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This Week in WAC Volleyball
Courtesy: New Mexico State


Hawai‘i outside hitter Jamie Houston has been named Western Athletic Conference Volleyball Player of the Week for Sept. 22-28. This is the second WAC Player of the Week honor of the season for Houston and the seventh of her career.


The Huntsville, Ala., (Huntsville HS) native averaged 6.33 points, 6.17 kills and 2.33 digs per set while hitting .308 as she led the Rainbow Wahine to a 2-0 record in their first two road matches of the year. The senior posted 21 kills on .341 hitting with 11 digs in just three sets at Louisiana Tech for her second double-double of the season. She then had a match-high 16 kills in a sweep of New Mexico State. Houston is now averaging 4.38 kills, 1.65 digs and 0.65 blocks per set for the season, including a 5.50 kills per set average in WAC play.


Other nominees included: Elizabeth Griffin of Boise State had a team-high 10 kills against Idaho ... Fresno State’s Kelly Leonardo had a season-high 12 kills in the Bulldogs’ five-set win at Utah State ... Haley Larsen of Idaho tallied 40 kills (5.00 per set), including 31 at Boise State ... New Mexico State’s Lindsey Yon averaged 4.17 kills and 2.50 digs per set as the Aggies went 1-1 on the week ... Brittany Collet of San Jose State led the Spartans to two WAC road wins, averaging 9.62 assists and 2.88 digs per set ... Utah State’s Christine Morrill averaged 4.60 digs per set and recorded a career-high 27 digs in a five-set win over Nevada.



After two weeks of conference play, only one team remains undefeated in WAC play. Hawai‘i swept past New Mexico State on Saturday in the battled of the unbeatens, while Utah State fell to Fresno State in five sets last Thursday. The Rainbow Wahine have gone undefeated in WAC play nine times (1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005).



In the most recent NCAA statistics (Sept. 29), the Rainbow Wahine are tops in the nation in kills and assists per set, with averages of 15.27 and 14.18, respectively. Hawai‘i also ranks ninth in hitting percentage (.292) and 24th in won-loss percentage (.846).



Four WAC players are currently ranked in the Top 50 nationally in blocks per set - Amber Simpson, New Mexico State, 9th (1.44), Anna McKinney, Idaho, 16th (1.33), KC Clayton, Louisiana Tech, 26th (1.29) and Lydia Blaha, Boise State, 45th (1.21).



In overall team stats, Hawai‘i leads the conference in hitting percentage (.292), assists (14.18), kills (15.27) and service aces (1.40). Boise State is tops in blocks per set (2.78), while New Mexico State boasts the lowest opponent hitting percentage (.164) and Idaho leads the league in digs per set (15.19).


In conference only statistics, Hawai‘i currently leads the WAC in hitting percentage (.301), assists (15.31), kills (16.92) and service aces (1.77). Boise State is tops in blocks (2.68), while New Mexico State leads the league in opponent hitting percentage (.135) and digs (15.92).


Individually, Idaho’s Haley Larsen leads the league in kills (4.50) and points (4.94) per set. Hawai‘i’s Nickie Thomas leads the WAC in hitting percentage (.408), while teammates Dani Mafua and Amber Kaufman are tops in assists (11.25) and service aces (0.57), respectively. New Mexico State’s Amber Simpson leads the league in blocks per set (1.44), while Debora Bolonhini of Louisiana Tech ranks first in digs per set (4.46).


In conference matches only, Hawai‘i’s Jamie Houston leads the league in kills (5.50) and points (5.67), while teammates Mafua and Aneli Cubi-Otineru are tops in assists (12.08) and service aces (0.64), respectively. Katie Astle of Utah State leads the WAC in hitting percentage (.479), while New Mexico State’s Amber Simpson is tops in blocking (1.67). Meanwhile, Bolonhini leads the conference in digs (4.83).


Boise State Broncos (4-9, 1-2 WAC)

Boise State went 1-1 last week, defeating Idaho State in four sets (14-25, 25-20, 25-16, 25-23) in non-conference play before falling to Idaho in five sets (13-25, 25-23, 25-22, 14-25, 9-15) in WAC play ... Elizabeth Griffin had a team-high 10 kills against Idaho ... Three Broncos - Jeanette Jenkins (19), Sadie Maughan (14) and Griffin (13) - notched double-digit kills against Idaho State ... The five-set match vs. Idaho was Boise State’s first of the season.


Fresno State Bulldogs (5-8, 2-2 WAC)

Fresno State went 1-1 last week, defeating Utah State in five sets (25-22, 25-22, 17-25, 13-25, 15-13) before being swept by San Jose State (19-25, 20-25, 22-25) ... Kelly Leonardo had a season-high 12 kills on .455 hitting at Utah State ... The Bulldogs have now tied their win total from last season ... Fresno State’s 2-1 start in the WAC is its best since 2003.


Hawai‘i Rainbow Wahine (11-2, 4-0 WAC)

UH went 2-0 last week, sweeping Louisiana Tech (25-11, 25-20, 25-16) and New Mexico State (26-24, 25-20, 25-23) ...             Jamie Houston posted 21 kills on .341 hitting with 11 digs for her second double-double of the season vs. the Lady Techsters ... Houston also had a match-high 16 kills at New Mexico State ... Hawai‘i earned its first sweep at New Mexico State since 1993, when the two teams were in the Big West Conference ... The previous four matches in Las Cruces (since NMSU joined the WAC in 2005) had all gone to five sets ... UH won its 10th-straight match after starting the season 1-2 ... UH is now 173-3 all-time in conference play.


Idaho Vandals  (8-6, 1-2 WAC)

The Vandals went 1-1 last week, falling in three sets to New Mexico State (19-25, 18-25, 15-25) before beating Boise State in five sets (25-13, 23-25, 22-25, 25-14, 15-9) ... Haley Larsen finished with 31 kills vs. the Broncos, which ties for seventh on Idaho’s match records lists and marks the third time in her career she has eclipsed the 30-kill mark ... Larsen set Idaho’s career kills record during the match. Her career total now stands at 1,538, besting the previous record of 1,524 by Kelly Gibbons (1981-84) ... Larsen also added 14 digs for her fifth double-double of the season.


Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters (2-8, 0-3 WAC)

The Techsters went 1-1 last week, defeating Northwestern State in four sets (23-25, 25-23, 25-16, 25-17) before being swept by Hawai‘i (11-25, 20-25, 16-25) ... Libero Debora Bolonhini finished with 18 digs vs. Northwestern State and 11 vs. Hawai‘i and currently leads the WAC in digs per set.


Nevada Wolf Pack (5-8, 1-3 WAC)

The Pack went 0-3 last week, dropping two five-set matches to San Jose State (24-26, 25-23, 25-22, 12-25, 7-15) and Utah State (11-25, 25-17, 26-24, 22-25, 16-18) and falling in four sets at UNLV (26-24, 23-25, 13-25, 18-25) ... Lindsay Baldwin posted a career-high 21 kills vs. the Spartans ... Nicole Link tied her career-high with 19 kills at UNLV ... Nevada has lost four matches in a row.


New Mexico State Aggies (8-7, 3-1 WAC)

The Aggies went 1-1 at home last weekend, sweeping Idaho (25-19, 25-18, 25-15) and falling in  three sets to No. 7 Hawai‘i (24-26, 20-25, 23-25) ... Lindsey Yon had a match-high 14 kills to go along with 15 digs at Idaho for her fifth double-double of the season ... Yon also had a team-high 11 kills vs. the Rainbow Wahine ... Amber Simpson leads the conference in blocks at 1.44 per set ... NMSU is holding its opponents to a .164 hitting percentage, which is tops in the WAC.


San Jose State Spartans (6-8, 2-2 WAC)

The Spartans picked up two road WAC wins last week, defeating Nevada in five sets (26-24, 23-25, 22-25, 25-12, 15-7) and sweeping Fresno State (25-19, 25-20, 25-22) ... Brittany Collet had her first double-double of the season and the ninth of her career against Nevada with 49 assists and 15 digs ... Kelly Crow led the team in kills in both matches with 20 against Nevada and 11 at Fresno State, where she added 10 digs for her third double-double of the season ... Brianna Amian had 18 kills and a team-high nine blocks at Nevada ... The Spartans are edging their opponents this season in kills (12.98-12.51), hitting percentage (.232-.221), assists (11.95-11.67) and digs (12.60-12.15).


Utah State Aggies (4-10, 2-1 WAC)

Utah State went 1-1 last week with a five-set loss to Fresno State (22-25, 22-25, 25-17, 25-13, 13-15) and a five-set win against Nevada (25-11, 17-25, 24-26, 25-22, 18-16) ... Against the Bulldogs, Melissa Osterloh had a career-high 22 kills and hit .375, while Liz McArthur added a career-high 15 kills ... Against the Wolf Pack, Christine Morrill had a career-high 27 digs, while Katie Astle had a career-high 11 kills on .562 hitting ... Jessalyn Payne posted a career-high 13 kills and hit .333 vs. the Wolf Pack ... Utah State has won four of its last six matches ... During its first eight matches of the season, USU hit .154 and its opponents hit .295. In its last six matches, USU is hitting .198 as compared to a .181 hitting percentage for its opponents.



In a poll of the league’s coaches, defending Western Athletic Conference champion Hawai‘i was the unanimous favorite to defend its crown in 2008 and take home its 13th-straight regular-season title. The Rainbow Wahine received eight of the nine first-place votes (coaches can’t vote for their own team) and 64 points, with New Mexico State earning the other first-place vote and 57 points.


San Jose State and Idaho finished tied for third with 42 points, while Utah State was picked fifth with 40. Nevada was sixth with 34 points, followed by Boise State (20) and Fresno State (16). Louisiana Tech rounded out the poll with nine points.



The WAC Preseason all-WAC volleyball team, as voted on by the nine coaches, was announced Aug. 8. Hawai‘i All-American Jamie Houston was named WAC Preseason Player of the Year. The reigning WAC Player of the Year, this is Houston’s second-straight honor and the fourth-straight season that a Rainbow Wahine player earned the preseason honor.


New Mexico State placed the most athletes on the 12-player team with four. Seniors Krystal Torres and Amber Simpson, and juniors Krista Altermatt and Lindsey Yon earned preseason honors. Simpson, Yon and Torres were all first-team all-WAC selections in 2007.


Two other Hawai‘i players, juniors Aneli Cubi-Otineru and Amber Kaufman, joined Houston on the preseason team. Both Houston and Cubi-Otineru were first team all-WAC selections last season. San Jose State also had two players make the team with seniors Niki Clement and Colleen Burke earning nods.


Chelsea Fowles of Utah State, the 2007 WAC Freshman of the Year, and Idaho’s Haley Larsen were also named to the team, while Nevada’s Lindsay Baldwin rounded out the preseason squad. Six teams placed at least one player on the preseason all-WAC. Eight players are returning first-team all-WAC honorees.



For the fourth-straight year the WAC will not compete in divisions. This season’s format will be a double-round robin. Each team will face the other eight at home and on the road. All nine teams will compete in the WAC Volleyball Tournament.



Nov. 20 (Quarterfinals) 

Match 1 - No. 8 vs. No. 9, 9:30 a.m.                  

Match 2 - No. 4 vs. No. 5, noon

Match 3 - No. 3 vs. No. 6, 2:30 p.m.

Match 4 - No. 2 vs. No. 7, 5 p.m.

Match 5 - Winner Match 1 vs. No. 1, 7:30 p.m.


Nov. 21 (Semifinals)

Match 6 - Winner Match 3 vs. Winner Match 4, 5 p.m.

Match 7 - Winner Match 2 vs. Winner Match 5, 7:30 p.m.


Nov. 23 (Championship)

Match 8 - Winner Match 6 vs. Winner Match 7, 3 p.m.



The 2008 WAC Volleyball Tournament will be hosted by Hawai‘i, Nov. 20-23, at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu. It marks the first time Hawai‘i has hosted the WAC Volleyball Championship. 



Louisiana Tech and Fresno State both added new head coaches this off season. Former Tulsa head coach Matt Sonnichsen become the Lady Techsters’ new head coach, while former Hofstra head coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell takes the reins for the Bulldogs.


Sonnichsen was the head coach at Newberry College in 2007. Prior to his stay at Newberry, Sonnichsen was an assistant at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, where he coached the 2006 season under his father, Tom. Sonnichsen’s longest tenure as head coach came during his eight seasons at the helm of the University of Tulsa Hurricanes. Under his guidance, Tulsa had its first winning season in over 20 years in 2000 while finishing with 20 wins or better three separate seasons. His team finished second in the Eastern Division WAC in 2004 and earned a third place finish in C-USA in 2005.


In her two years at Hofstra, Netherby-Sewell led the Pride to their first-ever Colonial Athletic Association Championship in 2006 with a 17-1 conference record. That team was ranked No. 32 in the country, the highest ever ranking in school history. They also won their schools’ first NCAA Tournament game and advanced to the second round. Her overall record as a head coach is 43-19. Before being named head coach at Hofstra, Netherby-Sewell was an assistant for the Pride for two seasons, following two years as an assistant at Columbia, where she also earned her master’s in physical education.



Of the 12 first-team all-WAC players in 2007, six returned for the 2008 season, including two from Hawai‘i, Jamie Houston and Aneli Cubi-Otineru. There are three returning from New Mexico State, Amber Simpson, Krystal Torres and Lindsey Yon. Idaho’s Haley Larsen and San Jose State’s Colleen Burke also return from the first team.


Six of the second-team all-WAC performers returned this season, including San Jose State’s Niki Clement. Idaho’s Sarah Loney and Utah State’s Danielle Taylor and Melissa Osterloh also return from the second team. The other remaining second-team honorees from last season are Hawai‘i’s Stephanie Brandt and Tara Hittle.



The following are the sites for regional competition of the 2008 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championships.


Regionals (4) December 12-13, 2008

Host: Colorado State University

Moby Arena

Fort Collins, Colorado


Host: Pennsylvania State University

Rec Hall

University Park, Pennsylvania


Host: University of Texas

Gregory Gymnasium

Austin, Texas


Host: University of Washington

Bank of America Arena

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