July 29, 2003
SAN BRUNO, Calif. - The 2003 women's volleyball season promises to be one of the most competitive in West Coast Conference history and, if the league coaches' preseason poll released today is any indication, it could be a banner year for the conference.
Pepperdine and Santa Clara are once again picked as the top two teams in the league, according to the coaches, and will continue a conference rivalry that has seen one of the two teams win each of the last three regular-season titles. On a national scale, both teams are expected to rank among the best in the country.
The Waves received eight first place votes and compiled 64 total points to take the top slot. The Broncos were voted to finish second after ending the 2002 season ranked #19 in the final AVCA/USA Today poll. San Diego is coming off of its sixth NCAA tournament appearance in the last seven years and was tabbed to finish third by the league coaches. Rounding out the poll are Loyola Marymount in fourth, Saint Mary's in fifth, San Francisco in sixth, Portland in seventh and Gonzaga in eighth.
Santa Clara holds the number two spot in the poll after posting 24 wins last season. Returning to the Broncos' line-up are All-WCC first team performers, seniors Becky Potter and Kelli Sousa. Potter was one of the nation's leaders in kills per game at 5.34 and was SCU's first-ever all-American as a AVCA second-teamer. Sousa ranked number one in the country in assists per game at 14.38.
In 2002, Pepperdine posted a 26-7 overall record, captured the WCC regular season title with a perfect 14-0 mark and advanced to the "Elite Eight" of the NCAA Tournament for the first time. The Waves concluded the program's most successful season in school history and earned a #6 national ranking in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) final poll. Pepperdine returns four All-WCC performers, including two-time WCC Player of the Year, senior Katie Wilkins, and WCC Co-Freshman of the Year, Breegan Mulligan. All-WCC first team member Lyndsey Hache' returns at middle blocker, while honorable mention performer Brie Harris is back at outside hitter.
San Diego junior outside hitter Devon Forster returns for a Toreros' squad that ranked just outside the Top 25 most of last season. Forster will see plenty of opportunities with WCC Co-Freshman of the Year Lindsey Sherburne returning at setter.
Loyola Marymount and Saint Mary's both finished tied for fourth in the WCC a year ago. LMU returns two All-WCC first teamers in seniors Kealani Kimball and Tiana Newsome. The Lions will welcome 2001 All-WCC and All-Region setter Nicole Oehlman back to the line-up after missing the 2002 season due to a knee injury. Last season, Saint Mary's improved by four wins in conference play from 2001 behind 2002 WCC blocks leader junior Stacey O'Connor.
San Francisco hopes to make a leap in the league standings under new head coach Jeff Nelson, who joins the league after serving as head coach at Texas Tech. Behind 2002 WCC Defensive Player of the Year Carlie Price, Portland made a huge jump in 2002, recording a 15-15 overall mark, which was the school's best-record since 1991. Second-year head coach Kip Yoshimura will lean on senior middle blocker Abby Cullen to boost the Bulldogs' program in 2003.
Preseason WCC Women's Volleyball Poll
1. Pepperdine (8) - 64
2. Santa Clara - 54
3. San Diego - 47
4. Loyola Marymount - 39
5. Saint Mary's - 33
6. San Francisco - 22
7. Portland - 18
8. Gonzaga - 11