Top 25 Showdown In The Central Coast
Big West Women's Volleyball Release - Week 3
Deja Vu As Big West Paces The Country In Attacks....Again: UC Santa Barbara’s Lindsey Ruddins concluded last year as the nation’s leader in attacks per set with a 15.18 mark. This year the junior outside hitter currently sits second in the country with a 13.80 attack average. Leading the way is fellow Big West player Kaiulani Ahuna, who paces UC Riverside and the nation with a 14.39 attacks per set mark.
Top 25 Showdown In San Luis: This week No. 22 Cal Poly entertains No. 9 UCLA for a pair of contests Sept. 6-7 to open the home portion of its schedule. This marks the second time the Mustangs face a Top 25 opponent this season, falling to No. 20 Pittsburg, 1-3, opening weekend.
Welcome Home Party For The Gauchos: Like its Central Coast rival, the UC Santa Barbara Gauchos open the home portion of their schedule this weekend as they are slated to host the Thunderdome Classic, which includes Texas Tech, Scared Heart and Seton Hall.
Streaking Titans: Last weekend the Titans swept the competition at the St. Francis Brooklyn Classic, extending its win streak to six which equals the program’s longest since the 2013 campaign. The Titans, who own a 6-1 record to sit atop of the Big West standings, carry their momentum into the UNLV Tournament this week where they will battle Eastern Kentucky, UNLV and Fordham.
UCR’s Ahuna Named National Player Of The Week: A day after opening the 2018 season with Big West Player of the Week accolades, UC Riverside’s Kaiulani Ahuna was named Sports Imports/AVCA National Player of the Week after a monstrous performance at the Fullerton-UCR Classic which included breaking a pair of program records. She first broke the Highlanders’ record for kills in the rally scoring era, tallying 30 in a four-set win over Montana. She swung at a .462 (30-6-52) clip and added 14 digs for a double-double. The following day she topped her record-breaking performance with a 33-kill effort in a five-set loss to Eastern Washington. The output broke the school’s Division I record. She finished the contest hitting .316 (33-9-76) and scooped up a career-high 23 digs.
Cal Poly Picked To Repeat As Big West Champion: After capturing its first Big West title in 10 years, Cal Poly has been selected to repeat as the Big West Conference women’s volleyball champion after claiming five first-place votes en route to a 77 point total, as voted on by the nine head coaches. The University of Hawai’i secured the remaining four first-place votes to lock down the second spot with 75 points. UC Irvine followed in the third slot with 62 points, while Long Beach State registered 48 points to rank fourth and UC Santa Barbara was close behind in fifth place with 45 points. The Aggies of UC Davis nabbed 38 points for the sixth spot and was followed by CSUN (30), UC Riverside (18) and Cal State Fullerton (12).
The Mustangs are coming off a year where they posted the program’s best overall record of 27-3, a perfect 16-0 Big West Conference mark and an undefeated home record for the first time since 2007. Led by 2017 AVCA Pacific North Coach of the Year Sam Crosson, Cal Poly broke the AVCA Top 25 and posted its first NCAA Tournament win since 2007. As a team, the Mustangs concluded 2017 ranked in the nation’s Top 10 in kills per set (2nd - 15.07), assists (4th - 14.06), win/loss percentage (5th - .900) and hitting percentage (7th - .310).
They return four players who earned Big West postseason awards this past season in seniors Adlee Van Winden and Katherine Brouker, junior Torrey Van Winden and sophomore Madilyn Mercer. There are six new additions to the team, five true freshmen and one transfer from Duke, who will all be competing for playing time.
In head coach Robyn Ah Mow-Santos’ rookie season at the helm of the Rainbow Wahine women’s volleyball program, she led them to a 20-8 overall record and a 14-2 conference mark which advanced them to their 36th NCAA Tournament appearance. Hawai’i is on a quest to capture its fifth conference title in seven years and will rely on 2018 All-Big West First Teamers outside hitter McKenna Granato and setter Norene Iosia to lead the way.
Securing the third spot is UC Irvine, who finished third in the Big West a season ago with a 10-6 league mark and a 24-8 overall record, which tied the school record for wins, matching the 2009 squad that went 24-10. The Anteaters advanced to the quarterfinals of the National Invitational Volleyball Championship, falling to Texas Tech, 3-1. It was the first postseason appearance since 2004. The Anteaters welcome back 2018 All-Big West First Team members middle blocker Idara Akpakpa, outside hitter Haley DeSales and opposite.
Gauchos Awarded AVCA Team Academic Award for Fourth Straight Year: Over the summer, UC Santa Barbara earned an American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic Award for the fourth consecutive year. Since the first time they received the honor in 2014-15, the Gauchos have remained the only Division I program from either the Big West or the UC school system to be named an AVCA Team Academic Award recipient. The prestigious award, which was initiated in the 1992-93 academic year, honors collegiate and high school volleyball teams that displayed excellence in the classroom during the school year by maintaining at least a 3.30 cumulative team grade-point average on a 4.0 scale or a 4.10 cumulative team GPA on a 5.0 scale.
The 2018-19 season marks the 50th anniversary for men’s sports in the Big West Conference, and the 35th for women’s. All season long the Big West Conference will celebrate the history of all 16 conference-sponsored sports.
Did You Know?
• UC Irvine and UC Santa Barbara are the only two Big West Conference members who have competed in all 34 women’s volleyball championships.
• Long Beach State has collected 13 Big West Conference Players of the Year awards, including the league’s only three-time honoree, Misty May. May also earned Big West Freshman of the Year and National Player of the Year accolades (1997, 1998). Following her stint at LBSU, May went on to make her name known throughout the beach volleyball circuit earning numerous AVP titles and Olympic medals, among other achievements.