Pac-12 Conference

2017 Volleyball Media Guide

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2017 PAC-12 VOLLEYBALL // PREVIEW 2 0 1 7 – 2 0 1 8 8 PRESEASON NOTEBOOK Naghede Abu, Colorado Halle Harker, Arizona State 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 15 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. The Conference had eight teams earn NCAA Tournament bids in 2016, marking the 16th-consecutive year at least six league teams participated in the postseason. Ten players were named All-Americans, and the AVCA National Freshman of the Year was among them. The future of Pac-12 volleyball looks as strong as ever, with teams hauling in their share of top recruits. 2017 is no different with 13 Volleyball Magazine FAB 50 selections appearing on seven league rosters, the second most of any conference. Four Pac-12 teams also had recruiting classes that ranked in the top 10 nationally according to Volleyball Magazine, with the league occupying the top-three spots. Here is a brief look at the teams of the Pac-12 as they prepare for the 2017 campaign: ARIZONA The Wildcats look to build on a season that saw them advance to the NCAA Tournament regional final after posting a road upset in the second round to get there. Arizona welcomes its third-straight top-15 recruiting class in the nation, Arizona looks to break through to the top half of the Conference. With the loss of five letterwinners, UA will need to rely heavily on the 12th-ranked incoming class in order to reach that goal. Junior outside hitter Kendra Dahlke anchors the offense this season after ranking fourth in the Pac-12 in kills per set. Defensively, Arizona is deep at the middle blocker position led by returnees sophomore Devyn Cross and redshirt senior McKenzie Jacobsen. However, the Wildcats will have to contend with the loss of one of its all-time great setters in Penina Snuka. She not only ranked second all-time in assists at UA, but she was the most experienced player of all-time, setting the record for sets played. ARIZONA STATE It'll be another rebuilding year for the Sun Devils with another new coach at the helm for the second- straight year. But there will be familiarity on the bench as Sanja Tomasevic spent last season as an assistant coach. Though a rookie coach, Tomasevic brings with her a history of winning. A two-time All-American, she led Washington to win the 2005 NCAA title and a pair of Pac-1-0 crowns. On the court, Tomasevic returns senior Halle Harker, who has been a linchpin on defense. She ranks among the all-time great Wildcats with over 1,400 career digs. Middle blocker Oluoma Okaro stepped in to take a big role last season as a junior transfer and looks to build on that this season. Tomasevic has been on the recruiting trail this summer, bringing in an incoming class of 10. She will have to man- age that inexperience and meld with the veterans on the squad. CALIFORNIA The Golden Bears are in new territory, facing a season without Rich Feller on the bench for the first time since 1998. Head coach Matt McShane is up for the challenge, however, after spending the last year on the bench as an associate head coach, his second stint in Berkeley. His continuity on the bench allowed him to sign the 15th-ranked recruiting class in the nation. He will need the tal- ent, too, after also having to replace key figures in Maddy Kerr, a four-year starter at the libero spot, and Alyssa Jensen, who nabbed the setter position since she arrived on campus. On attack, McShane looks well-positioned to see improvement with the return of leading scorer Christine Alftin, who is nearing the 1,000 kills mark. Senior outside hitter Jessica Gaffney (transfer) and sophomore Bailee Huizenga were immediate contributors last season in their first seasons as Golden Bears. COLORADO Colorado has pieces in place to see improvement this season. The Buffs return 12 letterwinners from last year's team that recorded seven wins over ranked opponents. That confidence, along with key contributors coming back, including junior outside hitter Alexa Smith and junior middle blocker Naghede Abu will help CU make that leap in just the second year under head coach Jesse Mahoney. In addition, the Buffs will have the services of talented 2016 recruits Jaden Newsome and Brynna Deluzio who redshirted last season. Colorado's roster is loaded with outside hitters, but who will get the ball to them is the question. Deluzio and Newsome are among the candidates for taking over that spot. The team will also have to look for a defensive specialist. OREGON The expectations on the Ducks have been high in recent seasons, and 2017 will be no different de- spite having a new head coach at the helm in Matt Ulmer. Oregon was picked to finish third this season by the Pac-12 coaches likely because UO returns all but two letterwinners from last year's squad that finished fourth in the Conference, including ever starter. Among the returnees is All-American Lindsey Vander Weide. She is one of four players that return that averaged 2.00 kills per set, with Vender Weide leading the team in the category. Sophomore Ronika Stone had a standout freshman year which saw her produce the second-most points on the team, while boasting the second-best hitting percentage in the Pac-12. She will be one of the Ducks' key go-to players this season again. Oregon will be tested early, opening the season with two top-five teams on the road, as well. If there's any question for the Ducks is who will replace Amanda Benson at libero. She was an AVCA All-Pacific South Region honoree. OREGON STATE In just Mark Barnard's first season as head coach in Corvallis, the Beavers already started to see improvement, recording one more league win and doubling its overall victories from 2015. To build on last season's momentum, which included a late-season win over a ranked opponent, Oregon State has 10 letterwinners returning and welcomes the No. 19 recruiting class in the nation. Among 2017 PAC-12 PRESEASON COACHES POLL 1. Washington(8) 118 2. Stanford (3) 113 3. Oregon 93 4. Utah (1) 88 5. UCLA 83 6. USC 71 7. Washington State 66 8. Arizona 51 9. Colorado 38 10. Oregon State 33 11. California 23 12. Arizona State 15 * First-place votes in parentheses.

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