August 13, 2009

PLU Picked to Repeat as NWC Volleyball Champions

2009 NWC Volleyball Coaches' Pre-Season Poll: 2008 records
School (1st) Pts. All NWC
1. Pacific Lutheran (Wash.) (6) 84 20-7 14-2
2. Puget Sound (Wash.) (3) 74 17-8 12-4
3. Linfield (Ore.)   56 13-7 9-7
4. Whitworth (Wash.)   52 14-14 7-9
5. Lewis & Clark (Ore.)   51 16-11 11-5
6. Pacific (Ore.)   36 7-17 6-10
7. George Fox (Ore.)   24 12-14 6-10
8. Willamette (Ore.)   21 6-20 4-12
9. Whitman (Wash.)   16 3-22 3-13
(First-place votes in parenthesis. Points awarded on 10-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis).

Pacific Lutheran is a solid favorite to run its Northwest Conference volleyball championship streak to four in a row in 2009, based on a poll of conference coaches.  The Lutes, who picked up six of a possible nine first place votes, are aiming to become the first NWC school to win four volleyball titles in a row since Willamette claimed five straight from 1991-96.

PLU will be led by two-time NWC Player of the Year Beth Hanna.  The junior outside hitter will be joined by fellow First Team All-NWC selection Sarah Beaver, a junior setter.  The Lutes, who totaled 84 of 90 possible points in the preseason poll, finished 20-7 and fell in five sets to Nebraska Wesleyan in last season's NCAA Division III tournament.

Puget Sound finished second to Pacific Lutheran in the final 2008 standings and is second to PLU in this season's poll with 74 points and the other three first place votes.  The Loggers were at-large selections to the NCAA tournament last season and hope to make a return trip in 2009 behind senior Lindsey Denman and sophomore Brynn Blickenstaff, both First Team All-NWC honorees in 2008.

Linfield finished 13-7 last season and is third in the poll with 56 points. The Wildcats welcome back senior middle Emily Vuylsteke, a Second Team All-NWC selection.

Whitworth is fourth in the poll with 52 points, just ahead of Lewis & Clark (51 points).  The Pirates will return sophomore twins Kaimi Rocha (First Team OH) and Ka'ipo Rocha (honorable mention MB).  Lewis & Clark was in the title hunt much of last season and the Pioneers will look to 6-3 middle hitter Katherine Fiedler, a First Team All-NWC selection a year ago.

Pacific (Ore.) is sixth in the poll with 36 points.  The Boxers hope to move up in the standings behind the play of sophomore middle Kelsy Takashima, who was one of three freshmen to earn First Team All-NWC honors last fall.

George Fox (24 points) is seventh in the poll, just ahead of Willamette (21 points). GFU will have to overcome the graduation of leading blocker Natalie Picket, but leading hitter Lyndsay Hovee returns. The Bearcats welcome back honorable mention All-NWC OH Jessica McGraw.

Whitman (16 points) finished ninth in the poll and will rely on the leadership of Second Team All-NWC hitter Alex Graves.

The 2009 season will get underway on September 1st as several teams participate in early season tournaments.