Dissecting the Pac-12 open

Emma Lantos/File

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1. UCLA:
Though UCLA begin this season with No. 1 national ranking, its season start looked a little shaky. The Bruins fell last weekend to No. 4 Nebraska, demonstrating that their place atop the NCAA rankings isn’t impermeable. Seniors Tabi Love and Rachael Kidder provide the Bruins with a consistent source of kills and leadership to safeguard their place atop the Pac-12.
Alex Matthews
2. Stanford:
Stanford ranked sixth in the national preseason poll and return a strong base of veterans this year.  Bolstered by their two All-Americans, Rachel Williams and Carly Wopat, the Cardinal return all but one starter. It will be up to coach John Dunning in his 12th year to strike the right balance of cohesion and chemistry between his squad.
Camellia Semenar
3. USC:
The Trojans have a well-rounded roster and only graduated two players following their NCAA final four appearance last year. The team’s youth has already made a major contribution — freshman outside hitter Samantha Bricio was named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week, averaging 3.70 kills per set in her debut. Still, the Trojans are as vulnerable, particularly with the loss of All-American outside hitter Alex Jupiter.
— Alex Matthews
4. Oregon:
The Ducks have jumped three spots to No. 17 in the first poll of the season after the team’s 3-0 sweeps against Toledo and Houston. Senior Alaina Bergsma is coming off a strong weekend, being voted Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week after the 3-2 victory against Ohio State. The top three spots in the conference may be locked but expect to see a real mid-table battle between Oregon, Washington and Cal.
— Camellia Semenar
5. Washington:
The fact that the No. 12 Huskies have swept their first three games and yet was projected to come in the middle of the conference says a lot about the intensity of the conference. The squad has retained most of their starters, including sophomore Krista Vansant, who had a 3.69 kills per set average. The youth of its stars suggest that it may be pose a threat to the conference’s top teams in seasons to come.
— Alex Matthews
6. California:
After a disappointing opening weekend, Cal has dropped to No. 25 nationwide. The team still looks to find a leader in the wake of Tarah Murrey’s graduation. After snagging the Pac-10 championship title and making an NCAA Final appearance two years ago, the Bears dropped off last season with a second-round NCAA exit. Fast forward to this season and it is looking bleak for Coach Feller and his squad.
— Camellia Semenar
7. Arizona:
The way the Wildcats have been tinkering with their younger roster could pose a threat against the teams toward the top of the rankings. Sophomore outside hitter Madi Kingdon and freshman Taylor Arizobal are emerging as offensive forces for Arizona, averaging 4.82 and 4.45 kills per set respectively in their first matches with the team.
— Alex Matthews
8. Arizona State:
After winning their first three matches, the year looks brighter than forecasted for the Sun Devils. Granted, their three-game win streak last season came against Oregon State, Colorado and Utah – all three teams are predicted to finish below them in the conference rankings. Sophomore Nora Tuioti-Mariner will provide a strong presence for the team after an impressive freshman campaign.
— Camellia Semenar
9. Oregon State:
The Beavers have consistently remained in the lower echelons of the conference. The Beavers promisingly pushed their way to five sets their first loss of the season against No. 21 Kansas State last weekend. That was partially due to the contribution of sophomore Arica Nassar, who was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. Senior Camille Saxton has been an offensive leader for Oregon State, placing 10th in the Pac-12 for kills last year.
— Alex Matthews
10. Utah:
After holding the ninth place last year, they are projected to finish one spot closer to the bottom. Utah has posted wins in all of its six matches so far, but all those have been played in the comfort of their own state. Setter McKenzie Odale is the only senior on the squad and with five newcomers, the leadership will be a key asset the Utes need to focus on.

— Camellia Semenar

11. Washington State:
Despite the contribution of outside hitter Meagan Ganzer, who led the Pac-12 in points and kills last year, the Cougars still made a dismal 11th place finish in the conference last year. Despite the opportunity to play outside of the trying Pac-12 in their first matches, Washington State has already posted a losing record. Without Ganzer around, they don’t have much to compete against the fierce competition they face each year in the Pac-12.
— Alex Matthews

12. Colorado:
After finishing in bottom place last season, this year is not predicted to be any different. Returning senior and captain Kerra Schroeder will look to instill some confidence in her teammates, including the new setter in freshmen Nicole Edelman. With three wins already under the team’s belt, that may not be as hard as it seems. But don’t expect Colorado to make any major upsets – the Buffaloes only notched one win last season.
— Camellia Semenar