First Serve For Big West Volleyball Slated For Friday
Big West Conference Women's Volleyball Release - Week 1
Big West Volleyball Opens Season Friday: The Big West Conference volleyball season gets underway Friday, August 24 and defending conference champion No. 24 Cal Poly opens with a top 25 opponent. The Mustangs battle Pepperdine in the first match of the Panther Challenge before facing host No. 20 Pittsburgh that evening. They also take on Butler Saturday morning to close out the three-contest tournament.
Also starting off the new year against some of the best is UC Irvine, who faces No. 19 Utah on the Utes’ home court for the first match of the Utah Volleyball Classic. The Anteaters are also slated to battle Denver and Saint Mary’s.
University of Hawai’i hosts the annual Wahine Volleyball Classic which features Gonzaga, Kansas State and No. 11 UCLA. UC Riverside and Cal State Fullerton are hosting a joint season-opening tournaments as they are combining their efforts for the Fullerton/Riverside Classic that features Montana, Akron, UMass Lowell and Eastern Washington.
UC Davis welcomes Utah Valley, Holy Cross, Nevada and Northern Arizona to The Pavilion for the Aggie Invitational. CSUN and Long Beach State stay on the west coast for the Hornet Invitational and the Portland State Tournament.
Cal Poly Picked To Repeat As Big West Champion: After capturing its first Big West title in 10 years, Cal Poly has been selected to repeat as the Big West Conference women’s volleyball champion after claiming five first-place votes en route to a 77 point total, as voted on by the nine head coaches. The University of Hawai’i secured the remaining four first-place votes to lock down the second spot with 75 points. UC Irvine followed in the third slot with 62 points, while Long Beach State registered 48 points to rank fourth and UC Santa Barbara was close behind in fifth place with 45 points. The Aggies of UC Davis nabbed 38 points for the sixth spot and was followed by CSUN (30), UC Riverside (18) and Cal State Fullerton (12).
The Mustangs are coming off a year where they posted the program’s best overall record of 27-3, a perfect 16-0 Big West Conference mark and an undefeated home record for the first time since 2007. Led by 2017 AVCA Pacific North Coach of the Year Sam Crosson, Cal Poly broke the AVCA Top 25 and posted its first NCAA Tournament win since 2007. As a team, the Mustangs concluded 2017 ranked in the nation’s Top 10 in kills per set (2nd - 15.07), assists (4th - 14.06), win/loss percentage (5th - .900) and hitting percentage (7th - .310).
They return four players who earned Big West postseason awards this past season in seniors Adlee Van Winden and Katherine Brouker, junior Torrey Van Winden and sophomore Madilyn Mercer. There are six new additions to the team, five true freshmen and one transfer from Duke, who will all be competing for playing time.
In head coach Robyn Ah Mow-Santos’ rookie season at the helm of the Rainbow Wahine women’s volleyball program, she led them to a 20-8 overall record and a 14-2 conference mark which advanced them to their 36th NCAA Tournament appearance. Hawai’i is on a quest to capture its fifth conference title in seven years and will rely on 2018 All-Big West First Teamers outside hitter McKenna Granato and setter Norene Iosia to lead the way.
Securing the third spot is UC Irvine, who finished third in the Big West a season ago with a 10-6 league mark and a 24-8 overall record, which tied the school record for wins, matching the 2009 squad that went 24-10. The Anteaters advanced to the quarterfinals of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship, falling to Texas Tech, 3-1. It was the first postseason appearance since 2004. The Anteaters welcome back 2018 All-Big West First Team members middle blocker Idara Akpakpa, outside hitter Haley DeSales and opposite.
Nation’s Kill Leader Returns: UC Santa Barbara junior Lindsey Ruddins concluded the 2017 regular season with an NCAA-leading 5.84 kills per set average, while leading all other Big West players by more than a full kill. The two-time AVCA All-American and All-Big West First Teamer became the first Gaucho ever to lead the nation in kills per set for an entire season.
Mustangs Earn Preseason Ranking: For the first time since 2008, defending Big West Conference Champion Cal Poly is ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Preseason Top 25 Poll, capturing the 24th spot.
After going 27-3 last year, the Mustangs ended the season ranked No. 22 in the final AVCA Top 25 Poll. At one point during the season they were ranked as high as No. 21. In last year’s AVCA Preseason Poll they were in the ‘others receiving votes’ category before breaking into the Top 25 October 9.
Gauchos Awarded AVCA Team Academic Award for Fourth Straight Year: Over the summer, UC Santa Barbara earned an American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic Award for the fourth consecutive year. Since the first time they received the honor in 2014-15, the Gauchos have remained the only Division I program from either the Big West or the UC school system to be named an AVCA Team Academic Award recipient. The prestigious award, which was initiated in the 1992-93 academic year, honors collegiate and high school volleyball teams that displayed excellence in the classroom during the school year by maintaining at least a 3.30 cumulative team grade-point average on a 4.0 scale or a 4.10 cumulative team GPA on a 5.0 scale.
A 2017 Flashback: Three schools registered a 20-win season in 2017 - Cal Poly, UC Irvine and Hawai’i - a first since a trio of Big West programs posted 20-plus win seasons in 2012. The Mustangs, with 27 victories this season, captured its first 20-plus win season since 2010. With a school-tying season best 24 victories, the Anteaters mastered the feat for the first time since the 2009 squad tallied a 22-8 mark. Hawai’i joined the 20-win club in the final week of the regular season after picking up two league wins to sit at 20-7.