Hawai'i Welcomed With Top Pick In Preseason Poll
Newest Big West Conference member University of Hawai'i, who joined the league back on July 1, enters its first season in the league as the 2012 preseason favorite for women's volleyball, as selected by the ten Big West coaches.
The Rainbow Wahine picked up nine first-place votes en route to a first-place 99 point total, while defending champion Long Beach State collected 88 points to finish second. Cal State Northridge finished third after claiming 72 points and UC Santa Barbara and Pacific found themselves knotted in fourth with a point total of 60.
Hawai'i, who competed in the Big West Conference from 1985-1995, is looking to continue where it left off 16 years prior. In their final season in the league, the Rainbow Wahine posted a perfect 18-0 mark to claim their fifth conference title. Hawai'i, under the guidance of head coach Dave Shoji, who enters his 38th year at the helm of the women's volleyball program, is coming off a 2011 campaign where it finished fifth in the final AVCA poll and advanced to its 30th trip to the NCAA Tournament. The Rainbow Wahine posted an unblemished 14-0 WAC record and lost just two nonconference matches last season, both against California teams (No. 12 UCLA and No. 1 USC), to tally a 31-2 overall mark.
Long Beach State, conference champion three of the last four seasons, hopes to keep Hawai'i at bay to claim its 13th conference title. The 49ers return a majority of their youthful 2011 roster that posted a 14-2 Big West mark. Leading the charge for the 49ers this season are All-America Honorable Mention and two-time All-Big West First Team selection Haleigh Hampton and All-Big West Honorable Mention member Delainey Aigner-Swesey. Hampton paced the league and ranked third in the nation with a 1.50 block average while holding the third spot in the Big West in hitting percentage (.342). A season ago, Aigner-Swesey finished second on the team with a .75 block average and posted a fourth-best kill total of 224.
A year after being picked eighth in the Big West preseason poll, the Cal State Northridge Matadors find themselves sitting in the third spot in this year's poll. The bump in the poll stems from their impressive turnaround year in 2011. The Matadors concluded last season with a 9-7 conference mark, their highest league win total since 2004, to capture sole possession of third place, their highest finish since the 2003 squad tied for second. They also posted a 16-13 overall mark to notch their highest overall win total since 2004 (17-11). Two-thousand and twelve has the potential to be another record-setting year for Cal State Northridge as it returns all six starters from last years memorable season, which includes 2012 Big West Freshman of the Year Casey Hinger and fellow All-Big West First Team selections Natalie Allen and Sydney Gedryn.
UC Santa Barbara and Pacific tied for fourth place with 60 points apiece, Cal State Fullerton nabbed the sixth spot after picking up 46 points and is followed by Cal Poly, who sits in seventh place with 43 points. The Aggies of UC Davis secured the eighth slot with 37 points, UC Irvine held ninth place with a point total of 31 and UC Riverside rounded out the 10-team field with 14 points.
2012 Big West Women's Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Hawaii (9) - 99
2. Long Beach State - 88
3. Cal State Northridge - 72
4. UC Santa Barbara - 60
Pacific - 60
6. Cal State Fullerton - 46
7. Cal Poly (1) - 43
8. UC Davis - 37
9. UC Irvine - 31
10. UC Riverside - 14
( ) Denotes first place votes