Pac-12 volleyball coaches pick Stanford women to win title


The Stanford women's volleyball team was unanimously picked to defend its conference title in a vote among Pac-12 coaches on Tuesday.

The Cardinal, which has won seven of the last nine conference championships, is coming off one of the best seasons in program history in terms of wins (33) and advanced to a nation-best 19th Final Four.

Inky Ajanaku/
Stanford received 11 of the first-place votes, totaling 121 points. Arizona State finished second in the voting with 99 points, followed by Washington (97), which picked up the remaining first-place vote. Rounding out the top half of the poll were Oregon (94), USC (84) and Colorado (61).

Arizona totaled 60 points to take seventh, followed by UCLA with 57 points in eighth. Oregon State (35), Utah (34), California (28) and Washington State (22) complete the poll.

Stanford, which has captured 16 conference championships since 1986, has been selected by the coaches to win the title for the 14th time in poll history.

The coaches have correctly chosen the champion 18 times out of the past 29 polls. The Cardinal has finished first or second in the conference 27 out of 29 seasons.

Stanford returns 10 letterwinners to the squad, which reached at least a regional final for the 10th time under coach John Dunning, who started at Stanford in 2001.

Seniors Madi Bugg, the two-time Pac-12 Setter of the Year, and outside hitter Jordan Burgess are returning AVCA First Team All-Americans, while redshirt sophomore middle blocker Merete Lutz earned second team honors.

The Cardinal will be without senior middle blocker Inky Ajanaku, the reigning Volleyball Magazine National Player of the Year, who suffered an injury while competing with the national team over the summer.

Ajanaku injured her right knee during a match in June and was slated to undergo a "procedure." The full extent of the injury has not been revealed, though a description of the injury suggests something similar to a torn ACL, an injury that sidelined former Cardinal All-American Cynthia Barboza 10 years ago.

Bugg, Burgess and Lutz all earned spots on the Preseason All-Pac-12 squad. Stanford led all teams with three selections. Oregon and Washington each had two players selected.

The regular season begins on Friday, Aug. 28. Stanford will open its season at Maples Pavilion as it hosts Texas A&M at 6 p.m. on the Pac-12 Networks. It marks the first time since 2006 that the Cardinal will open its season at home.

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