BYU turns its attention to the West Coast Conference after going 10-2 in pre-conference play.
“We’re definitely wanting to win the championship this year; we fell short last year,” senior Tambre Nobles said. “That ‘s definitely our main goal and that takes a lot of focus and effort everyday, and a lot of focus every single match.”
BYU enters WCC play on a four-game winning streak and the favorite to win the conference title, only losing to No. 5 Washington and No. 14 Colorado State in the pre-season. BYU is led by two pre-season All-WCC players, senior Jennifer Hamson and junior Alexa Gray.
“Every single team is a worthy opponent because it’s a tough conference,” Nobles said. “Every night you have to be ready because any team can sneak up on you.”
The WCC has a total of three teams ranked in the top 25. Last year, BYU and San Diego from the WCC made it to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament. According to Nobles, the Cougars are focusing on the basics and perfecting their passing and their serves. The Cougars aren’t overlooking any teams, and are solely focused on winning the conference championship.
“Sometimes we see ourselves getting ahead of ourselves,” said Amy Boswell, a senior. “We just need to bring it back one game at a time and one practice at a time. [The championship] is definitely a goal we can achieve.”
The teams below are listed in order of WCC pre-season poll rankings from August. Throughout the pre-conference play, many teams have played surprisingly well, making BYU’s road to a championship even more difficult.
No. 24 San Diego
San Diego enters WCC play with a 7-5 record and predicted to finish second in the conference this year. The Toreros had a tough non-conference schedule with losses against No. 9 Purdue, No. 10 Florida and No. 1 Stanford. San Diego is led by pre-season All-WCC player Alaysia Brown, a senior middle hitter. The Toreros are ranked No. 24 in the nation and are coming off a Sweet Sixteen run last year in the NCAA tournament.
Saint Mary’s is predicted to finish third in the WCC this year. The Gaels enter WCC play with a 4-6 record. Saint Mary’s hasn’t performed up to its potential yet this year, entering WCC play on a three-game losing streak with losses against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, Long Beach State and California. Saint Mary’s is led by two pre-season All-WCC players, junior Dalas Dodd and senior Madelyn Hutson.
Pepperdine enters WCC play with a 5-7 record. The Waves are currently riding a two-game losing streak, with losses against No. 9 Colorado State and No. 19 Arizona State. Pepperdine is predicted to finish fourth in the WCC, and is led by two pre-season All-WCC players, senior Samantha Cash and junior Becca Strehlow.
No. 21 Loyola Marymount
LMU has been the biggest surprise in the WCC so far this season. LMU is the only undefeated team left in the conference, as they enter WCC play with a perfect 12-0 record. LMU has won all four invitationals they participated in this season. The Lions’ most impressive win this year came against No. 20 UCLA in straight sets. LMU is predicted to finish fifth in the WCC this season and is led by pre-season All-WCC player senior Litara Keil.
USF enters WCC play with a 7-5 record. USF is currently on a two-game winning streak after a difficult pre-conference schedule. Two of the Dons’ losses include No. 20 UCLA and No. 25 Hawaii. USF is predicted to finish sixth in the conference and is led by pre-season All-WCC player senior Valentina Zaloznik.
Pacific has had a very successful season so far. The Tigers enter WCC play with an 11-2 record, and they are currently on an eight-game winning streak. Pacific’s only two losses were against No. 5 USC and Oregon State, but won the Bulldog Invitational at Mississippi State in Starkville, Mississippi. Pacific doesn’t have any pre-season All-WCC players, but is led by Sept. 15 WCC player of the week, junior Kat Schulz.
Gonzaga is another surprise this year as they enter WCC play with a 9-2 record, riding a three-game winning streak. The Bulldogs’ first loss came against No. 4 Washington in a five set battle in Boise, Idaho. The Bulldogs won the Gonzaga Invitational and are off to their best start in program history. Gonzaga is predicted to finish eighth in the WCC and is led by junior Savannah Blinn.
Santa Clara has had a solid start to their season and are entering WCC play with a 10-3 record. Santa Clara’s most impressive win so far this year has come against previously ranked Duke. The Broncos have a young team this season with seven sophomores and only three seniors.
Portland enters WCC play with a 5-6 record. The Pilots’ didn’t win last year, but have shown much improvement this year by recording five victories so far. The Pilots return four starters and their libero from last year.