Big West Volleyball Release - Week 1
Cal Poly returns several key components this season which includes libero Nicole Kessler, one of three seniors returning, who is second among all conference players with 4.40 digs per set. Also returning is sophomore outside hitter and Big West Conference All-Freshman Team selection Raeann Greisen, who led the Mustangs with 359 kills and 3.55 kills per set in 2014.
Cal Poly Opens Season On The Road:
The Mustangs kick off the 2015 season with a nine-game road trip that begins at the San Jose Invitational August 28-29. Cal Poly opens against the Spartans Friday before tackling Sacramento State Saturday afternoon. The first home match of the season for the Mustangs is set for Sept. 18 as they host San Diego State in the first match of the Cal Poly/UCSB Tournament.
A Look Back:
The Cal Poly Mustangs closed out the 2014 season with an overall mark of 9-17 overall and 4-12 Big West record.
CAL STATE FULLERTON
New Face At The Helm:
For the first time in 14 years the Cal State Fullerton women’s volleyball program will have a new leader as Ashley Preston was named head coach during the offseason. Preston comes to CSF after serving as women’s volleyball head coach at Coppin State University for the past three years. In that short time, Preston became the all-time winningest coach in the program’s history. In each of her three years with the Eagles the team advanced to the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament and participated in the championship game for the first time in program history in 2013.
Titans Host Weekend Event:
The Titans have the luxury of opening the 2015 season in front of their hometown fans co-hosting the LBSU/CSF Baden Invitational. Cal State Fullerton opens the two-day event against nationally-ranked Duke before playing a pair of contests Saturday against Alabama and Saint Mary’s.
CSUN is on the road for the first month of the season as the Matadors embark on a 12-match trek around the western United States. Opening weekend you can find the Matadors in Salt Lake City, Utah, competing in the Utah Classic where they are slated to face Lipscomb (8/28), host No. 23 Utah (8/29), Idaho State (8/29). Future tournaments take CSUN to Arizona, Washington and New Mexico.
In The Lineup:
CSUN will have to make up for the loss of three-time AVCA All-American Casey Hinger as well as perennial all-conference picks Natalie Allen and Sam Kaul who also graduated. Looking to fill the void are senior defensive specialist Alia Casino and junior opposite Julie Haake. A pair of sophomores, setter Lauren Conati and libero/defensive specialist Katie Sato, also return after receiving significant playing time as freshmen. CSUN head coach Jeff Stork, entering his 14th season, added significant depth to the 2015 squad with the signing of a impressive recruiting class led by freshmen Melissa Eaglin, Jess Hess and Aeryn Owens.
LONG BEACH STATE
Defending The Title:
Long Beach State enters the 2015 season as the reigning champion after claiming its 13th Big West title with a perfect 16-0 mark. It marked the fifth time in program history Long Beach State registered a perfect conference record as they became the ninth team in Big West history to have an undefeated season.
The 49ers kick off the year co-hosting the annual LBSU/CSF Baden Invitational at The Walter Pyramid. LBSU battles Alabama Friday evening, No. 25 Duke Saturday and Saint Mary’s in a Sunday matinee.
This season will showcase a lot of fresh faces as the 49ers welcome 11 new players, including nine freshmen. Long Beach State may not be bringing a lot of veterans back for 2015, but who is returning is pretty impressive as 2014 Big West Freshman of the Year middle blocker Ashley Murray and 2014 Big West Player of the Year and AVCA All-Region setter Jennell Hudson return to the lineup. Last season Murray ranked third in the conference in hitting percentage (.342) and fourth in blocks (1.21), while Hudson ranked third on the team with a .309 clip.
Strong Showing First Time Around:
In just his first year as head coach Dan Conners led UC Davis to double-digit conference wins in 2014 for just the third time since the Aggies joined the Big West Conference in 2007, with a 10-6 conference record to tie for third. The Aggies recorded 11 wins in both 2009 and 2012.
Look for senior outside hitter Kaylin Squyres to lead the Aggies in 2015. Last season, the All-Big West First Team selection paced the Big West in kills (441) and tied for first in kills per set (4.12) while finishing fifth in services with a .35 average. Her impressive service ace average guided the Aggies to a team mark of 1.58 to rank 16th in the nation. Squyres is one of just two seniors on a young squad that features 10 freshmen.
Open With A Bang:
UC Davis will be tested right of the gates at the Rams Volleyball Classic where it is scheduled to face host and 12th-ranked Colorado State, Northern Iowa and Baylor. Last season the Aggies went 0-4 against the Top 25.
Hain At The Helm:
Ashlie Hain, starting setter on UC Irvine’s 2003 and 2004 NCAA Tournament teams, was named the women’s volleyball program’s head coach during the offseason. She returns to UCI after coaching at American River College and serving as a Professor of Kinesiology since 2009. There, she took over a program that had won just three matches and led the Beavers to consecutive Big 8 Conference titles in 2013 and 2014. The 2013 squad advanced to the state championship finals and the program has been ranked in the top eight in the state the last six years.
UC Irvine brings back 10 letterwinners including three All-Big West performers. Outside hitter Marisa Bubica was a first-team choice after leading UCI with a 4.12 kill average. Also returning are all-conference honorable mention honorees, Shelley Anderson, who enters the season sixth in the Anteater career annals with 2,224 assists and Arden Davis, who recorded 515 digs to come in at No. 7 in the single-season records.
The Highlanders are opening the 2015 season in unique fashion, playing in two different tournaments in the same weekend. Friday, August 28 UC Riverside battles Weber State and San Jose State in the San Jose Invitational. The following day the Highlanders continue their stay in the bay area for the Santa Clara Tournament where they are scheduled to battle Rutgers and Santa Clara.
Leading The Highlanders:
UC Riverside welcomes back Big West Conference All-Freshmen Team performer Alex Gresham for the 2015 season. The outside hitter led the Highlanders in hitting percentage (.201) while finishing second in kills (216) in 2014. Also returning for her junior campaign is libero Maddie Hubbell, who finished fourth in the Big West with a 3.93 dig average during her freshman season. Last year she slipped a little, finishing eighth with a 3.59 mark.
Out of 28 contests in 2015, only eight will be played on the Highlanders’ home court. All eight contests are Big West Conference matchups.
UC SANTA BARBARA
Gauchos Showcase Impressive Incoming Class:
Headlined by a pair of All-Americans, UCSB’s 2015 recruiting class was named No. 18 in the country by PrepVolleyball.com. It is the program’s highest ranking since the website started publishing the annual list in 2003, beating out the 2004 class which landed at No. 26.
Gauchos Open Season In Malibu:
UC Santa Barbara heads to Malibu, Calif., for the Pepperdine Asics Classic August 28-29. The Gauchos open with Utah Valley State Friday morning and follow that with an evening showdown with Incarnate Word. They close out the event Saturday at noon against the Waves.
A Look Ahead:
In 2015, the Gauchos are slated to face nine teams ranked in the top-100 in last year’s final RPI rankings and six schools that are coming off 20-plus win seasons. UC Santa Barbara plays 13 matches at the Thunderdome, the most in three years, which includes two home tournaments - UCSB Tournament (9/11-9/13) and Cal Poly/UCSB Tournament (9/18-9/19).
The University of Hawai’i was selected to reclaim the Big West women’s volleyball conference title in 2015, according to the Big West women’s volleyball preseason coaches poll as voted on by the nine head coaches. The Rainbow Wahine, who finished second last season, collected eight first-place votes en route to an 80-point total.
This weekend marks the start of three consecutive home tournaments to kick off the new year. First up is the Chevron Rainbow Wahine Invitational, which runs August 28-30 and pits Hawai’i against Idaho, Wichita State and No. 13 Oregon State.
The Rainbow Wahine return 12 players, including five starters. Leading the way is a trio of All-Big West first teamers in outside hitters Nikki Taylor and Tai Manu-Olevao and 2014 AVCA All-America Honorable Mention member Olivia Magill, who dominated the Big West on both sides of the net with league highs in hitting percentage (.405) and blocks (1.34).