NWC VOLLEYBALL | Pirates Picked to Win Fourth Straight NWC Title

After winning three straight Northwest Conference volleyball titles, Whitworth has been chosen as the NWC volleyball preseason favorite in a poll of the league’s nine head coaches.
After winning three straight Northwest Conference volleyball titles, Whitworth has been chosen as the NWC volleyball preseason favorite in a poll of the league’s nine head coaches.

Rk.

Team (1st)

Pts.

2016 Rec. (NWC)

1.

Whitworth (8)

72

21-6 (15-1)

2.

Pacific Lutheran (1)

56

13-11 (11-5)

3.

Puget Sound

52

15-9 (10-6)

t4.

Linfield

34

13-9 (8-8)

t4.

Whitman

34

11-13 (8-8)

6.

Pacific (Ore.)

32

14-12 (8-8)

7.

Willamette

26

8-16 (6-10)

8.

Lewis & Clark

18

5-18 (4-12)

9.

George Fox

9

4-20 (2-14)

(Points awarded on an 9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Coaches could not vote for their own teams.)

HILLSBORO, Ore. — After winning three straight Northwest Conference volleyball titles, Whitworth has been chosen as the NWC volleyball preseason favorite in a poll of the league’s nine head coaches.

The Pirates went 21-6 overall and 15-1 in NWC play last season, advancing to the NCAA Division III Women’s Volleyball Championship before falling in the first round at Texas-Dallas. Whitworth received eight first place votes and 72 total points in the poll of coaches. The Pirates return one First Team All-NWC selections from a season ago with reigning Freshman of the Year, middle blocker Emiko Kahler (So., Clackamas, Ore.). Kahler recorded 291 kills an 24 total blocks last season.

Pacific Lutheran received one first place vote and 56 total points after going 13-11 overall and 11-5 in conference play a season ago. The Lutes return the 2016 Libero of the Year in Caylie Shiramizu (Jr., Honolulu, Hawaii), who finished 38th nationally in digs per set with 5.51. Pacific Lutheran was 30th in the nation last season in blocks per set (2.08) and 48th in attacks per set (37.51).

Puget Sound was picked to finish third with 52 points, following a 15-9 season in 2016 with a conference record of 10-6. The 2016 NWC Player of the Year, Hannah Stinson (Sr., Portland, Ore.) returns for Puget Sound after leading the conference in points (239, NWC). Last season, the Loggers led the NWC in solo blocks with 46 overall and 34 in NWC play.

Linfield and Whitman were projected to finish tied for fourth in the NWC in the preseason poll with 34 points each.

The Wildcats went 13-9 overall and 8-8 in conference play last season and brings libero Kayla Magblaeta (Jr., Mililani, Hawaii) back into the fold after Magbaleta earned an All-NWC Honorable Mention nod in 2016. Last year, Magblaeta finished 47th in the nation with 5.40 digs per set. Linfield will also return outside hitter Darian Stedman (Jr., Springfield, Ore.), who led the squad in kills a season ago with 197.

Whitman finished tied for fourth last season with Linfield and Pacific (Ore.) thanks to an 8-8 NWC record and 11-13 overall mark. The Blues were 24th nationally last year with 2.11 blocks per set. Whitman returns opposite hitter Megan Henry (Jr., Jr., Highlands Ranch, Colo.), who finished second on the roster last year with 186 overall.

Pacific (Ore.) (2016: 14-12, 8-8 NWC) was slated sixth in the preseason poll with 32 points and will look to outside hitter Karlee Duncan (So., Bend, Ore.) to pace the offense after finishing second on the roster with 261 kills a season ago.

Coming in at the number seven spot was Willamette (2016: 8-16, 6-10 NWC) with 26 points. The Bearcats return Emma Liband (Sr., Sandpoint, Idaho) and her .237 hitting percentage and 57 total blocks from a season ago.

Lewis & Clark (2016: 5-18, 4-12 NWC) was picked eighth with 18 points and will return eight upperclassmen to the roster in 2017.

Rounding out the 2017 preseason poll in ninth was the George Fox Bruins (2016: 4-20, 2-14 NWC). George Fox is set to bring back its 2016 kill leader in outside hitter Delaney Cruz (Sr., Amity, Ore.).

The Northwest Conference regular season champion receives the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Volleyball Championship.

Whitworth won the 2016 NWC title outright, marking the Pirates’ third straight NWC Title, second straight outright title and eighth overall since 2001. 

The 2017 NWC volleyball season gets underway on September 1 with non-conference action as George Fox, Lewis & Clark, Linfield, Pacific (Ore.), Whitworth and Willamette play in the Oregon Trail Classic, which is hosted by George Fox, Lewis & Clark, Linfield and Pacific (Ore.). Pacific Lutheran and Puget Sound open the season at the Puget Sound Premiere, while Whitman travels to Texas for the Trinity National Invitational. Conference action gets underway on September 13 as Lewis & Clark visits George Fox.