Race For Big West Title Begins This Week
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13 VB Release-Week 5
The race for the Big West women's volleyball title begins this weekend and Hawai'i is favored to win its second straight title, but the Rainbow Wahine will have to battle some tough competition which includes Cal State Northridge and UC Davis. The Matadors (10-3) and Aggies (8-5), who both have some impressive nonconference wins, face off at The Matadome Saturday evening.
Besting Last Year: The Mustangs posted a 2-2 mark last week to improve to 6-7 on the season. Their six victories already surpasses last year’s win total of four and Cal Poly, who is led by second-year head coach Sam Crosson, is only midway through the 2013 season.
Home Sweet Home: After a conference-long, season-opening 13-match road trip, Cal Poly finally has the opportunity to play in the familiar confines of Mott Gym. The Mustangs kick off conference play hosting UC Irvine on Friday and Long Beach State on Saturday. They enter Big West action on a positive note, having won back-to-back matches to conclude the Arizona State tournament last weekend.
Senior Leadership: Senior outside hitters Chelsea Hardin and Megan McConnell sit one-two on the Mustangs squad with a 2.96 and 2.94 kills per set average. McConnell is also second on the team scooping 128 digs for a 2.61 average.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
Fullerton Suffers First Home Loss: Last Sunday Cal State Fullerton suffered its first home loss of hte season after dropping a 3-2 contest to American. The Titans travel to Hawai’i this week to kick off conference play before returning to home on Oct. 4.
Can You Dig It?: Cal State Fullerton has been known for stellar defense for several years and this season is no different. The Titans currently rank ninth in the nation and paces the conference in digs with a 17.38 average. They are lead by freshman McKenna Painton, who owns a league-best 4.47 average, while Bre Moreland and Alyse Hensley sit sixth and seventh with marks of 3.31 and 3.07.
Titans On Top: McKenna Painton isn’t the only Titan leading the charge in the Big West Conference. Setter Julie Consani holds a conference-best 11.10 assists per set average. She has tallied 466 assists in 42 sets played.
CAL STATE NORTHRIDGE
Cream Of The Crop: As we enter Big West play this week Cal State Northridge holds the second-best nonconference record in the league at 10-3. All three CSUN losses have come to teams ranked in the AVCA Top 25 poll (Creighton, UCLA, Washington). Following a strong start to the 2013 season, Cal State Northridge opens league play hosting the UC Davis Aggies, who registered an 8-5 mark in nonconference action. Saturday’s showdown is just the second home contest of the year for the Matadors.
Season-High Performance For Allen: Junior Natalie Allen, who ranks in the Big West’s top 10 in both kills and hitting percentage, blasted a season-high .650 hitting percentage in Cal State Northridge’s 3-0 win over Coppin State.
CSUN Produces Best Start In 27 Years: With 10 wins in their first 12 matches, Cal State Northridge produced the best start to a season since 1986. Match 13 proved unlucky as the Matadors fell to third-ranked Washington to snap a four-game win streak, dropping their record to 10-3.
LONG BEACH STATE
Beach Opens Conference Play At Central Coast: The Long Beach State 49ers (7-6) open conference play with a road trip to the central coast to battle UC Santa Barbara (9/27) and Cal Poly (9/28). Last season LBSU swept both the Mustangs and Gauchos.
Close But No Cigar: Long Beach State battled 11th-ranked UCLA in a five-set marathon but fell just short in the final set. Trailing 14-11, the 49ers evened the score at 14-14 before the Bruins eeked out a 16-14 win in the decisive fifth set. Match scores were 26-28, 30-28, 19-25, 25-22 and 16-14. The loss dropped the 49ers to 0-3 against ranked opponents and snapped a three-match winstreak, the longest of the season for LBSU.
Double Threat: Junior Chisom Okpala can be a nemesis for the opposing team as she is dominate on both offense and defense. The Yorba Linda, Calif., native is hitting .349 to rank fifth in the league while posting the conference’s third-best block average of 1.13.
Aggies Riding Success Into League Contest: The UC Davis Aggies seem to be entering Big West play on a hot streak. Since opening the season with a 0-3 mark, the Aggies have won eight of their last 10 contests for an overall record of 8-5. During that string of success, UC Davis notched an impressive 3-1 victory over California, who was ranked in the Top 25 early in the year and is still receiving votes. Also noteworthy, the two losses suffered were five-set marathons.
Aggies Kick Off Big West Action Against Battle-Tested Matadors: UC Davis will be tested right out of the gate as it visits Cal State Northridge, who finished third in the Big West last year, Saturday to open Big West play. The Matadors opened the year with their best start since 1986 and own the second-best record in the league at 10-3. Last year the two teams split the series, each winning on their home court.
UC Irvine Opens Home Schedule With 2-1 Mark: In its opening home weekend, the UC Irvine women’s volleyball team tallied a 2-1 mark during the UC Irvine Tournament. The Anteaters toppled American (3-1) and Xavier (3-2) before falling to Fresno State, 3-1.
Beachin’ It: The Anteaters are heading to the central coast beach towns of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo for the opening weekend of conference play. UC Irvine tackles Cal Poly Friday night and UC Santa Barbara Saturday evening. Last year UC Irvine was unable to post a central coast win after sweeping both teams at home.
Server Up: UC Irvine paces the Big West Conference with a 1.45 service ace average. Leading the charge is Cassidy Pickrell and Shannon Fleming, who sit sixth and tied for seventh wtih averages of .34 and .32.
The End Is Near: The UC Riverside Highlanders are closing out their conference-long, season-opening 13-match road trip this week as they travel to Hawai’i to face the Rainbow Wahine at the Stan Sheriff Center for the start of Big West play. The two teams are set to battle Sunday, Sept. 29 at 8 p.m.
Leading The Way: Sophomore outside hitter Ashley Cox owns a 2.94 kill average to lead the Highlanders and is followed by freshman outside hitter Cristina Maietta with a 2.61 kills per set average. Junior middle blocker Tyler Dorsey paces UC Riverside with a .61 block average.
A New Look: UC Riverside is competing in its first season with Head Coach Michelle Patton at the helm of the program. Prior to joining the UC Riverside family, Patton spent five year reviving a San Francisco State program that lay dormant from 2004-07. In 2012, the Gators posted the second best winning percentage in the history of the program going 21-9 on the year including a 16-6 mark in California Collegiate Athletic Association play and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
UC SANTA BARBARA
Gauchos Return To The Thunderdome: Nearly a month after their first home match of the 2013 season, the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos return to the Thunderdome to kick off the Big West Conference season. They open hosting Long Beach State Friday night and follow that up with a Saturday evening showdown with UC Irvine.
Gauchos 2-1 At Wildcat Invitational: UC Santa Barbara tallied a 2-1 record at the Wildcat Invitational to improve to 5-7 on the season. They swept both Wofford and Loyola (Md.) before falling to host Arizona in a five-set marathon.
Seniors Leah Sully and Katey Thompson were named to the all-tournament team. Sully finished the weekend with 25 kills and 35 digs, while Thompson paced Santa Barbara with 30 kills over the three matches.
New Era For The Gauchos: For the first time in 38 years, there is a new face at the helm of the UCSB women’s volleyball program as Nicole Lantagne Welch takes over the reigns as Gaucho head coach.
Will History Repeat Itself: Hawai’i’s quest to capture its second straight Big West title since rejoining the conference in 2012 begins Friday night when it entertains Cal State Fullerton. The sixth-ranked Rainbow Wahine also battle UC Riverside on Saturday. The preseason favorite, according to the nine Big West coaches, claimed last year’s title with an impressive 18-0 mark.
Feeling Hot, Hot, Hot: Hawai’i enters the week riding a nine-match win streak thanks to a 3-0 record at the Shocker Volleyball Classic last week, which includes a 3-2 win over No. 23 Creighton.
Top Dog: The Rainbow Wahine own the top spot in the Big West in hitting percentage (.301), assists (13.47) and kills (14.65).
King Of The Hill: Head Coach Dave Shoji became the NCAA’s career leader in wins on September 6 when UH defeated Santa Clara in four sets. The victory was his 1,107th, which pushed him past former UCLA coach Andy Banachowski. He currently has 1,113 victories.