Pac-12 Conference

2015 Volleyball Media Guide

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8 2015 PAC-12 VOLLEYBALL MEDIA GUIDE // PREVIEW PRESEASON NOTEBOOK Alexis Austin, Colorado Martenne Bettendorf, Oregon The Pac-12 continues to show it is the premiere conference for women's volleyball, showcasing the nation's top talent and coaches. With a record 14 NCAA titles to its credit and a team playing in the national championship match for the third- consecutive year last year, no other conference in the country can match the Pac-12's success. A league- record 10 league teams earned NCAA Tournament bids in 2014, marking the 14th-consecutive year at least six league teams participated in the postseason and the second-straight at least nine teams earned berths. In 2014, 14 players were named All-Americans, including six first-team honorees. The future of Pac-12 volleyball looks as strong as ever, with teams hauling in their share of top recruits. 2015 is no different with 12 Volleyball Magazine FAB 50 selections appearing on seven league rosters, the second most of any conference. Six Pac-12 teams also had recruiting classes that ranked in the top 20 nationally according to, and another two more in the top 30. Here is a brief look at the teams of the Pac-12 as they prepare for the 2015 campaign: ARIZONA After a string of sixth-place and seventh-place finishes and a pair of eighth-place showings since 2005, the Wildcats have been on an upswing the last two years, finishing third in the Pac-12 in 2014. Arizona looks to continue that trend in 2015 but head coach David Rubio will have to work quickly to incorporate 12 newcomers. Rubio will look to All- Pac-12 pick junior setter Penina Snuka to lead the way. Under her direction, the offense has improved in her two seasons. Also helping to bring along the young squad is senior middle blocker Halli Amaro. The only other returning starter, she is also one of just two seniors on the squad. The biggest offensive weapon of the last four years has graduated. Madi Kingdon left as one of the program's best players of all-time. She will be difficult to replace, but Rubio has a big enough cast that can possibly make up for it collectively. ARIZONA STATE The Sun Devils look to have their best season yet. And others have that expectation, as well, after the league's coaches picked ASU to finish second in the Pac-12 standings this season, Arizona State's best-ever pick in the preseason poll. The Sun Devils have six starters returning from a squad that finished tied for seventh in the highly competitive Pac-12 last year. Among those returning is senior outside hitter Macey Gardner who is one of the most prolific attackers in league history and an All-American last year. She has made an impact since arriving on campus, earning All-Pac-12 nods three times and coach Jason Watson will be going to her again this year. In addition to offense, ASU's defense that limited opponents to just a .196 hitting percentage, which ranked fourth in the Conference, is fully returned. ASU has made a significant turnaround over the last three years, winning 20 matches in two of the last three seasons, as well as advancing to the NCAA Tournament during that span. One of the most experienced teams in the Pac-12 this season, all three of those factors could make the Sun Devils a serious contender for the league crown. CALIFORNIA The Golden Bears had a disappointing season last year, snapping a string of 12-straight NCAA Tourna- ment appearances. But Cal head coach Rick Feller looks to turn those fortunes around in 2015. Feller welcomes the ninth-ranked recruiting class in the nation to join his squad that has 12 returning letter winners, including nearly every starter. Cal will look to juniors setter Alyssa Jensen and libero Mady Kerr, and senior middle blocker Lillian Schonewise to set the standard. The team finished near the bottom in the Conference in every statistical category in 2014. With the leadership and experience of that trio anchoring the squad in three key areas, the Golden Bears can only get better. Another key player will be the performance of senior starter Lara Vukasovic who provides the team great versatility. As a sophomore, she finished in the top 10 in the Pac-12 in hitting percentage and blocking. The Bears have a lot of work in store for them in 2015 are looking for redemption. They certainly have all the components of a turnaround and not just move up in the Pac-12 standings, but perhaps, also earn a NCAA Tournament berth. COLORADO The Buffs seem to be fully transitioned to the highly competitive Pac-12 after Colorado joined the league in 2011. Head coach Liz Kritza has been building a powerhouse in Boulder, last year winning 20 matches, as well as finishing in a tie for fourth, the team's best finish since joining the Pac-12. The Buffs look to build upon last years's successes which included five wins over ranked opponents, one of which was a late-season victory over then-No. 2 Washington. Colorado will miss the experience and talents of Taylor Simpson, the program's first-ever All-American. But with six starters back and nine letterwinners in all, Colorado looks to be on a good track. All-Pac-12 honoree Alexis Austin is poised to finish her collegiate career on a high note as the team's top-returning scorer. Just as significant is the return of senior setter Nicole Edelman. With those two anchor points and the experience of the returning players, a repeat performance of last year is within reach. OREGON The Ducks have been steady performers in the Con- ference over head coach Jim Moore's 10 seasons, establishing the program as one of the country's elites, finishing no less than fourth in the last three years, advancing to the NCAA title match in 2012. UO will have a big whole to fill after the departure of two-time All-American Liz Brenner, the team's second-leading scorer last year. But Oregon has nearly all of its starters back for 2015, including top-scorer senior outside hitter Martenne Bettendorf, an All-American and All-Pac-12 selection last year. Sophomores Frankie Shebby and Maggie Scott also made significant impacts last year and look to return even stronger after a year of experience. The Ducks also bring their best recruiting class ever, ranking No. 4 in the country. Moore has collected a talented arsenal and has the right balance of young and experienced players. The Ducks should make another run at the Pac-12 and NCAA titles. 2015 PAC-12 PRESEASON COACHES POLL 1. Stanford (11) 121 2. Arizona State 99 3. Washington (1) 97 4. Oregon 94 5. USC 84 6. Colorado 61 7. Arizona 60 8. UCLA 57 9. Oregon State 35 10. Utah 34 11. California 28 12. Washington State 22 * First-place votes in parentheses.

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