Trojans are the Pac-10 team to beat
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Sophomore setter Nicole McIntyre (11) bumps the ball on Saturday afternoon during the Varsity Clubs of America Classic while freshman outside hitter Nadia Sefferovich (15) shouts encouragement. Arizona begins its Pac-10 volleyball season tomorrow as the Wildcats travel to Washington State.
The Pacific 10 Conference volleyball season begins tomorrow as Arizona travels to Washington State. Still one of the country's premier volleyball conferences, the Pac-10 will see a lot of new faces replacing the veterans this season. Almost every team is young, and the conference race for postseason spots should be interesting as it unfolds.
Here is a breakdown in predicted order of finish:
Southern Cal Trojans
Current record/ranking: 4-2/ No. 3 in USA Today /AVCA Coaches Poll
Big wins/losses to date: defeated Wisconsin in New Mexico Tournament, lost to Wisconsin on road
1997 record: 23-6 overall, 13-5 Pac-10 (tied for second)
Head coach: Lisa Love
Stars: OH Jennifer Kessy, Sr. (4.50 kills per game in '97); OH Antoinette Polk, So. (2.41 digs per game, Pac-10 Freshman of the Year), MB Jasmina Marinkovic (.394 hitting percentage), S Janice Mounts (13.01 assists per game)
Coach's comments: "With the return of so much experience, we look forward to a season in which we have less questions to answer and more depth to offer."
Record vs. Arizona: 33-11 (1-1 in '97)
Game dates vs. Arizona: in Tucson Oct. 11, in Los Angeles Nov. 6
Prediction: The Trojans haven't played a home game, but they have one advantage the rest of the Pac-10 teams don't have - experience. They're the clear favorites to win the Pac-10 this year.
Current record/ranking: 4-2/ No. 9
Big wins/losses to date: defeated No. 11 Colorado 3-2 in Boulder, lost to No. 4 Nebraska and No. 5 UC-Santa Barbara
1997 record: 33-2, 18-0 (first), NCAA Champions
Head coach: Don Shaw (386-65 in 15 years)
Stars: MB/OH Kerri Walsh, Jr. (.355, 3.16 dpg, AVCA First Team All-America), MB Sarah Clark, Jr. (2.34 kpg), MB Jaimi Gregory, Jr. (2.54 dpg)
Coach's comments: "We are looking for this team to be one of the most improved we've ever had. We have a lot of talent. Our potential to improve is unlimited."
Record vs. Arizona: 32-2 (2-0 in '97)
Game dates vs. Arizona: In Tucson Sept. 25, in Palo Alto Oct. 25
Prediction: The two-time defending national champions are always going to be dangerous, especially with Walsh. Their difficult non-conference schedule will have them ready for the Pac-10 season, and never count out a Stanford team not playing football.
Current record/ranking: 8-0/ No. 25
Big wins: defeated Colorado State and Idaho
1997 record: 20-7, 12-6 (tied for fourth)
Head coach: David Rubio (109-69 in seven years)
Stars: MB Keisha Johnson Demps, Sr. (1.96 kpg), S Dana Burkholder, Fr. (572 assists in '98), OH Allison Napier, So. (1.48 kpg in '97), OH Raelene Morton, Jr. (0.35 service aces per game)
Coach's comments: "I'm excited about this year, even though there are a lot of question marks. I know that this group is very hungry and wants to do very well. Based on that, we should be pretty good at the end of the year."
Prediction: The last of the Pac-10 unbeatens, the Wildcats have played solidly against the non-conference foes. With Burkholder at setter, the team has a real leader for the next four years. Expect some good things out of Arizona.
Current record/ranking: 0-5 (unranked)
Big losses: lost to No. 1 Penn State, No. 7 Texas, No. 11 Florida, at No. 13 Hawaii and No. 14 Ohio State
1997 record: 17-13, 9-9 (sixth)
Head coach: Andy Banachowski (829-193 in 32 years)
Stars: MB Tamika Johnson, Jr. (1.27 bpg), MB Amy Nihipali, So. (1.26 bpg), DS Michelle Quon, So. (2.14 dpg)
Coach's comments: "We are young, but not inexperienced. Even though we could have three freshmen on the floor at a time, we are hoping some of our redshirting will start to pay off."
Record vs. Arizona: 37-7 (1-1 in '97)
Game dates vs. Arizona: In Tucson Oct. 9, in Los Angeles Nov. 8
Prediction: The Bruins have had a rough go of it in recent seasons, and this year's brutal schedule hasn't helped much. Their depth should give them an outside shot at the conference title.
Current record/ranking: 1-3/ No. 23
Big win: Georgia at home
1997 record: 20-10, 13-5 (fourth)
Head coach: Bill Neville (102-87 in eight years)
Stars: QH Leslie Tuiasosopo, Sr. (.311, 1.54 bpg), SH Kristina Laffling, Sr. (2.68 kpg), S Angie Short, Jr. (8.93 apg)
Coach's comments: "Kristina is a legitimate swing hitter. She can go from pin to pin and hit middle."
Record vs. Arizona: 13-15 (1-1 in '97)
Game dates vs. Arizona: In Seattle Sept. 20, in Tucson Nov. 20
Prediction: Starting out slowly, Washington may take more time to gel with so many young players (8 freshmen, 3 sophomores). They won't repeat last year's run to the NCAA Pacific Regional semifinals, but a postseason appearance is possible.
Current record/ranking: 2-3/ No. 24
Big wins: Utah and Gonzaga at home
1997 record: 26-7, 12-6 (tied for fourth)
Head coach: Cindy Fredrick (186-116 in ten years)
Stars: MB Jennifer Stinson, Sr. (3.45 kpg, 1.56 bpg), MB Colleen Smith (0.76 bpg), S Samantha Spink, Sr. (9.13 apg)
Coach's comments: "We're a big hitting and big blocking team which might be a little suspect on the passing and defensive end."
Record vs. Arizona: 9-15 (1-1 in '97)
Game dates vs. Arizona: In Pullman Sept. 18, in Tucson Nov. 22
Prediction: Moving into the Beasley Coliseum will take away some of their home-court advantage, but the Cougars should still be a tough away game for anybody. Wazzu had a big year last year, but replacing four departed seniors might prove to be too difficult.
A two-day series, this Pac-10 volleyball preview will conclude Friday
ASU Sun Devils
Current record/ranking: 3-4 (unranked)
Big wins/losses: lost to No. 17 Loyola Marymount and No. 13 Hawaii
1997 record: 13-16, 4-14 (eighth)
Head coach: Patti Snyder-Park (151-118 in 10 years)
Stars: S Jolynn Faatulu, Jr. (11.34 apg), OH Amanda Burbridge, So. (2.28 kpg, 2.08 dpg), MB Laura Hibsman (2.0 kpg)
Coach's comments: "We're really looking forward to getting back to the postseason. We really like the direction this squad is taking. We will be one of the more experienced teams in the league and hopefully we can capitalize on that."
Record vs. Arizona: 30-23 (0-2 in '97)
Game dates vs. Arizona: In Tempe Oct. 16, in Tucson Nov. 13
Prediction: ASU returns four starters and should improve from a year ago. The Sun Devils' weakness is kills (they finished 10th in the conference in '97), but they have good experience and depth to finish higher this season.
Oregon State Beavers
Current record/ranking: 8-1 (unranked)
Big wins/losses: defeated Xavier, lost to No. 4 Nebraska
1997 record: 14-17/ 5-13 (seventh)
Head coach: Jeff Mozzochi (91-77 in six years)
Stars: MB Angie Shirley, So. (1.31 bpg), OH Krista Kinsman, So. (2.26 kpg)
Coach's comments: "We're going to be young. We have no seniors, but our sophomores played a lot of volleyball as freshmen last year. We need to mature a little and stay healthy. If we can do that, we'll be right there."
Record vs. Arizona: 10-15 (0-2 in '97)
Game dates vs. Arizona: In Corvallis Oct. 2, in Tucson Nov. 1
Prediction: Shirley and Kinsman were both named to the Pac-10 All-Freshmen team last season and are the core of the team. The Beavers allowed a league-high 16.9 kpg, and must change that if they are to make the postseason.
California Golden Bears
Current record/ranking: 3-5 (unranked)
Big wins/losses: defeated UC Irvine, lost at No. 2 Long Beach State and to No. 22 Florida State
1997 record: 8-19, 3-15 (ninth)
Head coach: Sue Woodstra (32-59 in four years)
Stars: OH Brook Coulter, Jr. (0.35 sapg), OH Alicia Perry, So. (2.61 kpg, 2.56 dpg)
Coach's comments: "We want to make the NCAA Tournament. And we realize that to make the NCAA Tournament, we have to compete hard in every match to move up in the Pac-10 standings."
Record vs. Arizona: 6-20 (0-2 in '97)
Game dates vs. Arizona: In Tucson Sept. 27, in Berkeley Oct. 23
Prediction: Cal also has a lot of inexperience but too many questions with few answers. Everybody needs to contribute to make the Golden Bears any kind of a contender.
Current record/ranking: 4-5 (unranked)
Big wins/losses: defeated Missouri, lost at Minnesota
1997 record: 9-21, 1-17 (10th)
Head coach: Cathy Nelson (32-67 in three years)
Star: OH Madeline Ernst, Sr. (3.95 kpg)
Coach's comments: "One thing I can say for certain is that we will be more talented athletically than we have been in a long time. We have some young people who have the ability and the mindset to step in and play right away."
Record vs. Arizona: 7-20 (0-2 in '97)
Game dates vs. Arizona: In Eugene Oct. 4, in Tucson Oct. 30
Prediction: Losing five starters on the Pac-10's worst team last year is either a blessing or a curse. The Ducks will be better than last year but are too young to make any waves this year.
Bryan Rosenbaum can be reached via e-mail at Bryan.Rosenbaum@wildcat.arizona.edu.