Willamette is Picked Fifth in NWC Volleyball Preseason Poll

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

SALEM, ORE. -- Willamette University's volleyball team has been selected to finish in fifth place in the Northwest Conference this fall according to the 2011 NWC Volleyball Preseason Poll, as determined in voting by the league's head coaches. Whitworth University was predicted to repeat as the NWC champion.

Whitworth won the 2010 NWC title with a 14-2 record in conference play. The Pirates, who achieved an overall record of 18-7 last year, received seven of nine first place votes in this year's preseason poll for a total of 69 points.

The University of Puget Sound (18-7, 13-3 NWC), which tied for second in the NWC last year, placed second in the preseason poll with two first place votes and 58 points. Pacific Lutheran University (19-7, 13-3 NWC, which also tied for second a year ago, was picked third in this year's poll with 51 points.

Whitman College (8-18, 5-11 NWC) was listed fourth with 32 points for a slim edge over Willamette (9-16, 5-11 NWC), which was fifth with 30 points. The Bearcats owned a narrow edge of their own over Lewis & Clark College (10-16, 6-10 NWC), which held sixth place with 28 points.

George Fox University (11-15, 6-10 NWC) and Linfield College (8-16, 6-10 NWC) tied for seventh with 26 points. Pacific University (5-19, 4-12 NWC) rounded out the preseason poll in ninth with 13 points.

Willamette will be guided by Head Coach Tom Shoji, now in his fourth season with the Bearcats. WU has 10 returning players, including 5 of 6 starters plus the libero.

Leading the way will be Carly Hargrave (So., MH, Happy Valley, OR/Clackamas HS), who was named Honorable Mention All-NWC last season after hitting .244 and average 0.98 blocks per set. Also returning is Shannon Waltz (So., MH, Honolulu, HI/La Pietra School), who hit .266 and provided 0.74 blocks per set last fall.

Emily Compton (So., S, Portola, CA/Portola HS/Boise State Univ.) topped WU with 643 assists. She averaged 8.46 assists per set.

Liberos Kathy Lee Glenn (Jr., Murrieta, CA/Vista Murrieta HS) and Lizzy Balding (So., Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) each saw significant playing time last year. Glenn averaged 4.10 digs per set, while Balding contributed 4.07 digs per set.

The team will have to replace Molly Blankenship '11 (OH, Spokane Falls, WA/Spokane Falls CC), who earned Second Team All-NWC honors as a senior in 2010. Blankenship led the team with 3.40 kills per set, while earning 1.96 digs and 0.49 blocks per set.

Willamette opens the season at the Pomona Invitational in California on Friday, Sept. 2 and Saturday, Sept. 3. The Bearcats will take on Chapman University (Calif.) and Pomona-Pitzer (Calif.) on Sept. 2 before playing Lasell College (Mass.) and Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (Calif.) on Sept. 3.

WU's home opener is set for Wednesday, Sept. 7 against Northwest Christian University (Ore.). Match time is set for 7 p.m. (PDT) at Cone Field House.

NWC Volleyball Preseason Poll (1st place votes in parentheses)
1. Whitworth (7), 69 points, 18-7 overall, 14-2 NWC in 2010
2. Puget Sound (2), 58 points, 18-7, 13-3 NWC
3. Pacific Lutheran, 51 points, 19-7, 13-3 NWC
4. Whitman, 32 points, 8-18, 5-11 NWC
5. Willamette, 30 points, 9-16, 5-11 NWC
6. Lewis & Clark, 28 points, 10-16, 6-10 NWC
7. George Fox, 26 points, 11-15, 6-10 NWC
7. Linfield, 26 points, 8-16, 6-10 NWC
9. Pacific, 13 points, 5-19, 4-12 NWC

Note: Points were awarded on an 9-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis. Each coach was not allowed to vote for his/her own team.

Carly Hargrave earned a .244 hitting percentage and was named Honorable Mention All-NWC last season.

Carly Hargrave earned a .244 hitting percentage and was named Honorable Mention All-NWC last season.