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Seven volleyball teams tied for second as first half of league play wraps

Oct 17, 2016

Wrapping up the first half of  Conference play this week and there is a seven-team tie for second place, illustrating the rigors of Pac-12 play this season. Eight teams are ranked as more upsets continue to roll in each week.

No. 18 WASHINGTON STATE looks to end a three-match skid when it faces to ARIZONA STATE on Wednesday night on Pac-12 Network for Spike Night. The Cougs had gotten off to their best start in nearly two decades to open league play, but have stumbled as of late. The Sun Devils, under the direction of first-year head coach Stevie Mussie, picked up their first league win over the weekend and look to build on that at home.

Looking to get the edge on that seven-way tie, WSU and ARIZONA go head-to-head, No. 20 UTAH hosts No. 23 OREGON, and No. 14 STANFORD travels to No. 15 UCLA on Friday. Closing out the week’s action and the first half of league play on Sunday is the Cardinal at No. 25 USC on ESPNU.

THIS WEEK’S AVCA POLL … No. 7 WASHINGTON leads the list of ranked Pac-12 teams, which this week is up to seven teams. The Conference has had up to eight teams ranked this season, which came during the week of Sept. 29.

STANFORD and UCLA join the Huskies in the top 15 in the ranking, coming in at No. 14 and No. 15, respectively. WASHINGTON STATE remains in the top 20 and was tabbed No. 18. UTAH moved up one position to No. 20, while OREGON sits at No. 23. USC rejoins the top 25 this week, coming in at No. 25 after not being ranked last week.

Arizona and Colorado, who have both posted significant wins so far this season, are receiving votes.

NCAA STATS LEADERS … Stanford and Washington State continue to lead the nation in blocking average, the Cardinal owning the best average in the country at 3.42, while the Cougars are just behind at 3.35, for the second-best average in the nation. Three of the country’s top-10 blocking teams reside in the Pac-12, with Washington ranking ninth (2.89). Colorado ranks 25th (2.66) putting four Pac-12 teams in the top-25 for the category.

The Cougs also boast the best opponent hitting percentage in the Pac-12, limiting opponents to a mere .148 to rank ninth in the country. UCLA has the 19th-best opponent hitting percentage at .155 as it also has help from its defensive corp, averaging 18.38 digs per set which is second in the nation.

On attack, the Conference has some heavy hitters to boast, as well. Three teams rank in the top 20 in the country in kills per set, Oregon posting a 14.43 kills average which ranks eighth in the NCAA. UCLA’s 14.37 average is 10th, while the Huskies come in at 12th with 14.34 kpg.

The Ducks are also among the most efficient hitting teams in the nation, ranking 10th overall (.285).

Individually, the Conference is also home to four of the nation’s top blockers, led by Washington States’s Claire Martin at fourth (1.58) and Stanford’s Inky Ajanaku at sixth (1.55). Martin is joined by her teammate, Taylor Mims, in the top 15. Mims boasts a 1.48 block percentage to rank 12th. Ajanaku is joined by her teammate, Audriana Fitzmorris, in the top 20 with Fitzmorris boasting a 1.46 blocking percentage for 16th in the nation as a freshman. Washington’s Kara Bajema rounds out the Conference in the top-25 with a 1.40 blocking percentage to rank her 21st in the nation.

Stanford’s Inky Ajanaku and Oregon freshman Ronika Stone have the best hitting percentage in the Conference, which also ranks Ajanaku 20th (0.399) and Stone 22nd (0.395) in the country. Utah’s Adora Anae has been a big offensive producer for her squad, posting a 4.64 kills per game average, while tallying 5.29 points per game to rank ninth and eighth, respectively.

• NCAA RPI … Pac-12 teams continue to record impressive RPI, with seven squads posting a rating of No. 25 or better. Another two have RPI at No. 35 or better, and 10 teams are in the top 100.

NCAA’S ACTIVE CAREER LEADERS … The Conference’s active leader in kills, 2015 All-Pac-12 honoree Washington State’s Kyra Holt ranks fourth in the NCAA in career kills among active players and has surpassed the 1,500 kill mark which puts her in the top 50 in Pac-12 history (1,569). 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 (4,527). Snuka is the 28th player in Pac-12 history to go over the 4,000-assist mark and ranks 16th all-time.

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 4-3 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 UPSET … The Utes got off to a historic start in league play, going 2-0 to start Pac-12 play for the first time in school history, upending Colorado in Boulder in a five-set thriller to open league play. The Utes also took down Stanford in four sets for the program’s first-ever win over the Cardinal. Utah is 4-3 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 2-3 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 (405-99) 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


CONFERENCE STANDINGS (Expanded standings)

Teams Pac-12 Record Overall Record
Washington 6-2  16-2 
UCLA 5-3  14-4 
Washington State 5-3  15-5 
Utah 5-3  14-5 
Oregon 5-3  12-5 
Stanford 5-3  11-5 
USC 5-3  13-6 
Arizona 5-3  13-7 
Colorado 3-5  11-7 
California 2-6  8-10 
Oregon State 1-7  8-11 
Arizona State 1-7  8-12 


Wednesday, Oct. 19    
Friday, Oct. 21    
CALIFORNIA at #25 USC P12N 6 p.m. PT
#23 OREGON at #20 UTAH P12N 7 p.m. PT
#14 STANFORD at #15 UCLA P12N 8 p.m. PT
Saturday, Oct. 22    
#23 OREGON at COLORADO  Live Stream  6 p.m. PT 
OREGON STATE at #20 UTAH Live Stream 6 p.m. PT
Sunday, Oct. 23    
#7 WASHINGTON at ARIZONA  P12N  11 a.m. PT 
CALIFORNIA at #15 UCLA Live Stream 12 p.m. PT
#14 STANFORD at #25 USC ESPNU 2 p.m. PT


Offensive: Torrey Van Winden, Fr., UCLA
Defensive: Taylor Formico, Sr., UCLA
Freshman: Khalia Lanier, Fr., USC

: Penina Snuka, ARIZ: Oluoma Okaro, AUS; Gabby Simpson, COLO; Inky Ajanaku, STAN; Elise Ruddins, USC; Carly Trueman, UTAH; Courtney Schwan, WASH.
Defensive: Laura Larson, ARIZ; Morgan Hentz, STAN; Taylor Whittingham, USC; Berkeley Oblad, UTAH; Crissy Janes, WASH. 
Freshman: Devyn Cross ARIZ; Morgan Hentz, STAN; Torrey Van Winden, UCLA; Kara Bajema, WASH.


  Offensive Defensive Freshman
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


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


  • 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.