Pac-12 women's volleyball season gets underway with 28 matches this weekend
SAN FRANCISCO - The 2021 women’s volleyball season gets underway this weekend with 10 Pac-12 teams hitting the court on Friday, Aug. 27 and 28 total matches during the first weekend of competition.
WHAT’S HAPPENING THIS WEEK
- ARIZONA, ARIZONA STATE, CALIFORNIA, No. 14 OREGON, OREGON STATE, No. 21 STANFORD, USC, No. 19 UTAH, No. 4 WASHINGTON and No. 18 WASHINGTON STATE are all in action on Friday.
- The Wildcats, Sun Devils, Ducks, Trojans and Utes each begin their seasons with home tournaments – ARIZONA hosting the Cactus Classic, ARIZONA STATE the Sun Devil Volleyball Classic, OREGON the Oregon Invitational, USC the Trojan Invitational and UTAH the Utah Classic.
- The Golden Bears start at the Tulane Tournament in New Orleans, La., the Beavers get going at the Oklahoma Invitational in Norman, Okla., the Cardinal is in Philadelphia, Pa. for matches at Villanova and Temple, the Huskies are headed to Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio for the Sports Import Classic and the Cougars are at the Carolina Classic in Columbia, S.C.
- COLORADO’s season starts at the Charlotte Invitational in North Carolina against Xavier on Saturday, Aug. 28 and No. 17 UCLA begins its 2021 campaign at UC Davis on Sunday, Aug. 29.
KEEP AN EYE ON
- Three Pac-12 teams will face a trio of ranked opponents during the first weekend of action.
- Defending Conference champion and national semifinalist WASHINGTON is at Nationwide Arena, the site of the 2021 NCAA Championship in December, for the Sports Import Classic hosted by Ohio State. The Huskies, which open with Ohio on Friday, play the No. 11 Buckeyes at 4 p.m. PT on Saturday in one of NCAA.com’s three can’t miss matchups to watch during the opening weekend of the NCAA volleyball season.
- ARIZONA STATE is hosting Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Cal Poly and Louisville at its Sun Devil Volleyball Classic and faces the No. 13 Cardinals on Saturday at 4 p.m. PT in a match carried on the new, free streaming channel Pac-12 Insider.
- Entering the year with the best AVCA preseason ranking in program history, WASHINGTON STATE has a top-10 opponent out of the gate when its plays No. 9 Pittsburgh on Saturday at 9:30 a.m. PT.
- Six Pac-12 women’s volleyball teams are ranked in the first American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Coaches Top 25 of the 2021 campaign, which was revealed on Aug. 16. The Conference’s half-dozen programs in the preseason poll are tied for the most among all leagues.
- Defending Conference champion WASHINGTON, which is coming off the fifth NCAA Final Four appearance in program history, checks in at No. 4. The Huskies are followed by No. 14 OREGON, No. 17 UCLA, No. 18 WASHINGTON STATE, No. 19 UTAH and No. 21 STANFORD among Pac-12 schools in the initial rankings. USC and ARIZONA are receiving votes.
- The Pac-12 has had at least five teams ranked in 16 of the 19 AVCA preseason polls since 2003 with the only exceptions coming in 2014 (4), 2016 (4) and 2020 (4).
- Four of the top-10 most-ranked teams all-time are from the Pac-12 in STANFORD, UCLA, USC and WASHINGTON, a total which is double any other league. The Cardinal comes in at No. 2 on that list, having appeared in 563 of 571 all-time polls (98.6 percent). The Bruins are third at 93.9 percent (536 of 571), the Trojans fifth at 90.5 percent (517 of 571) and the Huskies 10th at 61.6 percent (352 of 571).
- Only six programs have appeared in more than 90 percent of the AVCA’s polls all-time and three are from the Pac-12 in STANFORD, UCLA and USC.
- WASHINGTON was voted by the Conference’s women’s volleyball head coaches as the league’s preseason favorite for the upcoming 2021 campaign.
- The Huskies, which won their first Pac-12 title since 2016 last season and sixth overall, collected 11 first-place votes and totaled 121 points to top the annual coaches poll. UCLA was second with 101 points, and followed closely by OREGON (100 points) and STANFORD (95 points). The Cardinal picked up the remaining first-place vote.
- It’s the fourth time that WASHINGTON has led the Conference’s preseason rankings. The Huskies were previously voted to the top spot in 2017, 2009 and 2005.
- The preseason favorite has gone on to win the league title 20 times in the 35 years of Pac-12 women’s volleyball, including UW in 2005, which also capped that campaign with one of the Conference’s 17 national championships.
- The 14-person Preseason All-Pac-12 Team was announced at the same time as the coaches poll and UCLA, WASHINGTON and WASHINGTON STATE each have three players on the list, tied for the most in the league.
WHAT’S BACK AND WHAT’S NEW
- The Pac-12 returns six first and second-team AVCA All-Americans from a season ago, including 2020 Conference award winners in Player of the Year Dani Drews (UTAH) and Setter of the Year Ella May Powell (WASHINGTON). All-Americans Samantha Drechsel and Claire Hoffman are also back for UW, along with UCLA’s Mac May and OREGON’s Brooke Nuneviller.
- In total, 32 of the 36 players awarded all-conference recognition for the 2020 season return this fall, including 17 All-Pac-12 performers, 12 all-conference honorable mention awardees and each of the league’s seven All-Freshman selections. Three individuals were both All-Pac-12 and Pac-12 All-Freshman honorees a season ago.
- Five Pac-12 teams landed at least one Volleyball Magazine FAB 50 recruit with STANFORD and USC leading the way with three top-50 recruits apiece. OREGON and COLORADO each landed two and UCLA one. Eleven named to the list will be donning a Pac-12 uniform this season.
NUMBERS TO TRACK
- Heading into the season, UTAH’s Dani Drews is third among active NCAA players with 1,687 career kills and UCLA’s Mac May is ninth with 1,507. Drews’ total is 38th in Pac-12 history and May’s is 59th.
- WASHINGTON’s Samantha Drechsel (1,296), OREGON STATE’s Maddie Goings (1,081) and COLORADO’s Leah Clayton (1,054) are the other Pac-12 returners with more than 1,000 career kills.
- OREGON STATE’s Grace Massey is seventh among active NCAA players with 1,779 career digs, a total which is 20th in Conference history.
- Along with Massey, ARIZONA STATE’s Jamye Cox (1,424), a transfer from Michigan State, and OREGON’s Brooke Nuneviller (1,304) are also over 1,000 career digs. UCLA’s Zoe Fleck is sitting right there with 999.
OLYMPIANS MADE HERE
- Four Pac-12 volleyball alumnae were Olympians at the recently concluded Summer Games in Tokyo and three were gold medalists.
- Four-time All-American and 2010 Pac-10 Player of the Year Alix Klineman (STANFORD) won a beach volleyball gold medal for the United States playing with April Ross (USC), a three-time All-American and the 2003 Pac-10 Player of the Year.
- Sarah Sponcil, who was an AVCA All-America honorable mention selection at UCLA in 2017, was also a beach volleyball Olympian along with USC's Kelly Claes. Claes did not play indoor volleyball during her collegiate career.
- STANFORD's Foluke Akinradewo, a two-time Pac-10 Player of the Year (2007 and 2008), 2007 AVCA Player of the Year and four-time All-American, helped Team USA take home an Olympic indoor gold medal for the first time. Fellow Cardinal Kathryn Plummer, herself a two-time AVCA Player of the Year (2017 and 2018) was an alternate on that U.S. roster.
- WASHINGTON's Tamari Miyashiro was an assistant coach of UCLA alumnus Karch Kiraly for Team USA, and legendary UCLA softball head coach Sue Enquist was also on staff as a consultant.
PAC-12 VOLLEYBALL BROADCASTS
- The league's teams will be featured 110 times this season across Pac-12 Networks and the new, free streaming channel, Pac-12 Insider.
- ESPN will also televise three Pac-12 matches on ESPNU – UTAH at WASHINGTON on Sept. 22, UTAH at STANFORD on Sept. 14 and WASHINGTON at UCLA on Oct. 31.
- For a full television schedule, visit pac-12.com.
- Pac-12 institutions have won 17 of the 40 all-time NCAA championships in women’s volleyball, five more than the next closest conference, and four of the past 10.
- The Conference has had at least five teams earn NCAA Tournament bids in 22 consecutive seasons and boasts eight postseason berths in five of the past eight tournaments.
- The Pac-12 has had 10 or more first, second and third-team All-America selections in 12 of the last 16 seasons.
- Eleven former Pac-12 players have earned first, second or third-team All-America honors four times, while 26 players have earned All-America honors three times, with Dani Drews garnering her third nod this past spring.
- Since 1990, Pac-12 players garnered AVCA Player of the Year honors 15 times, including the seven of the last 11 - CALIFORNIA’s Carli Lloyd (2010), USC’s Alex Jupiter (2011), OREGON’s Alaina Bergsma (2012), WASHINGTON’s Krista Vansant (2013), USC’s Samantha Bricio (2015) and STANFORD’s Kathryn Plummer (2017 and 2018).
- The Honda Sports Award for volleyball has been bestowed upon a Pac-12 athlete 21 times in its 45 years of existence, including most recently STANFORD’s Jenna Gray in 2019.