2012 GNAC Volleyball Preview
Aug. 21, 2012
PORTLAND, Ore. - There might be a little bit of a shuffle this fall in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference volleyball race.
Two-time defending champion Seattle Pacific, which has made three consecutive NCAA post-season appearances, was picked to finish just fourth in the GNAC Coaches pre-season poll.
The three teams ranked ahead of the Falcons - Western Washington, Western Oregon and Alaska Anchorage - finished in a virtual dead heat for first place in the balloting.
Western Oregon earned the most first-place votes (4), but Western Washington, which last won the conference title outright in 2007, edged the Wolves by one point (72-71) to grab the favorite's role.
The Vikings received three first-place votes. Alaska Anchorage received the other two first-place votes and finished third with 70 ballot points just two points back of the favorites.
Outside hitter Marlayna Geary is back to lead Western Washington, which has won five GNAC titles under head coach Diane Flick (249-70, 12 years) including 2010 when it finished in a tie for first-place with Seattle Pacific.
Geary was a first-team all-GNAC pick and an honorable mention AVCA NCAA Division II All-American last season.
"Marlayna brings a wealth of experience, and my hope for her this season is that she reaps the benefits of all the effort that she has put in," Flick said.
"She'll be the focus of every scouting report, and the rest of our team has to focus on alleviating the responsibility of her carrying the load."
Geary is one of three returning first-team all-conference players from a year ago including outside hitter Danielle Reese of Western Oregon and Seattle Pacific setter Shelby Swanson.
Geary is also one of three returning conference statistical champions. Last year she led the GNAC in both kills per set (4.24) and points (4.61).
Swanson led the GNAC in assists (11.25), while Alaska Anchorage outside hitter Nikkie Viotto was the conference leader in service aces with 39.
Reese was the conference's No. 3 ranked player in both kills (4.03) and points (4.44).
In all five of the GNAC's top eight kill producers from last year return.
In addition to Geary and Reese also back are Kristyn Ross of Saint Martin's, Jordan Offutt of Central Washington and Cailin Fellows of Seattle Pacific.
Ross ranked fourth with 3.91 kills per game in earning GNAC Freshman-of-the-Year honors, while Offutt and Fellows averaged 3.76 and 3.45 to rank sixth and eighth last season.
Offutt is one of five returning second team all-stars back along with setter Kimya Jafroudi of Alaska Anchorage, middle blocker Monica Grimsrud of Montana State Billings, middle blocker Krissi Kemper of Western Oregon and Western Washington setter Laurie Yearout.
Northwest Nazarene might have the best chance among the conference's other teams to break into the upper echelon.
The Crusaders finished fifth in the balloting. Central Washington placed sixth, while Montana State Billings, Saint Martin's, Alaska Fairbanks and Simon Fraser were seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th, respectively.
Great Northwest Coaches Poll 2011 Records Pts
(Note: First-place votes in parenthesis. Points awarded on a 9-8-7-6-5-4--3-2-1 basis. Each coach ranked other nine teams).
WESTERN WASHINGTON Vikings
Head Coach: Diane Flick, UW '93 (249-70, 12 years) Assistants: James Suh, Nate Langstraat 2011 Record: 16-6 Conference: 14-4, 2nd-T Returning Letter Winners: 10 Returning Starters (4): Marlayna Geary (OH, 5-10, Sr., 4.24 kps, 3.94 dps, 23 blocks, 16 aces, HM AVCA All-American, 1st team GNAC); Laurie Yearout (S, 5-9, Sr., 11.24 aps, 2.00 dps, 34 blocks, 17 aces, 2nd team GNAC); Samantha Hutchinson (DS/L, 5-8, So., 5.78 dps, HM GNAC); Bailey Jones (MB, 6-0, Sr., 36 blocks) Other Returnees: Emily Boerger (MB, 6-2, Jr., 1.66 kps, 51 blocks); Kinsey Davis (OH, 5-9, Jr., 1.97 kps, 1.65 dps); Emily Cotter (OH, 5-10, So., 2.29 dps); Kayla Erickson (MB, 6-0, So., 18 blocks); Kelsey Moore (OH, 6-1, So., 2.00 kps) Transfers: None
With 10 letter winners including three all-stars, the Vikings are perhaps the most experienced team in the GNAC heading into the 2012 campaign.
Leading the way are three seniors - Geary (OH, 5-10, Sr., Tacoma, WA - Bellarmine Prep), Yearout (S, 5-9, Sr., Spokane, WA - Lewis & Clark) and middle blocker Bailey Jones (MB, 6-0, Sr., Mukilteo, WA - Kamiak).
In addition to leading the GNAC in kills, Geary ranked 15th nationally and also contributed 3.94 digs a set. She enters the season with 945 career kills, which ranks 11th in school history.
There are a number of options to join Geary at outside hitter. Kinsey Davis (5-9, Jr., Burlington, WA - Burlington-Edison), Emily Cotter (5-10, So., University Place, WA - Curtis) and Kelsey Moore (6-1, So., Bellevue, WA - Newport) all saw action there last season.
Moore averaged 2.00 kills a set, while Davis had 1.97 per set. Cotter, who saw extensive action in the back row, averaged 2.29 digs.
Yearout average 11.20 assists, which ranked second in the GNAC and 17th nationally, in earning her second team all-conference award.
The other setter on the squad is Taylor Dillard (5-8, So., Milton, WA - Fife) who played in 11 matches as a true freshman, and has a versatile set of skills that allow her to be played in a variety of situations.
Jones is a three-year starter at middle blocker and has career totals of 193 kills and 170 blocks. She missed much of the last half of last season with concussion issues.
Emily Boerger (6-2, Jr., Marysville, WA - Marysville-Pilchuck) started at both middle blocker and right-side hitter last season and figures to play primarily in the middle this year. She averaged 1.66 kills and 0.70 blocks. Her 121 total kills ranked third on the team.
Also back in the middle is Kayla Erickson (6-0, So., Gig Harbor, WA - Peninsula) who averaged 1.79 kills and 0.77 blocks in 24 sets and had a .355 attack efficiency.
Redshirt freshman Jennica McPherson (5-11, Seattle, WA - Kennedy) is likely to play on the right side.
In the back, Samantha Hutchinson (5-7, So., University Place, WA - Curtis) returns at libero after ranking 15th nationally in digs at 5.78 a set and earning honorable mention all-GNAC status.
WESTERN OREGON Wolves
The Wolves appear well positioned to make a run at their first conference title since 2008 when Brad Saindon (58-39, 4 years; Overall, 360-265, 21 years) led WOU to its only GNAC title in his first season as head coach.
Among eight returning letter winners are three all-stars, five returning starters and their libero.
They've also added two transfers, including one from Division I Gonzaga and another who was a starter at Edinboro, a Division II school.
The all-stars include Reese (5-9, Sr., Gig Harbor, WA), Kemper (5-11, Jr., Prineville, OR - Crook County) and middle blocker Becky Blees (5-10, Jr., Portland, OR - Madison), who was an honorable mention selection.
Reese led the team in kills with 298 and also had 205 digs and 16 service aces, while Kemper had 207 kills and 54 blocks.
Blees had 132 kills and 86 blocks, the most of any returning player in the GNAC.
Also back for the Wolves is outside hitter Samantha Ward (6-1, Sr., Salem, OR - West Salem), setter LesLyne Satele (5-10, So., Honolulu, HI - Poncho) and libero Megan Triggs (5-6, Jr., Olympia, WA).
Ward netted 157 kills and had 46 blocks last season, while Satele produced 10.52 assists per set to rank third in the conference in that category.
Triggs averaged 4.72 digs, the fourth most in the GNAC.
Two other players also return for Western Oregon. Jordin Ramos (5-5, So., Makakilo, HI - Hawaii Baptist) played in 17 sets last season and had 14 digs.
Three-year letter winner Sylvia Herrold (5-11, Sr., Ilwaco, WA - Naselle) returns after sitting out last season. In 2010, she averaged 1.90 kills and 2.82 digs.
The transfers for the Wolves are opposite hitter Hannah Deede (6-2, So., Silverton, OR) and middle blocker Cherene O'Hara (6-1, So., Portland, OR).
Deede played in 51 sets and had 66 kills and 26 blocks at Gonzaga, while O'Hara had 210 kills and 90 blocks and hit for a .252 percentage for Edinboro.
ALASKA ANCHORAGE Seawolves
Alaska Anchorage coach Chris Green (74-40, 4 years) will have to recover from some unexpected off-season losses if he hopes to earn his fourth straight NCAA Division II playoff appearance this fall.
All-American middle blocker Robyn Burton and libero Quincy Haught, who both had two years of eligibility remaining, won't be available this fall.
Along with their graduation losses that included GNAC Player-of-the-Year Jackie Matthisen, the Seawolves have just four returning letter winners matching Alaska Fairbanks for the fewest in the conference.
Three of the four returnees were starters, including setter Kimya Jafroudi (5-7, Sr., Huntington Beach, CA), who was the GNAC Newcomer-of-the-Year last season in addition to her second team all-conference selection.
Jafroudi ranked fifth in the GNAC in assists, averaging 10.22 per set and also had 175 digs, 23 aces and 37 blocks.
Also available are defensive specialist Siobhan Johansen (5-7, Jr., Palmer, AK - Colony) and outside hitter Nikkie Viotto (5-8, Sr., Eagle River, AK).
Johansen had 221 assists and 194 digs, while Viotto had 204 kills and 266 digs along with her league-best 39 aces.
The only other returning player is Jordan Bush (5-4, So., Graham, WA - Kapowsin), who played in 55 sets and had 12 aces and 18 digs.
Green will need to rebuild with a recruiting class that will feature Western Nebraska transfer Jodi Huddleston (6-0, Jr., Scottsdale) and five freshmen.
Also available is 5-10 sophomore middle blocker Maureen Sabado from Kodiak. She previously attended San Diego City College.
SEATTLE PACIFIC Falcons
Head Coach: Chris Johnson, Westmont '02 (133-60, 7 years) Assistants: Whitney Dibble, Johnny Lai, Kin Yun 2011 Record: 21-7 Conference: 15-3, 1st Returning Letter Winners: 6 Returning Starters (3): Shelby Swanson (S, 5-9, Sr., 11.25 aps, 2.25 dps, 44 blocks, 31 aces, 1st team Daktronics All-Region, 1st team GNAC); Nikki Lowell (MB, 5-10, Jr., 2.37 kps, 93 blocks, HM GNAC); Cailin Fellows (OH, 5-10, Sr., 3.45 kps, 1.33 dps, 36 blocks); Other Key Returnees: Madi Cavell (MB, 6-0, So., 8 blocks); Jessica Miller (OH, 6-3, So., 2.10 kps, 10 blocks); Brianna Leenders (L, 5-7, So., 2.33 dps, 25 aces)
The Falcons are coming off three straight trips to the NCAAs under coach Chris Johnson (133-60, 7 years).
But four key members of those teams graduated - including All-GNAC first-team outside hitter Lindsey Wodrich and All-American libero Anna Herold.
Three prime players from 2011, however, are back hoping to help SPU extend its NCAA playoff streak to four.
Among those is Swanson (5-9, Sr., Kennewick, WA - Kamiakin). Last season, she racked up a career-high 1,147 assists, with five matches of 50 or more, to earn All-GNAC and Daktronics All-West Region first-team status.
She starts this year 12th on the all-time GNAC assists list, with the chance to move into the Top 5.
A pair of veteran teammates are in line for their fair share of Swanson's sets. One of those is middle blocker Nikki Lowell (5-10, Jr., Claremont, CA).
She has been SPU's leading hitter for two straight seasons, finishing at .295 last year. Lowell set an SPU single-season record with her .382 percentage as a freshman in 2010.
Last year, Lowell hit for .500 or better in six matches, and .300 or better in eight others. She also was a force defensively with team-leading 93 total blocks (eight solos).
Or, the ball could go to outside hitter Cailin Fellows (5-10, Sr., Edmonds, WA - Edmonds-Woodway). She slammed 283 kills, had 36 blocks and came up with 109 digs.
She had the top two hitting matches of the season for Seattle Pacific, including a career-high .700 in a three-game sweep of NCAA Division I member Nebraska-Omaha, and .533 in a GNAC match against Saint Martin's.
Also back for the Falcons is libero Brianna Leenders (5-7, So., Portland, OR - Sam Barlow). She's a prime candidate to take over that spot from Herold, the SPU record holder in every digs category.
Even coming off the bench last fall, Leenders was one of five Falcons who played all 102 sets. Her 238 digs ranked third on the team, and her 25 service aces also ranked third.
Other veterans who saw varying amounts of action in 2011 but are eyeing a bigger piece this fall are middle blocker Madi Cavell (6-0, So., Keizer, OR), opposite Emily Oslie (6-4, Jr., Salem, OR - Sprague) and outside hitters Nicole Schwend (6-0, Jr., Oregon City, OR) and Jessica Miller (6-3, So., Fife, WA).
Among SPU's five newcomers is setter Sara Biondi (5-9, So., Sacramento, CA), who played at Washington State as a walk-on freshman in 2010. She started 92 of WSU's 99 sets and ranked eighth in the Pacific-10 Conference in assists at 9.47 per game.
NORTHWEST NAZARENE Crusaders
Four starters return for coach Jared Sliger at Northwest Nazarene, who is four wins shy of reaching the 100-win total (96-86, 7 years).
Back for the Crusaders are setters Kaitlyn Tuholski (5-10, So., Vancouver, WA - Heritage) and Michelle Terpstra (5-9, So., Ripon, CA - Ripon Christian), outside hitter Carly Dranginis (5-11, Sr., Nampa, ID - Skyview) and middle blocker Becky Flores (5-9, Sr., Kennewick, WA - Riverview).
Tuholski was a honorable mention all-conference selection after averaging 2.38 kills, 4.63 assists and 2.23 digs in her freshman season.
Tuholski led the Crusaders in kills (214) and aces (30) and ranked second in assists (417) and fourth in digs (201).
Terpstra had 134 kills (1.49 per set) and a team-leading 472 assists (5.24). She also had 219 digs (2.43).
Dranginis had 153 kills and 26 blocks, while Flores had 147 kills and ranked second on the team in blocks with 76.
Also back is libero Taylor Roberts (5-5, So., Nampa, ID - Vallivue), who had 150 digs.
Joining the five returning players are transfers Andrea Terpstra from San Diego State and Sharsti Goff from Walla Walla CC.
Terpstra (6-4, Jr., Ripon, CA) had 22 kills in 18 sets at San Diego State, while Goff averaged 5.18 assists in 17 sets two seasons ago at Walla Walla.
CENTRAL WASHINGTON Wildcats
Central Washington won three of its final four matches last season including a home win over Western Washington that cost the Vikings a chance to tie for the GNAC title.
The lone loss was a 3-2 defeat at Alaska Anchorage.
With nine letter winners back, the Wildcats hope to improve on last year's 9-9 conference record and possibly challenge for a post-season berth.
Back are three starters along with libero Kaely Kight (5-10, So., Spokane, WA - Mead), who had 338 digs and 17 service aces, the second most of the team.
Two of the returning starters were all-stars. Offutt (5-11, Sr., Leavenworth, WA - Cascade) ranked sixth in the conference with 353 kills and also had 48 blocks and 24 aces in claiming a spot on the second team. Middle blocker Erin Smith (5-10, Jr., Selah, WA) had 202 kills and 82 blocks and ranked third on the kills and eighth in the conference in blocks in earning honorable mention honors.
Also back from last year's starting unit is outside hitter Emmy Dolan (5-11, Jr., Castle Rock, WA), who had 137 kills and 46 blocks.
Marcy Hjellum (5-11, Sr., Kennewick, WA - Kamiakin) wasn't a starter, but played like one in the spring.
"What she accomplished against Division I opponents in the spring when we scrimmaged them proved that she could actually be one of the best outside hitters in the conference," head coach Mario Andaya (245-191, 16 years) said.
Last fall Hjellum played in 89 sets and had 61 kills and 213 digs.
Two other players were key reserves last fall - setter Devin Larsen (5-9, Sr., Mukilteo, WA - Kamiak) and defensive specialist Lauren Herseth (5-6, So., Olympia, WA).
Larsen had 100 assists in a backup role to starting setter Carlee Marble, while Herseth had 60 digs.
The Wildcat roster will also feature 11 freshmen, including four who redshirted last season.
MONTANA STATE BILLINGS Yellowjackets
First-year coach Lisa Axel has as many returning players and starters as any team in the GNAC.
Back are 10 letter winners along with five players who started 11 or more matches.
There were two significant losses - middle blocker Melissa Porter, who had 210 kills and a team-best 72 blocks and setter Brooke Tolman, who averaged 9.79 assists.
MSUB, however, does return four of its top five hitters led by middle blocker Monica Grimsrud (6-1, So., Montana City, MT - Helena), who shared GNAC Freshman-of-the-Year honors with Kristyn Ross of Saint Martin's.
Grimsrud ranked seventh in kills in the GNAC averaging 3.67 and also had 163 digs and 44 blocks in earning her second team all-conference award.
Other starters back include outside hitter Krista Norris (5-9, So., Avon, CO - Battle Mountain), middle blockers Taylor Adams (6-1, So., Anchorage, AK - Diamond), Chelsey Walter (6-2, So., Billings, MT) and Jody Lutz (6-1, Sr., Dugald, Manitoba) and libero Erin Compton (5-10, Jr., Billings, MT - Grand Canyon).
Norris had 181 kills - the third best total on the team - and 136 digs a year ago.
Adams, Walter and Lutz had 135, 119 and 65 kills, and 56, 58 and 39 blocks, respectively, while Compton had a team-high 381 digs.
Also available are two other players who saw significant playing time - defensive specialist Morgan Moss (5-5, Sr., Fowler, CO) and libero Adrienne Kelso (5-4, Jr., Bend, OR - Mountain View).
Moss averaged 3.77 digs and had 17 aces, while Kelso had 1.85 digs per contest.
Two new players will battle for the starting setter role - JC transfer Julianna Evola (5-10, Jr., Portland, OR - Linn-Benton CC) and Montana State prep standout Kyndal Williams (5-9, Fr., Helena, MT).
Williams was the 2011 Montana Gatorade Player-of-the-Year at Helena leading her high school to two state titles.
SAINT MARTIN'S Saints
The Saints won five conference matches last season equaling their highest total since the GNAC's inaugural season in 2001.
With three of the top four kill producers including GNAC Freshman of the Year Kristyn Ross returning off that team there is some optimism in Lacey.
Last year Ross (5-10, So., Olympia, WA - Capital), who earned honorable mention all-conference honors, accounted for more than one-third of SMU's kills with 340 and ranked fourth in the GNAC averaging 3.91 per contest.
Ross also led the team in aces with 24 and ranked second in digs with 320 (3.68) and third in blocks with 31.
Middle blocker Katy Ferguson (6-1, Sr., Tacoma, WA - Stadium) ranked second on the team with 181 kills and was the team leader with 68 blocks, including 26 solos.
Teilissa Tua (5-10, Sr., Kahului, HI - Kamehameha) had 125 kills and ranked second on the team in blocks with 59.
Also back is starting setter Cymbree Decosta (5-8, Jr., Kula, HI - Kamehameha), who averaged 8.81 assists. She also had 24 blocks and 13 aces.
Three other players saw action including defensive specialists Kristin Okamura (5-0, Jr., Honolulu, HI - Roosevelt) and Halee Hernandez (5-3, So., Olympia, WA - River Ridge) and setter Candice Pedroza (5-5, So., Mount Vernon, WA - LaConner).
Hernandez averaged 2.19 digs and had 11 aces in 69 sets, while Okamura averaged 1.90 digs in 40 sets. Pedroza had 47 assists in 19 sets.
Ten freshmen fill out the Saint roster for head coach Phil Ibarra (22-151, 7 years) including redshirt outside hitter Nicole Grisham (5-7, Tumwater, WA).
ALASKA FAIRBANKS Nanooks
The Nanooks have just five players with collegiate playing experience, including only four off last year's team.
All four were starters led by outside hitter Keri Knight (5-9, Jr., Arvada, CO) who tied the team lead in kills with 214. Knight also ranked second on the team in aces with 20 and had 121 digs.
Outside hitter Reilly Stevens (5-8, Sr., Riverside, CA - Fullerton JC) had 166 kills and ranked second in digs with 235, while middle blocker Morgan Tebbs (6-0, So., Queen Creek, AZ) had 49 kills and 35 blocks. The latter total was second best on the team.
Libero Allison Oddy (5-6, Sr., Chilliwack, BC - Highroad Academy) was the team leader in digs averaging 4.45 per set.
Returning off UAF's 2010 team is middle blocker Britt Glaeser (5-8, So., Fairbanks, AK - Lathrop), who played in nine sets that year.
Eight freshmen including two 2011 redshirts - liberos Kylie Dickerson (5-5, Fairbanks, AK - West Valley) and Samantha Hersterman (5-5, Ormiston, Sask.) - complete the roster for coach Phil Shoemaker (126-164, 12 years; Overall, 369-466, 29 years).
SIMON FRASER Clan
The Clan has eight veterans back including five starters, but none were all-stars a year ago and the top two producers in kills per game (Kristjanna Fridfinnson and Cheryl Windhorst who played in just 27 sets) are among the departed.
Returning starters back for 16th year head coach Lisa Sulatycki (102-267, 15 years) include hitters Jessica Young 5-8, So., Vancouver, BC - Gladstone), Kelsey Robinson (5-11, Jr., Surrey, BC - Clayton Heights) and Katie Forsyth (5-10, Jr., Delta, BC), middle blocker Amanda Renkema (6-1, So., Delta, BC - Richmond Christian) and setter Victoria Segnes (5-9, Jr., Surrey, BC - Pacific Academy).
Robinson had the most kills among that group with 78, while Renkema had 76 and Young was credited with 73. Renkema also earned 23 blocks, ranking second on the team.
Forsyth had 64 kills and 81 digs last season, while Segnes averaged 6.77 assists per game.
The only other returnees are middle blocker Madeline Hait (5-11, So., Burnaby, BC - Burnaby Central) and libero Alanna Chan (5-7, So., Port Moody, BC - Heritage Woods).
Hait was credited with 25 kills and 12 blocks, while Chan had 225 digs and 12 aces.
Eight freshmen will fill out the roster, which doesn't include a senior and features only three juniors.
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