WU Volleyball Picked Eighth in NWC Preseason Poll

By Sara Brooks, Assistant Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6219

The Willamette University volleyball team is picked to finish the 2009 season in eighth place in the Northwest Conference, as voted on by head coaches in the Preseason Poll. The Bearcats showed improvement last season and will look to continue to build momentum.

Pacific Lutheran University has won three consecutive conference titles and is the favorite to win a fourth. The Lutes received six of nine first place votes after finishing 14-2 in the NWC last season. University of Puget Sound (12-4), which finished second last season, is picked to finish second again in 2009. UPS received the other three first place votes.

Linfield College (9-7), Whitworth University (7-9) and Lewis & Clark College (11-5) are picked to finish third, fourth and fifth. Pacific University (6-10) and George Fox University (6-10) are picked to finish sixth and seventh after finishing 2009 with identical conference records.

Willamette is picked ahead of Whitman College (3-13). The Bearcats defeated Whitman twice last season to finish just above them in conference with a 4-12 record.

The Bearcats will be led by senior outside hitter Jessica McGraw (Gaston, OR/Yamhill-Carlton HS/Corban College). McGraw has accumulated 506 career kills and 42 serving aces in 152 games. McGraw will be joined by senior Julie Stutzman (MH, Olympia, WA/Olympia HS). Stutzman missed the 2008 season to study abroad in Graz, Austria. Stutzman has 482 career kills.

Head Coach Tom Shoji will need to successfully combine his four returners with a large incoming class. Shoji led the Bearcats to four conference wins in 2008, their most since 2004. In his second season, Shoji will aim to continue increasing the number of wins for the young Bearcats.

NWC Volleyball Preseason Poll (1st place votes in parentheses)
1. Pacific Lutheran (6), 84 points, 20-7 overall, 14-2 NWC in 2008
2. Puget Sound (3), 74 points, 17-8, 12-4 NWC
3. Linfield, 56 points, 13-7, 9-7 NWC
4. Whitworth, 52 points, 14-14,7-9 NWC
5. Lewis & Clark, 51 points, 16-11, 11-5 NWC
6. Pacific, 36 points, 7-17, 6-10 NWC
7. George Fox, 24 points, 12-14, 6-10 NWC
8. Willamette, 21 points, 6-20, 4-12 NWC
9. Whitman, 16 points, 3-22, 3-13 NWC

Jessica McGraw was named Honorable Mention All-NWC in 2008.

Jessica McGraw was named Honorable Mention All-NWC in 2008.