Six Pac-12 volleyball teams open NCAA Tournament action this week
SAN FRANCISCO - Six Pac-12 volleyball teams are headed to the NCAA Tournament which begins Thursday and Friday, Dec. 5 and 6. Three-time Pac-12 Champion and defending national champion STANFORD was awarded the No. 3-overall seed and WASHINGTON was awarded a No. 8 seed, giving them the right to host the first and second rounds. The six berth marks the 20th-consecutive year at least six league teams have participated in the “Big Dance.”
Joining the Cardinal and Huskies in the NCAA Tournament are UCLA, USC, UTAH and WASHINGTON STATE. Five of the six teams are making a return trip to the tournament while the Bruins return to make its 36th all-time appearance after missing out on the postseason last year. Stanford is one of two teams in the nation to have participated in the event all 39 years, including 2019, and owns the NCAA record for most national titles after winning in 2019 and two of the last three.
UPCOMING SCHEDULE (All Times Specific to Site)
Friday, December 6
Denver at #3 Stanford, 7 p.m. PT
#24 UCLA vs. Notre Dame1, 4:30 p.m. CT
USC vs. SFA2, 5 p.m. CT
#17 Utah vs. Illinois3, 4 p.m. MT
Winthrop at #9 Washington, 7:30 p.m. PT
#23 Washington State vs. San Diego4, 7 p.m. CT
Saturday, December 7
Second Round at Stanford, TBD
UCLA vs. second round, TBD
USC vs. second round, TBD
Utah vs. second round, TBD
Second round at Washington
Washington State vs. second round, TBD
1 at Madison, Wis.; 2 at Waco, Texas; 3 at Provo, Utah; 4 at Honolulu, Hawai'i
• PAC-12 IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT… The Pac-12 has captured 16 out of 38 NCAA titles, including 14 of the last 28. With Stanford winning its eighth crown last year, and two of the last three, it it is now the nation’s leader in NCAA titles. Four different Pac-12 teams have claimed the NCAA titles and has had at least six tournament berths for 20-consecutive years. Pac-12 teams have compiled an impressive 472-251 (.653) record in NCAA play. Toss out the 19 postseason matches between Conference teams since 2001 and the league’s NCAA Tournament record against non-conference foes stands at 261-104 (.715) during that span. Over the last 19 years, Pac-12 teams are 115-19 (.858) in the first round, including posting a NCAA-record 10-0 in 2015 after a NCAA-record 10 league teams earned bids that season.
• PAC-12 HONORS … In a vote of the league’s 12 coaches, UCLA junior Mac May was voted the Pac-12 Player of the Year. May is the sixth Bruin to win the Conference’s top honor but the first since 1994. STANFORD senior Jenna Gray was voted the Pac-12 Setter of the Year for the third-straight year. She is the second Cardinal in the nine-year history of the award to win the honor three times, following Madi Bugg’s wins from 2013-15. Senior teammate Morgan Hentz nabs the Pac-12 Libero of the Year award for the third-consecutive year. She is the second student-athlete to win the honor three times in the nine year history of the honor with USC’s Natalie Hagglund winning the award the first three-straight years from 2011-2013.
Also a couple of firsts in the awards are WASHINGTON STATE’s Magda Jehlarova becoming the first Coug to win Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. In her 30th season at the helm, UTAH’s Beth Launiere was voted Pac-12 Coach of the Year by her league peers for the first time in her career.
In addition to the major awards, the Conference office announced the 18-member All-Pac-12 team. In addition to May, Gray and Hentz earning spots on the All-Conference team, USC’s Khalia Lanier was selected for the fourth time in her career, only the 21st player in league history to earn the all-league nod every year of their career. Hentz, Gray and teammate Audrianna Fitzmorris, as well as OREGON’s Ronika Stone, are three-time honorees.
• AVCA POLL … With the final regular-season poll released, STANFORD leads five Pac-12 teams in the AVCA Coaches poll, coming in at No. 3 in the nation with 10 first-place votes. WASHINGTON enters the postseason at No. 9 this week, followed by No. 17 UTAH, No. 23 WASHINGTON STATE and No. 24 UCLA. CALIFORNIA and USC received votes.
At least five teams have been ranked in the AVCA poll every week this season with 10 different schools earning at top-25 ranking at some point during the season. Stanford was the overwhelming No. 1 pick in the AVCA Preseason Coaches poll released on Aug. 13. The defending NCAA Champion garnered 62 of a possible 64 first-place votes. It was the second-straight year the Cardinal were No. 1 in the preseason and the 74th all-time No. 1 ranking for the program.
Since 2003, the Pac-12 has had at least five teams in the preseason poll with the exception of 2014 and 2007 when four teams were ranked.
• STANFORD CLAIMS 19TH PAC-12 CROWN … For the third year in a row and 19th time overall, Stanford claims the Pac-12 crown. The Cardinal went 18-2 in league play, clinching at least a share of the title in the second-to-last week of conference play before winning outright on Nov. 26. The Cardinal were the overwhelming preseason favorite to win the Pac-12 title and has only finished lower than second three times in the history of the program, and never lower than fourth.
• NCAA & PAC-12 CAREER LEADERS … Stanford’s Jenna Gray was the first active player in the NCAA to hit the 5,000-career assists milestone this season. She also became just the 14th player in Pac-12 history and the fourth Cardinal to record 5,000 career assists. She ranks in the top-15 in the Pac-12 in assists. USC’s Khalia Lanier needs just four kills to become the eighth player in league history with 2,000 kills. She is second among the NCAA’s active leaders in the category. Two-time AVCA National Player of the Year Stanford’s Kathryn Plummer was back on the court after missing action for five weeks and reached the 1,800-kills milestone, entering the top 25 in Pac-12 history.
Stanford’s Morgan Hentz is fourth all-time in Pac-12 history in career digs with 2,207, breaking the all-time Stanford mark. Washington State’s Alexis Dirige cracked the top 10 in the Pac-12 record books, ranking 10th all-time with 2,126. She became just the 14th player in league history to reach over 2,000 digs and ranks seventh all-time in the Pac-12 record book.
Stanford’s Audriana Fitzmorris recorded her 500th block against Duke on Aug. 31 becoming just the 28th all-time in league history to hit the mark. One of six active in the NCAA to have recorded 500-career blocks, she needs just seven blocks to get to 600 which would make her 12th on the all-time Pac-12 list. USC’s Jasmine Gross, who has tallied 630 in her career, over 300 of those coming in her two years at Pepperdine, is second on the NCAA’s active career leaders list, just ahead of Fitzmorris.
• STANFORD IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … Defending national champion Stanford earns the No. 3-overall seed in the NCAA Tournament after claiming the Pac-12 crown for the 19th time ever. Stanford is one of just two teams to have earned a berth to all 39 NCAA Tournaments (along with Penn State) and after winning it all last season, is the nations leader with eight NCAA titles. The Cardinal boast the most wins in the history of the tournament, going 125-31 (.801) all-time and was the first to 100 NCAA Tournament wins in the event. Stanford, which has won the Pac-12 title in each of head coach Kevin Hambly’s three seasons, hosts Summit League Champion Denver (23-8) in the first round, also hosting the first-round clash between Georgia (20-9) and Cal Poly (20-8).
• UCLA IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … UCLA is back in the NCAA Tournament after failing to miss the postseason last year, which was also the first time in the history of the program the Bruins had recorded a losing record. UCLA posted a fourth-place finish and 13-7 league record (18-11 overall) in 2019, its best finish in three years. The Bruins are making their 36th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament, traveling to Madison, Wis., to face the ACC’s Notre Dame (19-9) in the first round. The Bruins could face the winner of the Illinois State (22-11) and Wisconsin (22-6) matchup. The Badgers are the No. 4 overall seed and the Big Ten Champion. UCLA has won the NCAA title four times, the last time coming in 2011.
• USC IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … USC continues its NCAA Tournament streak with 29 in a row after finishing sixth in the Pac-12 with an 11-9 record (17-13 overall). The Trojans take on Southland Champion Stephen F. Austin (31-1), one of only two 30-match winners in the bracket. The winner of the match goes on to face the winner of Baylor (25-1), the No. 1 overall seed and co-Big 12 Champion, and Northeast Conference Champion Sacred Heart (20-11) in Waco, Texas, in the second round.. The Trojans are making their 37th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance, winning the title in 2002 and 2003. The 2003 squad was the last undefeated Pac-12 Champion, also going a perfect 35-0 that year.
• UTAH IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … For the fourth year in a row, Utah opens its tournament action in its home state, traveling to Provo for the second-straight year and third time in four years (Utah was host in 2017). Under the direction of 30th-year head coach Beth Launiere, Utah (22-9, 14-6) enters the tournament after posting its best-ever Pac-12 finish, coming in third place. The Utes are making their 16th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance and fourth-straight, facing Illinois (16-13) in the first round setting up a potential rematch with No. 14-seeded and host BYU (25-4) in the second round. The Cougars take on WAC Champion New Mexico State (27-3) in the first round. The Utes fell to BYU, 3-1, on Sept. 19, in Salt Lake City.
• WASHINGTON IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … Placing second in the Pac-12, eighth-seeded WASHINGTON (24-6, 15-5) is making its 18th-consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance and 24th overall. The Huskies have won at least 20 matches every year since 2002 and have finished in the top two in the Conference for the sixth time in seven years. UW hosts Big South Champion Winthrop (24-4) in the first round and could face the winner of Mountain West Champion Colorado State (29-1) and South Carolina (19-11). UW advanced to the national semifinal in 2013 and last year reached the regional semifinal. Washington is 48-21 (.696) all-time in the tournament, advancing to the national semifinal four times and winning the crown in 2005.
• WASHINGTON STATE IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … Washington State (23-9, 12-8) is making its fourth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance and 14th all-time. The Cougs placed fifth in the Pac-12, sweeping the regular-season series against rival Washington for the first time since the 2001 season. WSU advanced to the regional semifinal last year for the first time since 2002. The Cougs face WCC Champion San Diego (24-5), traveling to Big West Champion and 12th-seeded Hawai’i (24-3), who is also hosting Big Sky Champion Northern Colorado (26-7).
• NOTABLES … After missing all of October and five weeks in total due to injury, Stanford’s two-time National and Pac-12 Player of the Year Kathryn Plummer returned to the court on Nov. 7 at Arizona State, then put up 15 kills on 22 swings at Arizona two days later. Plummer missed matches from Oct. 4-Nov. 3, before returning. During her absence, the Cardinal still went 9-1 and took control of first place in the Pac-12 … Arizona’s Julia Patterson became the first Power 5 Conference player to record a triple-double this season in a hard-fought five-set loss at No. 17 Utah. The senior setter had 46 assists, 13 digs and a career-most 10 kills in the match. The triple-double was the first in her career and the first by a Wildcat in at least 10 years … Arizona State’s 17-13 overall record and nine Pac-12 wins surpass its totals from a year ago when it went 16-12 overall and 8-10. Both are the most wins since 2015, the last time the Sun Devils advanced to the NCAA Tournament … California eclipsed its overall wins and league wins from a year ago when it went 15-16 and 7-13 in the Pac-12. The Bears posted their first 20-win campaign since 2011. Its 10 league wins are the most since 2013 … After starting Pac-12 play with an 0-10 record, Colorado closed out the season going 5-5 in the month of November, posting wins over UCLA and California, while also taking Washington State to five sets … Oregon ended the season going 2-1 in its final matches. It posted a 3-6 record in five-set matches, but one of those wins was against Utah on Sept. 29 and USC on Nov. 24. The win over the Trojans was the third five-setter in a row for the Ducks … After starting league play at 2-0 for the first time since 2004, Oregon State ended the season with three victories, which was better than the 1-19 record it posted in 2018 … Stanford’s first loss of the season came after the Cardinal put together a school-record 37-match win streak, which dated back to Sept. 1, 2018 and included a 6-0 run in last season’s NCAA Tournament to claim the national championship. Its second loss of the season to Washington on Sept. 29 snapped a 26-match winning streak against Pac-12 teams … After missing out on the NCAA Tournament last season and posting its first-ever losing campaign in program history, UCLA has made a big turnaround, recording more overall wins than last season (13 in 2018) and more league wins (11 in 2018). The Bruins are guaranteed a winning record this season and tied for fourth in the Pac-12 after finishing ninth last season … Sophomore Raquel Lázaro is the only Trojan to have played every set this season and leads the Pac-12 in double-doubles (20) … Utah’s pair of top-25 wins to open the season is the first time it had beaten two AVCA ranked teams in the opening weekend in program history, with wins over then-No. 7 Kentucky (3-0) and then-No. 23 Cal Poly (3-2). It also beat Saint Mary’s (3-0) in the true season opener for the season’s first match. The Utes posted their fifth 20-win season in seven years. Their 12 Pac-12 wins are a team record … Washington posted its 18th-consecutive 20-win season, surpassing its Pac-12 win total from a year ago (20). The Huskies, who finished an uncharacteristic sixth in the league last year, finished second in the Pac-12 race after being picked to finish fourth … Washington State continues to produce significant milestone, its most recent is recording its first sweep of USC since 1986. Earlier this season, WSU’s home sweep of the Oregon schools was the first time it had knocked off both teams since 2002 at Bohler Gym. It completed the regular-season sweep of both the Oregon teams, marking the first time WSU has accomplished that since 2002. WSU has posted back-to-back 20-win campaigns for the first time since 1996 and 1997. The Cougs posted back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1995 and 1995.
PAC-12 VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
Offensive: Mac May, UCLA
Defensive: Morgan Hentz, Stanford
Freshman: Karson Bacon, Oregon
Offensive: Andrea Mitrovic, ASU; Ronika Stone, ORE; Maddie Goings, OSU; Audriana Fitzmorris, STAN; Dani Drews, UTAH; Magda Jehlarova, WSU.
Defensive: Courtney Leffel, ASU; Brooke Nuneviller, ORE; Grace Massey, OSU; Berkeley Oblad, UTAH; Hannah Pukis, WSU; Emily Ryan, UCLA.
Freshman: Lexi Hadrych, UCLA; Zoe Weatherington, Utah; Magda Jehlarova, WSU.
2019 PAC-12 VOLLEYBALL PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
IN THE PRESEASON