PLU Volleyball Opens 2010 Campaign on Wednesday
THIS WEEK: Pacific Lutheran at Evergreen State, Wednesday, 7 p.m.; PLU plays four matches at Whitman College Tournament, Friday and Saturday.
SEASON OPENER ON WEDNESDAY: Pacific Lutheran opens its nine-match pre-conference volleyball schedule on Wednesday night when it travels to Olympia to face Evergreen State. The Geoducks are affiliated with the National Intercollegiate Athletic Association and are members of the Cascade Collegiate Conference. Evergreen compiled a 1-26 overall record in 2009, winning just eight games and losting 79 during the campaign. PLU has played Evergreen twice in the program's history, picking up a pair of 3-1 victories during the 2002 season.
WHITMAN TOURNAMENT: The Lutes head across the state to Walla Walla to play four matches over two days at the Whitman College Tournament. On Friday, the Lutes face Menlo at noon and conference rival Puget Sound at 3 p.m. On Saturday, PLU goes up against tournament host and NWC foe Whitman at noon. Once all of the round-robin play is complete, a third-place match will be played at 3 p.m., followed by the championship contest at 5 p.m.
THE GOING GETS TOUGH: PLU will conclude its pre-conference slate the following weekend by playing four matches against NCAA Division III foes at a tournament hosted by Cal Lutheran in Thousand Oaks, Calif. That tournament will provide Pacific Lutheran with plenty of stiff competition. The Lutes' first opponent is Chapman, a Division III independent that advanced to the NCAA tournament one year ago. The other three opponents are members of the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference - Whittier, La Verne and Cal Lutheran. The latter two teams advanced to the regional tournament last year (La Verne defeated PLU in the semifinals).
PRESEASON RANKING: PLU enters the 2010 season ranked 17th in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III Top 25 Preseason Poll. The AVCA poll showed defending national champion Washington-St. Louis with all 24 first-place votes and 600 total points. Pacific Lutheran, the highest ranked team from the Northwest Conference, received 209 total points after compiling a 20-7 overall record last year.
ABOUT THE COACH: Kevin Aoki, who has led Pacific Lutheran to Northwest Conference championships in 1999, 2004, 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009, has posted a 242-124 winning percentage in 14 years as head coach. He has been named NWC Coach of the Year six times, all matching PLU conference title years, and AVCA West Region Coach of the Year in 1999, 2004 and 2007.
SEASON OUTLOOK: A cast of highly decorated veteran players and a strong incoming freshman class will provide the talent and impetus as the 2010 Pacific Lutheran volleyball team starts its quest for a fifth consecutive Northwest Conference volleyball crown. Head coach Kevin Aoki calls the incoming class “one of the best we have had in 15 years,” which will be vital to the team’s success. The Lutes must replace middle blocker Kelcy Joynt, the 2009 NWC Player of the Year, along with four other seniors who combined to win 60 of 64 conference matches in their four years in Parkland. An Oregon duo will combine to anchor the Lutes’ squad for one final season. Seniors Sarah Beaver and Beth Hanna, both with a long list of all-conference, all-region and All-America honors to their credit, will look to finish their PLU careers with another conference championship and a trip to the NCAA regional tournament. One question for the Lutes will be how Hanna’s surgically repaired knee holds up after an injury prematurely ended her 2009 season. The three-time All-NWC and All-America outside hitter “plays an important part of our team, to say the least,” Aoki said. “It’s her passing and her leadership skills that are so underrated.” For the second straight year, Hanna earned American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-America third team honors, that after being named the AVCA National Freshman of the Year in 2007. Additionally, she is a three-time first team all-conference and all-region honoree. Beaver has twice earned first team all-conference and all-region recognition, including last year when she averaged 10.2 assists per game. At 5-10, she is an offensive threat at the net in addition to being a strong blocker on defense. “Having Sarah as our setter is great because she is an experienced player who starts her third season in that spot,” Aoki said. A strong corps of juniors will surround the two seniors, including Erin Bremond and Kelsie Moore, a 2009 second team all-conference outside hitter. Moore, who has started throughout her collegiate career, averaged nearly 3.0 kills while hitting .251 last season. “Kelsie is one of the best all-around players in the conference, but she goes under the radar sometimes,” Aoki said. Bremond is undersized for a middle blocker at only 5-7, but her quickness and jumping ability more than makes up for her lack of height. She averaged 0.9 blocks per game last year and showed an ability to dominate in attack. “We look for a breakout year from Erin,” Aoki said. Among the newcomers who figure to have an impact during the 2010 season is outside hitter Allison Wood, one of several making a bid for a starting role.
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