The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

The student voice of Washington State University since 1895

The Daily Evergreen

2023 Pac-12 volleyball outlook after first weekend

Stanford, Oregon, WSU stand above rest
WSU outside hitter Pia Timmer digs the ball during an NCAA volleyball match against UW, Sept. 21, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

NCAA volleyball officially began Conference play in the 2023 season, with each team completing their second Conference match over the weekend. There were a few hiccups and close calls for many teams, but the standings accurately reflect the season’s expectations.

Pac-12 play opened with a sweep as Stanford took down Cal. Since then, there have been six sweeps, two four-set matches and three that have got the full five sets. Let’s look at each team in terms of their current standings. 

Arizona State (14-0, 2-0 Pac-12) 

The Sun Devils have started the season a perfect 14-0 with wins over Ole Miss, Boise State and Memphis. While not a difficult out-of-conference schedule, they took down Arizona and Washington at home to start Conference play. 

Sweeping Arizona while hitting .324 and winning three straight sets after losing one against UW proves that the team has a knack for getting momentum and controlling matches. They held the Huskies to 19, 16 and 16 points in the three sets they won, quickly bidding to be the fourth team to get ranked from the Pac-12 in the AVCA Poll. 

Oregon (12-1, 2-0) 

With their lone loss of the season coming at the hands of Minnesota, the Ducks are one of the best teams in the nation, let alone the Pac-12. With two straight sweeps of Oregon State and UCLA, Oregon now gets set for a two-match series against the Washington schools at home. 

With themselves, Stanford and WSU having the best shot at winning the Conference, the Ducks can make a statement if they take down the visiting Cougs Sunday, but it may not be easy. 

WSU (12-1, 2-0) 

Despite having one of the toughest schedules in the nation, the Cougs find themselves with just one loss from their opening weekend trip down to Louisville. Since then, they have won 11 straight and, despite a scare in their second Conference match, started off undefeated. 

First was the Apple Cup in Bohler; a big sweep of the Huskies in front of a sold-out crowd got the Cougs their first Pac-12 win before heading down to Arizona to take on the Wildcats. After falling down in sets 2-1, WSU came alive and dominated the rest of the way to keep themselves firmly as one of the top teams in the Conference. 

Stanford (9-2, 2-0) 

Being the highest-ranked team in the AVCA poll, the Cardinal have expectations to run it back as Conference Champions. Cal and Colorado both fell to the team in sweeps, really being far from making it a competition.

Stanford’s first real Pac-12 test will be in October. 8 against WSU in Bohler, but a home match against Arizona State may be a trap with the Sun Devils looking as strong as they have been recently. 

USC (8-4, 2-0) 

After starting the year 1-4, things looked rough for the Trojans. Losses to then-ranked No. 19 Houston and No.23 Rice were not bad, but taking one set from the two of them was not the start the team wanted.

Now the team is 7-0 since and won their first two Pac-12 matches against UCLA and Oregon State. Starting with the first five-set match of the Conference against the Bruins, the Trojans overcame being down in sets 2-1 and won in the fifth set 17-15.

Coming off a sweep of the Beavers, USC looks like a much better team than how they started the year, being the final team to start 2-0.  

Colorado (9-4, 1-1) 

After taking down Utah in four sets to begin the Conference schedule, Stanford made quick work of the Buffaloes in a sweep. Surprisingly enough, they reached 20 points in each of the three sets but still looked far from making it an ultra-competitive match. 

Colorado likely will trickle in the middle of the standings throughout the year, being far from the worst but not in line with the top teams in the Conference. 

Utah (6-6, 1-1) 

The other 1-1 team, having lost to the aforementioned Colorado team, the Utes rebounded with a five-set win over UCLA. Sitting at 6-6 overall on the season, the Utes look the same as their slightly below .500 team in 2022. Expect the same as 2022, a mediocre but not-bad finish from Utah. 

California (11-2, 0-2) 

After going 0-20 in Conference play in 2022 and only winning seven total games, the 11-2 Golden Bears already have had a better 2023. Starting the year against Stanford was not ideal, but the Golden Bears almost got their first Pac-12 win since 2020 in their second match. 

A five-set thriller that nearly saw a reverse sweep by the hands of Cal, but it was all for not and the team has to look forward and hope to get the coveted win to get them out of their huge losing streak. 

Washington (9-4, 0-2) 

WSU students hold up a banner reading “Beat The Huskies” before an NCAA volleyball match against UW, Sept. 21, 2023, in Pullman, Wash.

UW is still looking to find their form from the 2022 season that had them ranked for a majority of play. Starting their Conference season against WSU and ASU and losing both will make finding traction harder, especially with Oregon on the schedule next. 

The Huskies have a good program but are still working out the struggles of new coaching, so this team may look far better as the season progresses. 

UCLA (8-4, 0-2) 

After taking USC to five sets, the Bruins fell quickly and hard to Oregon in three sets. They managed just 44 total points in the three sets against the Ducks, with their worse being just 12 in the middle set. 

The team will likely end up in the bottom third of the Conference, above teams like Cal but not competing with the best of the Conference in any sense. 

Oregon State (5-7, 0-2) 

Finishing 2022 in 11th place in the Pac-12 may have been a sign of their finish in 2023 as well. Having yet to take a set in Pac-12 play, things will only get harder as UW and WSU come to town. 

The Beavers can certainly turn things around, but it is not the most promising start to the season, and the schedule makes it harder to gain any momentum.

Arizona (5-8, 0-2) 

Finally is the team that almost upset the Cougs. Sitting at 5-8 on the season overall, the Wildcats got swept by their rivals Arizona State on the road but somehow managed to take two sets of the supposedly better WSU team at home.

Looking at the first three and final two sets of the match show two different matches, as Arizona looked strong before looking completely outmatched to end it. Whether it was their own doing or the Cougs having a rough match, Arizona proved that they can hang with anyone in the Conference, at least for a little bit.

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About the Contributors
BRANDON WILLMAN, Multimedia editor
Brandon Willman is a junior multimedia journalism student from Vancouver, Washington. He started working as a sportswriter for the Daily Evergreen in Fall 2022 and worked as copy editor in spring 2023. Brandon was elected to be the Editor-in-chief starting in summer 2023 and served in the position from May 2023 to February 2024 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.
COLE QUINN, Evergreen Sports Photographer
Cole Quinn is a photographer and columnist for the Daily Evergreen. Cole primarily shoots sports for the Daily Evergreen and writes album reviews in his spare time. Cole is a junior broadcast production major and sports communication minor from Snoqualmie, Washington. Cole started working for the Evergreen in the fall of 2020 as a photographer. Cole was the Photo Editor during his sophomore year and Deputy Photo Editor for the fall 2022 semester.