Coaches Pick Washington to Win in 2017, Preseason All-Pac-12 Announced
Six Teams Ranked in Preseason AVCA Poll

NATIONAL HONORS
Oct. 10: Adora Anae, Utah, Sports Imports/AVCA Division I Women Player of the Week
Oct. 10: Adora Anae, Utah, ESPNW Player of the Week
Nov. 2: Kathryn Plummer, Stanford, ESPNW Player of the Week


HISTORICALLY SPEAKING
•    The Pac-12 has captured seven of the last 16 NCAA crowns (2016 - Stanford, 2011 - UCLA, 2005 - Washington, 2004 - Stanford, 2003 - USC, 2002 - USC, 2001 - Stanford) and a record 15 NCAA titles overall.
•    Pac-12 coaches have led NCAA Division I teams to 39 NCAA semifinal appearances and eight NCAA titles. In the last 15 years, seven different coaches have been named the ASICS/Volleyball Magazine Coach of the Year and/or the AVCA Coach of the Year.
•    The Pac-12 has had 10 or more All-Americans selections in eight of the last 11 years. Ten former Pac-12 players have earned All-America honors four times, while 20 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 seven - 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 (2015). The NCAA Honda Sports Award honor has been bestowed upon a Pac-12 volleyball player 14 times, including Stanford’s Inky Ajanaku in 2016.  

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