Bearcats Positioned Sixth in NWC Volleyball Preseason Poll

By Brandon Chinn, Athletics Communications Writer

SALEM, ORE. -- Just two days before Willamette's season opening match, the 2013 Northwest Conference Volleyball Preseason Poll revealed a projected sixth place finish for the Bearcats. The poll, which came out Wednesday afternoon, is voted on by the nine head coaches in the conference.

The University of Puget Sound, which finished just a single game behind Pacific Lutheran University for the NWC title in 2012, is heavily favored to capture the conference crown this season. The Loggers garnered seven of the nine available first-place votes, notching 70 total points in the poll.

Defending champion Pacific Lutheran (20-6, 14-2 NWC) earned the two remaining first-place votes and came away in second place with 60 points overall. Pacific University (11-13, 10-6 NWC) is projected to finish in third place with 44 points, while the Bruins from George Fox University are predicted fourth with 39.

Whitman College (11-12, 9-7 NWC) is just ahead of Willamette in fifth place with 35 points. The Bearcats (9-14, 7-9 NWC) are ranked sixth with 31 points.

Whitworth University (10-13, 6-10 NWC) and Linfield College are positioned in a tie for seventh place with 20 points each. Lewis & Clark College rounds out the NWC Preseason Poll with 14 total points.

After finishing the 2012 season by winning five of their final eight matches, the Bearcats are poised to continue their winning ways in 2013. Senior middle hitters Shannon Waltz (Honolulu, HI/La Pietra School for Girls) and Carly Hargrave (Happy Valley, OR/Clackamas HS) figure to bolster the front row, as both were near the top of the team in kills and hitting percentage last season.

Waltz, an All-NWC Honorable Mention honoree last year, ended her 2012 campaign with a team-high .301 hitting percentage while recording 125 kills. Hargrave led all returning players with 192 kills and also featured a .276 hitting percentage.

Emily Compton (Sr., Portola, CA/Portola HS/Boise State Univ.) returns for yet another season as the Willamette setter. Compton led all Bearcats in assists with 846 last season. She also averaged 9.51 assists per set in 2012. Senior Lizzy Balding (LIB/DS, Honolulu, HI/Punahou School) will bring experience onto the floor as she helps to lead the defense in 2013. Balding ranked second on the team with 202 digs last year. 

The Bearcats open their season in southern California this weekend as they compete in four matches at the Pacific Coast Classic. Willamette will challenge the University of California-Santa Cruz in its first match on Friday, Aug. 30. Match time is set for 10 a.m. (PDT).

2013 NWC Volleyball Preseason Poll (1st place votes in parentheses)
1. Puget Sound (7), 70 points, 22-6 overall, 13-3 NWC in 2012
2. Pacific Lutheran (2), 60 points, 20-6, 14-2 NWC
3. Pacific, 44 points, 11-13, 10-6 NWC
4. George Fox, 39 points, 9-14, 7-9 NWC
5. Whitman, 35 points, 11-12, 9-7 NWC
6. Willamette, 31 points, 9-14, 7-9 NWC
7. Whitworth, 20 points, 10-13, 6-10 NWC
8. Linfield, 20 points, 9-15, 4-12 NWC
9. Lewis & Clark, 14 points, 6-19, 2-14 NWC

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

Shannon Waltz led Willamette with a .301 hitting percentage last season.

Shannon Waltz led Willamette with a .301 hitting percentage last season.