Volleyball Opens Season With Tournament-Packed Schedule
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11 VB Release-Week 1
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This Week in the Big West - August 22-28, 2011
Long Beach State Favorite To Claim 2011 Title
The Big West Conference head coaches selected Long Beach State to claim the 2011 women's volleyball title after earning seven first-place votes and 78 total points, according to the volleyball preseason poll.
Looking to capture their 11th conference championship, Long Beach State is coming off a season where the 49ers found themselves knotted in second place with Cal Poly after recording a 12-4 conference mark. Long Beach State earned an at-large selection to its 24th consecutive NCAA Tournament, 25th overall. The 49ers welcome back 2010 All-Big West First Team members sophomore Haleigh Hampton and senior Caitlin Ledoux. The duo is slated to headline a fairly young roster that showcases eight freshmen and five sophomores.
The Cal Poly Mustangs received two first-place votes en route to a point total of 72 to grab the second spot. Cal Poly, who tied Long Beach State for second place in the Big West standings a season ago, will be led by 2010 All-Big West First Team selections junior Jennifer Keddy and sophomore Kristina Graven, who was also named 2010 Big West Freshman of the Year and AVCA West Region Freshman of the Year. Cal Poly is looking to reclaim the top spot in the standings for the first time since capturing back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007.
For the second consecutive year UC Santa Barbara narrowly grabbed the third spot with 53 overall points. The Gauchos return five starters and nine letterwinners from a 2010 roster that finished fourth in the league with a 10-6 mark while registering an overall record of 16-13.
Defending champion Cal State Fullerton was selected fourth after picking up 52 points and is followed by Pacific who sits one point back with 51. The Aggies of UC Davis secured sixth place with 38 points, UC Irvine nabbed the seventh slot with 30 points and Cal State Northridge finished eighth after capturing 20 points. UC Riverside rounds out the nine-team field with 11 points.
LBSU Receives Preseason Top 25 Ranking
Long Beach State finds itself ranked among the top 25 in the AVCA Division I Coaches Top 25 Preseason Poll.
The 49ers picked up 234 votes to nab the 22nd spot in the preseason list. Long Beach State is the lone Big West Conference representative to make the top 25, but Cal Poly appears in the others receiving votes category.
Penn State, receiving 54 of the 60 first-place votes for a total of 1,486 points, earned the top spot and is followed by USC and California. Texas and Nebraska round out the top five.
As the Big West Conference enters its final year as a California-only league, two schools have followed suit with their 2011 lineups. For the third consecutive year UC Davis has showcased rosters composed entirely of players from the Golden State. Joining the Aggies this season with a California-filled roster are the UC Irvine Anteaters.
Against The Best
Four schools begin the new year facing some of the nation's top contenders. UC Riverside opens the Cal Molten Classic Friday evening against host California, which is ranked third in the AVCA preseason poll. On Saturday, Cal Poly and Cal State Fullerton get their shot against a pair of nationally-ranked California schools. The Mustangs tackle No. 20 San Diego on day two of the Fresno State Classic, while the Titans battle No. 11 UCLA in the Four Points By Sheraton LMU Invitational. The final Big West team to get its shot against a Top 25 opponent is 22nd-ranked Long Beach State. The 49ers host No. 7 Washington in the final game of the Long Beach State Mizuno Classic.
Not only does UC Santa Barbara face some tough competition to open the 2011 season, six teams are either ranked or receiving votes in the AVCA preseason poll, the Gauchos must play their way to victory on the road. UC Santa Barbara plays 13 straight road contests before hosting its first match at The Thunderdome on Sept. 30. In fact, UC Santa Barbara only hosts the eight Big West schools this season as its home schedule.
Cal Poly and UC Davis aren't far behind as both teams open the season with an 11-match journey around the United States.
Home Sweet Home
The Long Beach State 49ers are the lone team in the conference to kickoff the season playing in front of their hometown fans at The Walter Pyramid, where they were 15-2 last year. This weekend the 49ers host Prairie View A&M, UMBC and No. 7 Washington in the Long Beach State Mizuno Classic. The season opener is the first-ever meeting between Long Beach State and Prairie View A&M. The 49ers won the only matchup against UMBC and hold a 4-1 lead over the Huskies in the all-time series.
Lucky Titan Gym
Last season, Big West Champion Cal State Fullerton proved it was a force to be reckoned with when battling on its home court, Titan Gym, as it concluded the home portion of its schedule owning an impressive 16-1 record. Unfortunately for the Titans, their home schedule is shortened by six matches this season with just 11 home matches listed. The Titans play the first three weeks on the road at various tournaments before entertaining their hometown fans with a match against BYU on September 16. In all, Cal State Fullerton plays three nonconference and eight league matches in the familiar confines of Titan Gym.
A Glimpse Back At 2010
The Titans, who never finished higher than fifth prior to this season, posted a league-best 14-2 mark to earn the Big West Conference Championship and their first-ever NCAA postseason berth. Riding a nine-match win streak and winning 22 of their last 24 matches, the Titans posted a school-best 26 overall wins and they reached the double-digit quota in dominating fashion, sweeping their opponent in 20 of the victories.
Long Beach State fell short of capturing its third straight title and finished tied for second with Cal Poly at 12-4. The Gauchos of UC Santa Barbara finished fourth with a 10-6 mark, while Pacific rounded out the top five with a 9-7 record.
Pacific Looks To Build Upon
Last Year's Success
Under then first year head coach Greg Gibbons, the Tigers finished fifth in the Big West in 2010 after posting a 9-7 conference mark. Overall, Pacific ended the 2010 season at 19-11, finishing just one win short of the 20-win plateau. Having lost just one senior to graduation from last season, the 2011 Tigers return seven experienced players to go alongside of six incoming freshmen. A pair of All-Big West honorees from a season ago return in senior Samantha Misa and sophomore Jennifer Sanders.
Crowning The Champion
Of the nine current members in the Big West Conference, five of them have captured at least one Big West title- Cal Poly, Long Beach State, UC Santa Barbara, Pacific and newest member to the club Cal State Fullerton, who claimed its first championship last season. Long Beach State leads the quintet with nine conference championships, followed by UC Santa Barbara and Pacific with five apiece.
The quality of coaching in the Big West Conference is top notch. Two of the nation's all-time winningest coaches are in the Big West Long Beach State's Brian Gimmillaro and UC Santa Barbaras Kathy Gregory. Gimmillaro's .804 (703-171) career winning percentage ranks sixth all-time among active coaches, while Gregory is one of nine Division I coaches in NCAA history to surpass the 800-win career mark. During her tenure at UCSB, Gregory has posted an overall mark of 847-383 and a 622-279 while the Gauchos have competed in the Big West Conference.