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

Pac-12 volleyball roundup: entering NCAA Tournament

End of regular season standings
Karly+Basham+points+toward+the+front+row+after+WSU+wins+a+point+in+an+NCAA+volleyball+match%2C+Oct.+13%2C+in+Pullman%2C+Wash.
BRANDON WILLMAN
Karly Basham points toward the front row after WSU wins a point in an NCAA volleyball match, Oct. 13, in Pullman, Wash.

Just like that, the Pac-12 is no more, at least for volleyball. The regular season has finished and for one last time, the Stanford Cardinal are the Conference champions. Dropping just one match, a near-perfect record was the expectation coming in. 

Despite the Pac-12 being over, the seasons of five teams are not quite finished. The top five finishers in the Pac-12 all got bids into the NCAA Tournament, with Stanford, Oregon and WSU earning high enough seeds to host the first two rounds. 

Joining them in the 64-team field are USC and Arizona State, both earning seeded positions. 

For one final time, the roundup of the Pac-12 and how their seasons panned out. 

Stanford (26-3, 19-1 Pac-12) 

Winners of the Pac-12 for a reason, Stanford dominated 2023. The only loss handed to the near-perfect Cardinal came from another NCAA Tournament-bound team, a sweep at the hands of Arizona State. 

For their dominance throughout the season, the team was heavily honored in the Pac-12 postseason awards. They swept the three major individual awards, with Kendall Kipp becoming a back-to-back Player of the Year, Kami Miner winning her second straight Setter of the Year Award and Elena Oglivie completing the sweep, winning Libero of the Year.

Earning one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, they will host until they lose, or make the Final Four. 

During the regular season, they led the Pac-12 in team hitting percentage (.317%), kills per set (14.50), assists per set (13.63), service aces per set (2.08) and points per set (19.03). 

Oregon (26-5, 16-4)

A No. 2 seed, the Ducks only lost a single match on the road during the 2023 season, their bout with Stanford. Despite monstrous success away from Eugene, Oregon, they struggled to defend their home court. Losing to WSU, Arizona State and Stanford at home, an upset is not completely out of the cards for the Ducks as they host in the Pac-Tournament. 

With five All-Pac-12 First Team members and two more honorable mentions, the Ducks feature one of the deepest units in the Conference. Defensive genies, Oregon led the Pac-12 in both digs per set (14.71) and blocks per set (2.79) during Conference play.

Kara McGhee has been a major factor in the dominating defense, being one of the best middles in the Conference during 2023. She leads the Pac-12 in hitting percentage at .422% and finished fifth in blocks per set at 1.25. 

Arizona State (26-6, 14-6)

The Sun Devils exceeded expectations in 2023, thanks in large part to meaningful transfers as well as a brand new head coach. In his his first season at the helm, J.J. Van Niel led ASU to 26 wins and won the Pac-12 Coach of the Year.

Marta Levinska was the only player from the team to make it on the All-Pac-12 First Team, hitting .345% and averaging 4.68 kills per set. 

The team took down Stanford in a sweep, swept Oregon, and had wins over UCLA and USC, but had losses to non-tournament teams Colorado and Oregon State. 

In their first-round matchup, they take on Georgia in Provo, Utah, a tough battle with an SEC opponent to get their run going.

Washington State (24-7, 14-6) 

Similar to the Sun Devils, the Cougs have several big Pac-12 wins but also head some head-scratching defeats. Led by Pia Timmer and Magda Jehlárová, the Cougs reached heights as high as No. 4 in the AVCA poll, finishing the season as the No. 10 team.

Jehlárová earned her fifth consecutive All-Pac-12 First Team nomination, the first player in Conference history to make the First Team five times in a career. She led the Pac-12 in blocks per set in 2023, putting up a solid 1.37. She also remained efficient on offense, hitting a career-best and second-best in the Pac12 .416%. 

Alongside the two First-Team players, the Cougs had three Honorable Mentions in the postseason awards: Iman Isanovic, Argentina Ung and Katy Ryan.

At one point this season, the Cougs won 14 straight matches, as well as going 7-5 during the regular season against teams that made the NCAA Tournament. They have the ability to get hot and run the table, but it all starts with round one. 

USC (18-12, 12-8)

Team number five and the final team to make the dance, USC was led by the efforts of Skylar Fields in 2023. Fields, the fifth-year who earned her second All-Pac-12 First Team selection, had an astonishing 5.19 kills per set while hitting .295% this season. Her setter, Mia Tuaniga, also earned an All-Pac-12 First Team selection as the duo dominated the net. 

USC’s best wins of the season came against Purdue early on, as well as huge wins over WSU and Arizona State that secured their bid for the Tournament. Already showing upset potential, the Trojans will need big performances from their stars if they want to continue to win matches.

Fields accounted for nearly 40% of the kills per set for USC in 2023, meaning that a team realistically needs to slow her down and they will win, despite that being easier said than done. 

UCLA (18-12, 10-10)

Part of the first eight out of the NCAA Tournament, the Bruins were right on the cusp of earning a NCAA Tournament bid. Doing so with just one All-Pac-12 First Team member, they fniished an even .500% in Pac-12 play.

Starting Conference play 3-7 certainly hurt the team, as two or three more wins would guarantee a spot in the postseason, but this season was not a complete failure. The Bruins team has a lot of young talent that will step up to bigger roles with the departing seniors in 2024. 

While a new Conference will pose its own challenges, UCLA is looking ahead to the future. 

Colorado (16-15, 8-12)

The rest of the teams in the Pac-12 had nothing too special going on in 2023. However, Colorado had two standout freshmen. Outside Lily Dwinwell and middle blocker Cayla Payne both earned All-Pac-12 All-Freshman Team honors. The tandem, playing the same positions as the Cougs’ Timmer and Jehlárová, will be the keys to the Buff’s success in coming years.

Washington (16-15, 7-13)

UW, like Colorado, had two freshmen featured on the All-Pac-12 All-Freshman Team. As the program begins to prep to take on the Big Ten in 2024. 

Kierstyn Barton and Katy Wessels, the outside hitter and middle blocker duo, will lead the charge as they both had successful freshman campaigns. 

Oregon State (11-19, 6-14)

Despite winning just six matches of their Pac-12 schedule, the Beavers made some noise. Beating both Arizona State and WSU, OSU had a lot of success as they came in with very low expectations. While not a season to write home about by any means, some of the wins were big. 

Utah (11-19, 6-14)

It was a wasted season for the Utes, whose only season sweep was over Oregon State and whose best win was over UCLA. 

California (16-15, 5-15)

The 2023 season was the Maggie Li show. The standout Pac-12 Freshman of the Year had a fantastic first season and played a vital role in the five Pac-12 wins the team garnered. It was a weird season, as a 11-0 preseason got completely flipped into their 5-15 Pac-12 record, but they did not play many great teams during that preseason run. 

Arizona (8-23, 3-17) 

The Wildcats finished with their worst Conference performance since the 1991 season, when they finished 0-18 in the then-Pac-10. 

One of the few bright spots was the two Wildcats to finish with over 29 service aces. Sofia Maldonado Diaz finished second on the team with 29 aces and Ana Heath led Arizona with 38.

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About the Contributor
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 2023 before transitioning to the role of multimedia editor. He enjoys watching sports, backpacking, and watching horror movies.