1 thing to know about every Pac-12 women's volleyball team entering the 2023 season
The Pac-12 women's volleyball is quickly approaching as Aug. 25 is around the corner. Before the season Pac-12.com wanted to let you know one thing about each of the 12 teams before the season. From fresh faces to record breakers, let's jump into it.
Arizona — Jordan Wilson is back home
Jordan Wilson won 2021 Arizona Gatorade Volleyball Player of the Year at Hamilton High School. She was the No. 2 recruit by PrepVolleyball.com in the class of 2022. Wilson decided to commit to USC out of high school. She was stellar in her freshman season last season, making the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team behind 333 kills. This offseason she decided to return closer to home and join the Wildcats.
The Arizona attack will welcome the addition of Wilson. The Wildcats were already returning Sofia Maldonado Diaz, Jaelyn Hodge, Puk Stubbe and Alayna Johnson, who accounted for 71 percent of the team's kills last season. Now they add an experienced and talented Pac-12 player coming off a very good season.
Arizona State — The new-look Sun Devils have plenty of production returning
While six of Arizona State’s 15 players will be new to Tempe this season, and a handful of former Sun Devils entered the transfer portal, there is still a good amount of experience on the roster. First-year head coach JJ Van Niel inherits a good group of returners.
In terms of kill leaders, four of the top five players from last season return including Marta Levinska, who had 412 last season and led the team with 3.55 kills per set. Assist leader Shannon Shields is back for her graduate season. Claire Jeter led the team with 100 blocks and also added 162 kills. Not to mention Geli Cyr and Roberta Rabelo, who have experience too.
California — The Bears have a blank slate
The Bears will have a blank slate this season, and can take advantage of being the underdog. California will be led by interim head coach — and former Washington Husky star — Crissy Jones Schoonderwoerd. She’ll have plenty of opportunities to audition for the job taking over a Bears looking to have a bounce back year.
Despite not winning a conference contest last season, California steadily improved toward the end of the season. Five of their last seven matches went to the fifth set. Watch for a pair of sophomores in Mikayla Hayden and Peyton DeJardin. Hayden led the team in blocks (98) and was third on the team in kills (158) while DeJardin’s role increased down the stretch last season and finished with 137 kills.
Colorado — The Buffs keep improving
Colorado has improved its win total each of the last three seasons. The Buffaloes also made the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2018. There is good reason to believe that Colorado can continue to move forward. Both Maya Tabron and Lexi Hadrych return after combining for 723 kills last season. The team’s primary setter Taylor Simpson is also back. While All-Pac-12 middle blocker Meegan Hart has graduated, Alexia Kuehl, who also finished fifth in the conference in blocks returns. Colorado also brought in North Carolina graduate transfer Skyy Howard to fortify that spot.
Can the Buffs make their first Sweet 16 since 2017 or go further than any Colorado team ever has? Guess we’ll see.
Oregon — The Ducks are trying to reach new heights
Last season, Oregon reached the Elite Eight. While the Ducks’ All-American Brooke Nuneviller graduated, there is plenty of talent coming back to Eugene. Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Mimi Colyer, who led the Ducks with 533 kills, highlights the 2023 returnees. She’sl also joined by setter Hannah Pukis, coming off an All-Conference year in her debut season with the Ducks.
Head coach Matt Ulmer also strengthened his team through the transfer portal. Kara McGhee, one of the best middle blockers in the nation, joins the Ducks for her final season. She was a three-time All-Big 12 performer at Baylor. McGhee led the Big 12 and finished eighth in the NCAA with 1.49 blocks per set in 2022. Gabby Gonzales comes in to help fill the void of Nuneviller’s production on the attack. The graduate transfer from Ohio State is coming off a season in which she had 3.29 kills per set and 40 service aces.
It’s safe to say the Ducks are trying to ride the momentum.
Oregon State — A handful of transfers join the Beavers
Lindsey Behonick didn’t wait long to put her influence on the roster. The former Pitt assistant turned Oregon State head coach was a tremendous recruiter and hope it carries over to Corvallis.
Six transfers join Oregon State’s 2023 roster; outside hitter Peyton Suess, opposite hitter Megan Sheridan, setter Elizabeth Schuster, setter Ava Pitchford, opposite hitter Amanda Burns and outside hitter Lauren Rumel. Suess, Sheridan and Schuster all come as graduate transfers quickly injecting talent on the floor for the Beavers. Suess comes from Wake Forest where she averaged 2.48 kills per set in her career and had 869 kills in four years. Sheridan was a productive player at Butler, finishing third on the team in kills (266) last season. Schuster was a standout at Cal State Fullerton, leading the Titans in assists the past two seasons. Pitchford (Florida State), Burns (LMU) and Rumel (Arizona) all have multiple years of eligibility and will contribute for years to come.
Behonick and the Beavers hope the fresh blood will lead to the team’s first winning season since 2017.
Stanford — The Cardinal eyes a national championship
The Cardinal lost a five-set heartbreaker to San Diego in last year’s Elite Eight. However, that might add fuel to the fire for a team returning most of its 2022 roster. That includes Pac-12 Player of the Year Kendall Kipp, Setter of the Year Kami Miner and Libero of the Year Elena Oglivie. That group even includes Caitie Baird or McKenna Vicini.
Stanford certainly has plenty of experience, and a very good freshmen class, for a roster that seems poised to net the program’s 10th national championship.
Utah — The Utes are looking to return to their winning ways
Utah finished under .500 for the first time since 2015 last season. That also happened to be the first year without Dani Drews, the most accomplished player in Ute program history. Simply put there was no replacing Drews on the court. Utah still managed to play well against top tier opponents such as Purdue, San Diego, BYU and Washington. The Utes’ final record was soured by a five-game losing streak to end the season.
There is certainly a path back to the postseason for Utah. The Utes very well could have their next star to lead them there. KJ Burgess will look to build off a great freshman season in which she led the team with blocks (109, seventh-most in the conference) and a .376 hitting percentage, the second-best mark by a Ute in a single season.
UCLA — The defense should be strong
The Bruins missed the postseason for the first time since 2018 last season. Part of that was that they finished in the bottom half of the conference in blocks. Under first year head coach Alfee Reft that should change. Reft was part of the San Diego staff last season that helped their team to 2.74 blocks per set, ranking seventh in the country. Reft, himself knows a thing or two about defense, as he was designated libero for the U.S. National Team when they won the Gold Medal at the 2008 Pan American Cup.
The Bruins have the personnel to improve. They’ll be led by tw-time All-Conference honoree Anna Dobson, who had 77 blocks last season. UCLA also has Francesea Alupei, who led the conference with a 1.53 blocks per set mark last season. Brooklyn Briscoe and Desiree Becker join the fold. Briscoe is a highly touted recruit coming out of San Diego and Becker is a graduate transfer from Northwestern, having 269 blocks in her career with the Wildcats.
USC — The Women of Troy need another hitter to step up
If you paid any attention to USC women’s or Pac-12 volleyball last season, you saw how incredible of a season Skylar Fields had. She led the conference and finished second in the nation with 598 kills last season. However, Fields will need help on the attack in 2023.
After Fields, USC’s next three kill leaders departed this offseason. And no other returning hitter had more than 100 kills. Nevertheless, there are plenty of potential options on the roster. USC welcomed in one of the best recruiting classes before last season and that group includes second-year hitters Adonia Faumuina, Dani Thomas-Nathan and Madison Pietsch. A likely candidate is junior Katelyn Smith. The former 11th-ranked recruit by PrepVolleyball.com has been listed as a middle blocker the past two seasons, but appears to be moving over to hitter to help USC on the attack.
Washington — It's a new era in Seattle
The Huskies are going to look a lot different next season for a bunch of reasons. Washington alumni and longtime assistant coach Leslie Gabriel steps in as head coach following the departure of Keegan Cook. Gabriel, the AVCA National Assistant Coach of the Year, has been a part of 618 wins.
She’ll have her work ahead of her. Washington graduated one of the best groups to ever come through the program. Claire Hoffman, Ella May Powell and Marin Grote are all enshrined in the program’s record book as All-Americans and All-Conference players. Gabriel will certainly be able to mold this team to how she sees fit.
Washington State — Madga Jehlarova will be breaking a lot of records this season
Madga Jehlarova already has an incredible resumé entering her fifth season in Pullman. She’s a three-time AVCA All-American, four-time All-Pac-12 honoree, earned the AVCA and Pac-12 Freshman of the Year. But this season she has a chance to put herself at the or near the top of a lot of Washington State records.
Here is a list of records Jehlarova can break in 2023:
- Needs 45 block assists to become Washington State’s all-time leader (527 is the current record)
- Needs 16 total blocks to become Washington State’s all-time leader (615)
- Needs 137 block assists to become Pac-12 all-time leader (619)
- Needs 157 total blocks to become Pac-12 all-time leader
- Needs to improve her blocks per set by .04 to become Washington State’s all-time leader (1.47)
- Needs to maintain her 1.44 blocks per set to join Pac-12’s top 10 all-time leaders
- Needs 221 kills to join Washington State’s top 10 all-time kills leaders (1180)
- Needs to play 97 sets to become Washington State’s all-time leader (513)
- Needs to play 27 matches to Washington State’s all-time leader (139)
If you’re into record chasing, Washington State volleyball matches will be for you.