Courtesy: Pac-12 Conference
SAN FRANCISCO – Eight Pac-12 volleyball teams are headed to the NCAA Tournament which begins Thursday and Friday, Nov. 29 and 30. Pac-12 Champion STANFORD was awarded the No. 1-overall seed with three other league squads receiving a top-16 seeding, giving them the right to host the first and second rounds. The eight berths marks the fifth time in six years the Conference has sent at least eight teams to the tournament. It also marks the 19th-consecutive year at least six league teams have participated in the “Big Dance.” First-round winners move on to play in the second round on Friday, Nov. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 1.
In addition to the Cardinal garnering the top seed, No. 11 USC, No. 15 OREGON and No. 16 WASHINGTON STATE also open postseason play at home. ARIZONA, COLORADO, UTAH and WASHINGTON hit the road for their first- and second-round matches. Seven of the eight teams are making a return trip to the tournament after earning bids last season, while the Wildcats are back after snapping a four-year run. Stanford is one of two teams in the nation to have participated in the event all 38 years, including 2018, and is tied for the most NCAA Tournament titles with seven after winning in 2016. Four Cardinals who played in the 2016 national championship match are juniors on this season’s squad.
Pac-12 Networks will air first/second-round sites from Eugene, Ore., and the second-round match at Stanford. The Ducks’ first-round match vs. New Mexico State starts at 7 p.m. PT on Thursday, Nov. 29. If both Oregon and Stanford win their first-round matchups, the second-round matches will be televised on Pac-12 Networks on Friday and Saturday, respectively.
Opening-round action will be played this weekend, Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at 16 campus sites. Teams winning both rounds move on to regional play Dec. 7-8 at four non-predetermined campus sites, which will be announced after play concludes on Dec. 1. The national semifinals and championship final matches take place in Minneapolis, Minn., on Dec. 13 and 15 at the Target Center.
UPCOMING SCHEDULE (All times ET)
Thursday, Nov. 29
New Mexico State at #15 Oregon, 10 p.m. on Pac-12 Oregon
Friday, November 30
Washington vs. St. Mary’s (Calif.)4, 4:30 p.m.
Arizona vs. Missouri1, 5:30 p.m.
Colorado vs. South Carolina2, 5:30 p.m.
Utah vs. Denver3, 6:30 p.m.
Alabama State at #1 Stanford, 10 p.m.
Northern Arizona at #16 WASHINGTON STATE, 10 p.m.
Samford at #17 USC, 11 p.m.
Second round at OREGON, TBD on Pac-12 Oregon
Saturday, December 1
Arizona vs. second round, TBD
Colorado vs. second round, TBD
Second round at Stanford, TBD on Pac-12 Bay Area
Second round at USC, TBD
Utah vs. second round, TBD
Washington vs. second round, TBD
Second round at Washington State, TBD
1 at Lincoln, Neb.; 2 at Minneapolis, Minn.; 3 at Provo, Utah; 4 at Omaha, Neb.
• PAC-12 IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT… The Pac-12 has captured 15 out of 37 NCAA titles, including 13 of the last 27. With Stanford winning its seventh crown in 2016, it put the Cardinal in a tie for the most in the nation by a program. Four different Pac-12 teams have claimed the NCAA title and has had at least six tournament berths for 19-consecutive years. Pac-12 teams have compiled an impressive 457-244 (.652) record in NCAA play. Toss out the 23 postseason matches between Conference teams and the league’s NCAA Tournament record against non-conference foes stands at 254-104 (.709) since 2001 and an overall mark of 390-182 (.682). Over the last 17 years, Pac-12 teams are 111-27 (.804) in the first round, including posting a NCAA-record 10-0 in 2015 after a NCAA-record 10 league teams earned bids that season. With eight bids in 2018, the Pac-12 has had at least that many teams go to the postseason in five of the last six years.
• PAC-12 HONORS … In a vote of the league’s 12 coaches, STANFORD’s Kathryn Plummer was voted the Pac-12 Player of the Year for the second year in a row making her the sixth player in league history to win the honor in back-to-back seasons. In 2017, she was tabbed the AVCA National Player of the Year honor after winning the Pac-12’s top honor, becoming the first player in the AVCA’s history to win the National Player of the Year award a year after winning the AVCA’s National Freshman of the Year recognition in 2016. Plummer’s teammates and classmates Jenna Gray and Morgan Hentz also repeated as the Pac-12 Setter of the Year and Pac-12 Libero of the Year, respectively. USC’s Raquel Lázaro was tabbed the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and the Cardinal’s Kevin Hambly was voted the Pac-12 Coach of the Year.
In addition to the major awards, the Conference office announced the 18-member All-Pac-12 team. Along with Plummer, USC’s Khalia Lanier and OREGON’s Lindsey Vander Weide earned a spot on the all-Conference team for the third-straight year. Six All-Pac-12 honorees are on the team for the second time, while nine are making a first-time appearance, including four seniors.
• AVCA POLL … In the final regular-season AVCA Coaches Poll, six Pac-12 teams are ranked with Pac-12 Champion STANFORD reclaiming the No. 1 spot. The Cardinal has been in the top two every week but one, including spending the first two weeks of the season at No. 1. OREGON moved up three spots to No. 14, USC is No. 17, WASHINGTON STATE is tied for No. 19, WASHINGTON is No. 22 and ARIZONA is No. 23. COLORADO and UTAH are receiving votes.
At least seven teams were ranked in 13 weeks of the polling this season, including the preseason. Eleven different teams have earned a top-25 ranking or have received votes with a season-high nine appearing in the ranking on Sept. 24.
• NCAA RPI … Stanford boasts the top RPI in the country with USC (No. 9), WSU (No. 14), Oregon (No. 19) and Washington (No. 25) appearing in the top 25. The Pac-12 also boasts nine teams with a RPI of 50 and better, and all but one are in the top 85.
• STANFORD CLAIMS 18TH PAC-12 CROWN … Stanford dominated league play, claiming its second-straight and 18th all-time Pac-12 crown with two weeks left in the regular season. Under the direction of second-year head coach Kevin Hambly, the Cardinal became the first Pac-12/10 team since 2003 to go undefeated in league play and ninth all-time. Stanford has also posted undefeated league seasons in 1991, 1995 and 1997. UCLA (1988, 1989, 1990) and USC (2003) are the only other programs to accomplish the feat. Stanford also became the second team in Conference history to post 20 league victories. USC did it first, going 20-2 in 2011, the year the Pac-12 expanded to include Colorado and Utah.
• IN THE NATIONAL STATS … The Pac-12 has been killing it this season, literally. The Conference leads the nation with 13.49 kills per set, including two teams in the top 10 for kills per set. Stanford ranks second with 14.95 kps while Oregon lands at fifth in the category with 14.79. Additionally, USC and Arizona rank in the top 30, with USC averaging 13.96 kps for 28th-best followed by Arizona at 29 with 13.95 kps. Individually Arizona’s Kendra Dahlke leads the league and ranks fourth nationally with 4.85 kps. Three other Pac-12 student-athletes rank in the top 25, including Stanford’s Kathryn Plummer at seventh (4.78 kps), USC’s Brooke Botkin at 17th with 4.45 and fellow Trojan Khalia Lanier ranking 24th with 4.3.
The Conference also leads the nation in assists per set at 12.64. Stanford and Oregon rank in the top-five nationally, as the Cardinal is listed at third (14.09 aps) and the Ducks are fourth (13.91 aps). The Pac-12’s dominant setters have led the way with Pac-12 Setter of the Year Stanford’s Jenna Gray ranking second in the nation with 12.43 aps. Oregon’s August Raskie is fourth (12.0 aps) and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Raquel Lázaro lands at 20th (11.2). Lázaro is one of just two freshmen in the country in the top 20 in the statistical category, boasting the second-best average among the nation’s freshman class.
While Stanford’s Tami Alade leads the nation and the Conference with 1.83 blocks per set, the future also looks bright for the Pac-12’s young defensive stars. Half of the Conference’s blocks-per-set leaders are freshmen. Stanford’s Holly Campbell leads the freshmen and ranks third in the league with 1.27 bps while California’s Lauren Forte follows at fourth with 1.23. Utah’s Phoebe Grace is fifth with 1.21 bps with teammate Kennedi Evans and CU’s Danielle Price tying for ninth-best at 1.14.
• UPSETS MOUNT… There have been 36 total upsets this season (based on the weekly AVCA poll) by Pac-12 teams this season so far, 26 coming in league matches. Every single Pac-12 team has recorded at least one win over a higher-ranked team this year. Utah, Washington and Washington State are all tied for the most upsets this season with five each. All five of the Utes upsets were in league matches, while both the Huskies and Cougs had two upsets in non-conference play and three in Conference matchups.
• ARIZONA IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … Arizona (22-10, 11-9) is back in the NCAA Tournament after missing out last season, breaking a streak of four-consecutive appearances. The Wildcats finished fifth in the Pac-12 after being picked ninth in the preseason. UA makes its 29th all-time tournament appearance when it travels to face Missouri (23-7) at No. 7-seeded Nebraska (24-6), where the Huskers also host Hofstra (25-7) on Friday. The Wildcats are 30-28 all-time, ranking the NCAA semifinal in 2001.
• COLORADO IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … The Buffs travel to face Minneapolis to face South Carolina (19-9) in the first round on Friday. Colorado is in the tournament for the second-straight year and the 20th time all-time. The other first-round match is between No. 2-seeded and Big Ten Champion Minnesota (25-3) and Northeast Champion Bryant (22-12). Colorado owns a 13-19 record all-time in the tournament, making its fourth appearance since joining the Pac-12 in 2011 and second in head coach Jesse Mahoney’s third season.
• OREGON IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … No. 15-seeded Oregon ends the season matching its best-ever showing in Pac-12 play, tying for second. The Ducks last finished second in 2012, the same year they appeared in their only national championship match. Oregon posts its ninth 20-win campaign in 12 years, going 20-10 this season also going 13-7 in league matches. Making their 16th all-time appearance (16-15) and eighth-straight, the Ducks host WAC Champion New Mexico State (24-7) in the first round, also welcoming Hawai’i (18-8) and Baylor (19-8) on Thursday, Nov. 29, with a potential rematch against the Wahine on Friday, Nov. 30 in the second round. UO defeated UH in back-to-back meetings earlier this season on Sept. 13 and 14 in Honolulu.
• STANFORD IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … Stanford earns the No. 1-overall seed in the NCAA Tournament after going a perfect 20-0 in league play and posting just one loss all season. The Cardinal are the first undefeated Pac-12 Champion since 2003 and the ninth all-time. Stanford is one of just two teams to have earned a berth to all 38 NCAA Tournaments along with Penn State. After winning the national championship in 2016, the Cardinal are tied with the Nittany Lions for the most NCAA titles all-time at seven. The Cardinal boast the most wins in the history of the tournament, going 119-31 (.793) all-time and is also the only program with 100 wins in the event. Stanford hosts SWAC Champion Alabama State (23-17) in the first round, also hosting Loyola Marymount (20-9) and Duke (16-11). First-round matches take place on Friday, Nov. 30, with the winners moving on to the second round on Saturday, Dec. 1.
• USC IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … Ending the season tied for second in the Pac-12 for the second-straight year, boasting a 13-7 league record and 21-10 overall, USC is the No. 11 seed and hosts SoCon Champion Samford (19-14) in the first round. The Trojans are making their 36th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance, winning the title in 2002 and 2003. The 2003 squad was the last undefeated Pac-12 Champion, also going a perfect 35-0 that year. USC also hosts San Diego (16-12) and Big West Champion Cal Poly (25-2) on Friday.
• UTAH IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … The Utes do not have to travel far for their NCAA Tournament appearance, going to Provo, Utah, to play Summit League Champion Denver (27-2) in the first round. It will be rematch of a Aug. 25 clash which was decided in five sets, the Utes coming away with the win. Utah is making its 15th tournament appearance, boasting an all-time record of 14-14. It is the third-straight year it is in the tournament and fifth time in six years. Host and fourth-seeded West Coast Champion BYU (27-1) hosts America East Champion Stony Brook (21-8) in the first round, as well. If the Utes and Cougars advanced, it would be the second time the teams face each other this season, BYU claiming a 3-0 on Sept. 13.
• WASHINGTON IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … Washington heads to Big East Champion Creighton (28-4) for its first-round match against Saint Mary’s (Calif.) on Friday, with a potential second-round match on Saturday against the host Blue Jays or South Dakota (21-9). The Huskies are making their 23rd appearance and 17th straight. UW advanced to the national semifinal in 2013 and last year reached the regional semifinal. Washington is 48-21 (.696) all-time in the tournament, advancing to the national semifinal four times and winning the crown in 2005.
• WASHINGTON STATE IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT … No. 16 seed WASHINGTON STATE is making its third-straight NCAA Tournament appearance, a feat it last achieved from 2000-2002. The Cougs’ seeding is also its highest since garnering the No. 12 seed in 2002. WSU finished the 2018 campaign in fourth with a 12-8 league record, the team’s best showing since 2002. Its 21-9 overall record is only the second 20-win campaign since 2003, also going over the 20-win mark for the second time in three years. Making its 13th all-time appearance, WSU hosts Big Sky Champion Northern Arizona (26-8) in the first round on Friday, while also welcoming Tennessee (25-5) and Mountain West Champion Colorado State (23-7). WSU is 11-12 all-time in the NCAA Tournament.
• NOTABLES … Arizona’s Dave Rubio joined an elite company after claiming his 500th victory while at Tucson on Sept. 14. In his 27th season at the Wildcat helm, he is only the second head coach in Pac-12 history to reach the milestone. Rubio has led UA to double the win total from last season (11) and also more than doubled its Pac-12 win total (5). It posted three upset-wins so far this season in league play … ARIZONA STATE broke a lengthy losing streak, picking up its first Pac-12 win since 2016 and the first under head coach Sanja Tomasevic on Sept. 23 over then-No. 12 Oregon. The win over the Ducks was the first over a ranked team since 2016 and was also the first sweep of UO since 2005. They posted three wins over ranked opponents this season, including ASU’s first over UW since Nov. 21, 2012 and the first sweep of the Huskies since Sept. 22, 2000. The Sun Devils have surpassed their overall win total from all of last season … California defeated four ranked opponents this season marking the first time the Bears have beaten four ranked teams since 2011. The Bears have more Pac-12 wins and total wins from last year (6 Pac-12, 14 overall) … Colorado posted its fourth double-digit Pac-12 win season in five years. It is looking to post back-to-back 20-win seasons for the first time since 1997-98 … Oregon records its second 20-win season in three years, surpassing its Pac-12 win total from a season ago. It’s second-place finish in the Pac-12 ties for the program’s best-ever showing, last time coming in 2012 …Oregon State recorded its second-straight 10-win non-conference season going 10-2, including a win over then-No. 23 San Diego … Stanford is looking for its second-straight 30-win campaign, which would be the program’s first back-to-back since going three years with 30 victories from 2006-2008. The Cardinal have had 18-straight seasons with 20 wins … All but one of UCLA’s losses this season were to teams who have earned bids to the 2018 NCAA Tournament … With two more wins, Utah gets to 20 on the season which would mark its third-straight and fifth in six years. It has also posted double-digit league wins the last three seasons … Washington needs two wins to get to 20 on the season. The Huskies have reached the 20-win threshold every year since 2002. That streak includes three-straight 30-win campaigns from 2013-15 … Washington State is posted its second 20-win season in three years and just its second since 2002. Its 12 Pac-12 wins ties a program record set in 1997.