We knew that WCC front-runners BYU would be good, but the #1 team in the country isn’t even the conference’s best story from the non-league schedule. That honor belongs to the Portland Pilots, who are off to a 12-0 start this year after going just 15-15 all of last season.
The WCC has the undisputed title of ‘best non-Power 5 volleyball conference,’ and in some years, even leaps out of its mid-major role and outplays some of the Power 5 conferences. This year looks like an ‘up’ year in the league, with enough depth at the top of the heap to give the conference a chance at a 3rd NCAA qualifier this season.
Teams Records heading into conference play:
- #1 BYU
- On the Cusp – Portland
Week 1 Schedule
All times are Pacific Time.
|Sept. 20||Match||Location||Time (Pacific Time)|
|Pacific @ BYU||Provo, Utah||6:00 PM|
|Loyola Marymount @ Gonzaga||Spokane, Washington||6:00 PM|
|Pepperdine @ Portland||Portland, Oregon||7:00 PM|
|Santa Clara @ San Francisco||San Francisco, California||7:00 PM|
|Saint Mary’s @ San Diego||San Diego, California||7:00 PM|
|Sept. 22||Match||Location||Time (Pacific Time)|
|Loyola Marymount @ Portland||Portland, Oregon||12:00 PM|
|Saint Mary’s @ BYU||Provo, Utah||12:00 PM|
|Pepperdine @ Gonzaga||Spokane, Washington||12:00 PM|
|Pacific @ San Diego||San Diego, California||12:00 PM|
In standings order:
BYU hasn’t lost a match yet, in spite of playing an elite-caliber schedule.
- 7 of BYU’s 10 wins have come against teams from Power 5 Conferences. That includes a huge victory over then-#1 Stanford, and another over then-#5 USC.
- BYU has never made it through regular-season play without a loss.
- Key Players
- Veronica Jones-Perry is continuing her trend of getting better every season. She’s hitting a career-best .317 in 2018 so far, and has thrice hit for 20+ kills: she had 20 kills in 5 sets against Stanford, in just 3 sets against USC she had 26, and in 4 sets against Marquette she had 23.
- BYU has done all of this without its top 2 options at opposite, Sara Hamson, who is out for the season with a knee injury, and Tayler Ballard, who they’re easing back into the rotation after she had a season-ending injury in 2017. Lacy Haddock and Madelyn Robinson, both listed as 5’10” outside hitter, have been filling in that role for the Cougars, and combined they have 51 kills and are hitting .204 this season.
Portland’s schedule for their undefeated opening hasn’t been quite as impressive as BYU’s, but there are still some nice wins. They beat Hawaii 3-2 in Honolulu, and also picked-off 8-3 Boise State in Boise. That ability to beat teams on the road will be crucial as they jockey for NCAA position with late-season road matchups against Loyola Marymount and San Francisco.
- Portland is hitting .297 this season, while holding their opponents to just .197 hitting. Only BYU has a better margin in the conference.
- At 45 sets, only Pacific has played more volleyball this season than Portland in the conference.
- Notable Players:
- Junior Katie Barker is having her best season as a collegian so far. While her serve hasn’t been as good as it was last season, she’s really shown improvements in her transition game. She’s hitting .374 this season (her previous career average was .231), and already has 57 blocks (1.26/set – more than the .74 she had last season).
- Setter Cali Thompson ranks 9th nationally in assists-per-set with 11.62, and has the team on record-setting pace offensively.
Loyola Marymount is this year’s sleeper team in the conference. Their only loss was a 5-setter to top-25 ranked Cal Poly, who has beaten UCLA twice this year, by the way. The team was 9-9 in conference play last year after going 7-4 out-of-conference.
- ULM’s offensive is firing on all cylinders. They rank 6th nationally with 2.03 aces/set and 2nd nationally with a .315 hitting percentage.
- Any incremental improvements in their defense could yield big results in WCC play. At present, the team ranks last in the conference in blocks/set (1.43), 9th out of 10 teams in opponent hitting percentage (.220), and 9th out of 10 teams in digs-per-set (13.10).
- Notable Players:
- Taking a page from their neighbors the Los Angeles Lakers and their famed “Showtime” teams of the 1980s, Tess Reid is the Magic Johnson of this team. She leads the nation in assists/set with 12.98, and ULM has 2 players ranked in the top 12 nationally in hitting percentage: middle blocker Emma Johnson (.533) and outside hitter Meredith Teague (.427). Combined with Savannah Slattery and her 4 kills/set while hitting .364, plus the aces, ULM has had one of the most efficient offenses in the country. Only Pitt has been better than their .315 hitting percentage, and if they can continue to serve like they have been, it will keep pressure off the team’s defense.
Saint Mary’s got its biggest non-conference win against a top-25 team in Utah, sandwiched by a pair of letdown losses to Denver and UC Irvine to open the season. They’ve settled-in since, including their first sweep of the season on Saturday 3-0 over Cal.
- Only 4 teams have even 1 middle blocker averaging more than 1 block/set this season, and Saint Mary’s has two (as do BYU and Portland). That’s helped protect their freshman libero Kelsey Knudsen, who has a season of beach under her belt in the spring but is still fresh to the indoor game at the college level.
- Notable Players:
- Alexsa Parker leads the conference with 27 aces this season. That’s ahead of her pace of 42 from last season, when she also led the conference.
- Alex O’Sullivan is undersized for a middle blocker at 5’10”, but her athleticism and timing have still gotten her 1.37 blocks/set this season: good for 2nd in the WCC. That includes 9 against Utah.
San Francisco is riding a 5-match win streak into conference play.
- San Francisco has done it with defense. They rank 2nd in the conference by allowing their opponents to hit just .179. Even in their losses, they still haven’t let an opponent hit better than .268 this season
Pepperdine was off last weekend, meaning they’ll be rested for the start of conference play – where they have to face Portland and BYU as 2 of their first 3 opponents.
- Sophomore outside hitter Shannon Scully ranks in the top 7 in the conference in both kills/set (3.45) and aces/set (.39).
Pacific is the unlucky team that draws BYU to open conference play, which they follow with 2017 NCAA Championship tournament participant San Diego to open WCC play.
- Sophomore Kaitlyn Lines leads Pacific with 3.83 kills/match, which is 4th in the conference; and ranks 3rd in the conference with .43 aces/set. That includes a 28 kill, 2 ace, 1 block outburst in a 5-set lost to San Jose State. She already has more kills and aces than she did as a freshman (where she played in 83 sets).
Santa Clara started off their season well-enough, but have lost 5 of their last 6 matches.
- San Diego took on a huge pre-conference schedule this season after advancing to the 2nd round (and very nearly the 3rd round) of the 2017 NCAA tournament. 6 of their 9 matches are against top-25 caliber teams, and the other 3 including a pair against Tennessee and one against Louisiana.
- USD was 8-4 in pre-season last year, before going on a 17-1 run in conference play.
- The team has struggled with its serve, averaging just .74-per-set: the lowest in the conference by half-a-serve. Last season, they averaged 1.29/set.
Gonzaga had a streaky preconference season. They lost their first 5 matches, then swept the Les Schwab West Coast Challenge (Cal, Fresno State, Portland State), and then lost all 3 at the Sparky Classic (Texas State, Arizona State, Northern Arizona).
- In the team’s 3 wins, they’ve hit .249, including a season-best of .354 against Portland State. In their losses, the team has hit just .124 – at roughly half-the-rate.
|National Rank||Team||S||W-L||Kills||Errors||Total Attacks||Pct.|
|2||Loyola Marymount (WCC)||40||10-1||637||221||1,321||0.315|
|68||Saint Mary’s (CA) (WCC)||42||8-2||553||205||1,440||0.242|
|173||San Francisco (WCC)||41||6-4||527||225||1,507||0.2|
|193||San Diego (WCC)||34||3-6||463||226||1,229||0.193|
|216||Santa Clara (WCC)||43||5-7||542||259||1,541||0.184|
Opponent Hitting Percentage
|National Rank||Team||S||Opp Kills||Opp Errors||Opp Attacks||Opp Pct|
|96||San Francisco (WCC)||41||508||247||1,461||0.179|
|194||San Diego (WCC)||34||409||176||1,135||0.205|
|215||Saint Mary’s (CA) (WCC)||42||504||213||1,380||0.211|
|226||Santa Clara (WCC)||43||521||204||1,483||0.214|
|244||Loyola Marymount (WCC)||40||405||153||1,148||0.22|
|National Rank||Team||S||W-L||Block Solos||Block Assists||Per Set|
|88||San Francisco (WCC)||41||6-4||18||150||2.27|
|118||San Diego (WCC)||34||3-6||22||102||2.15|
|119||Saint Mary’s (CA) (WCC)||42||8-2||16||148||2.14|
|206||Santa Clara (WCC)||43||5-7||9||139||1.83|
|302||Loyola Marymount (WCC)||40||10-1||9||96||1.43|
|National Rank||Team||S||W-L||Aces||Per Set|
|6||Loyola Marymount (WCC)||40||10-1||81||2.03|
|16||Saint Mary’s (CA) (WCC)||42||8-2||76||1.81|
|119||San Francisco (WCC)||41||6-4||58||1.41|
|173||Santa Clara (WCC)||43||5-7||55||1.28|
|330||San Diego (WCC)||34||3-6||25||0.74|
|National Rank||Player||Cl||Ht||Pos||S||Kills||Errors||Total Attacks||Pct.|
|1||Emma Johnson, Loyola Marymount (WCC)||Jr.||6-0||MB||34||83||18||122||0.533|
|12||Meredith Teague, Loyola Marymount (WCC)||So.||6-2||OH||39||88||15||171||0.427|
|33||Shayla Hoeft, Portland (WCC)||Jr.||6-2||MB||45||140||32||274||0.394|
|54||Kennedy Eschenberg, BYU (WCC)||So.||6-4||MB||34||69||15||143||0.378|
|60||Katie Barker, Portland (WCC)||Jr.||6-1||MB||45||88||17||190||0.374|
|71||Savannah Slattery, Loyola Marymount (WCC)||Jr.||5-11||OH||40||160||43||321||0.364|
|76||Addison Picha, San Diego (WCC)||Sr.||6-2||MB||34||74||18||155||0.361|
|88||Reghan Pukis, Portland (WCC)||Jr.||6-1||OH||45||168||26||400||0.355|
|100||Tarah Wylie, Pepperdine (WCC)||Sr.||6-5||MB||34||74||20||154||0.351|
|106||Heather Gneiting, BYU (WCC)||Fr.||6-4||MB||34||62||18||126||0.349|
|139||Kaity Edwards, San Diego (WCC)||Sr.||6-2||MB||26||52||19||100||0.33|
|9||Veronica Jones-Perry, BYU (WCC)||Sr.||6-0||OH||32||151||4.72|
|53||Savannah Slattery, Loyola Marymount (WCC)||Jr.||5-11||OH||40||160||4|
|60||Sara Kovac, Loyola Marymount (WCC)||Sr.||6-0||OPP||39||154||3.95|
|70||Kaitlyn Lines, Pacific (WCC)||So.||0-0||46||176||3.83|
|91||Reghan Pukis, Portland (WCC)||Jr.||6-1||OH||45||168||3.73|
|109||Mckenna Miller, BYU (WCC)||Jr.||6-1||OH||34||123||3.62|
|135||Shannon Scully, Pepperdine (WCC)||So.||6-2||OH||33||114||3.45|
|National Rank||Player||Cl||Ht||Pos||S||Block Solos||Block Assists||Total||
|21||Addison Picha, San Diego (WCC)||Sr.||6-2||MB||34||14||35||49||1.44|
|26||Alex O’Sullivan, Saint Mary’s (CA) (WCC)||Sr.||5-10||MB||41||6||50||56||1.37|
|42||Kennedy Eschenberg, BYU (WCC)||So.||6-4||MB||34||5||39||44||1.29|
|50||Katie Barker, Portland (WCC)||Jr.||6-1||MB||45||2||55||57||1.27|
|160||Heather Gneiting, BYU (WCC)||Fr.||6-4||MB||34||2||34||36||1.06|
|173||Liz Reich, Portland (WCC)||So.||6-1||MB||45||1||46||47||1.04|
|199||Lindsey Calvin, Saint Mary’s (CA) (WCC)||Sr.||6-2||MB||42||0||42||42||1|
|258||Emily Zinger, San Francisco (WCC)||Fr.||0-0||38||4||32||36||0.95|
|296||Alexandra Holt, Pacific (WCC)||Sr.||6-0||MB||46||4||38||42||0.91|
|39||Tiyana Hallums, Gonzaga (WCC)||Sr.||5-10||DS||41||204||4.98|
|72||Mary Lake, BYU (WCC)||Jr.||5-7||L/DS||34||160||4.71|
|95||Carey Williams, Portland (WCC)||So.||5-7||L/DS||45||202||4.49|
|123||Anna Dalla Vecchia, San Francisco (WCC)||So.||5-7||L||41||178||4.34|
|148||Kekai Whitford, Loyola Marymount (WCC)||Sr.||5-8||DS||40||166||4.15|
|8||Alexsa Parker, Saint Mary’s (CA) (WCC)||Jr.||5-8||S||42||27||0.64|
|15||Meredith Teague, Loyola Marymount (WCC)||So.||6-2||OH||39||23||0.59|
|58||Kaitlyn Lines, Pacific (WCC)||So.||0-0||46||20||0.43|
|99||Shannon Scully, Pepperdine (WCC)||So.||6-2||OH||33||13||0.39|
|117||Cali Thompson, Portland (WCC)||Jr.||6-0||S||45||17||0.38|
|120||Bo Culo, Loyola Marymount (WCC)||Jr.||6-2||OH||40||15||0.38|
|120||Veronica Jones-Perry, BYU (WCC)||Sr.||6-0||OH||32||12||0.38|
|120||Tess Reid, Loyola Marymount (WCC)||Jr.||5-8||S||40||15||0.38|
|130||Michelle Shaffer, Santa Clara (WCC)||Fr.||5-11||OH||43||16||0.37|
|National Rank||Player||Cl||Ht||Pos||S||Kills||Aces||Block Solos||Block Assists||Per Set|
|9||Veronica Jones-Perry, BYU (WCC)||Sr.||6-0||OH||32||151||12||1||20||5.44|
|57||Kaitlyn Lines, Pacific (WCC)||So.||0-0||46||176||20||2||15||4.47|
|79||Sara Kovac, Loyola Marymount (WCC)||Sr.||6-0||OPP||39||154||6||0||13||4.27|
|82||Savannah Slattery, Loyola Marymount (WCC)||Jr.||5-11||OH||40||160||5||0||11||4.26|
|108||Mckenna Miller, BYU (WCC)||Jr.||6-1||OH||34||123||12||0||8||4.09|
|126||Shannon Scully, Pepperdine (WCC)||So.||6-2||OH||33||114||13||0||10||4|