HPUs Kelly Balanay named Preseason Player of Year
PHOENIX, AZ – With five of the nine Pacific West Conference women’s volleyball teams picking up first-place votes, deciding who will claim the 2010 league championship may be akin to five dice tumbling out of a Yahtzee cup.
The head coaches of the PacWest have predicted that Dixie State will collect its first conference championship in women’s volleyball this fall, but by the slimmest of margins. In the end, the chase for a title and an automatic berth in the NCAA II National Championship Tournament may not be decided until the final day of the regular season.
The PacWest released its predicted order of finish and Preseason All-Conference Team on Monday during the annual Volleyball Media Day broadcast from Hawai‘i.
The Red Storm totaled 78 points in the preseason coaches’ poll – including a trio of first-place votes – getting the nod as the preseason favorite to claim this year’s crown. But reigning champion Hawai‘i Hilo also received three first-place votes and ranked second with 74 points. Dixie State finished as the runner-up in the PacWest last season, boasting an 18-7 overall record and a 12-4 mark in the conference.
BYU-Hawaii and Hawai‘i Pacific can’t be discounted either. The Seasiders are picked third with 71 total points, while the Sea Warriors enter the season ranked fourth with 70 points. Each team received one first-place vote.
Grand Canyon did not receive a first-place nod, but the Antelopes accumulated 62 points and are picked to finish fifth, while Academy of Art nabbed the final first-place vote and are predicted to finish sixth after amassing 51 points.
Chaminade and Notre Dame de Namur tied for seventh with 32 points each, while Dominican University of California is slated to finish ninth.
While Dixie State Hawai‘i Hilo and BYU-Hawaii have garnered the top three slots in the poll, it is Hawai‘i Pacific senior middle hitter Kelly Balanay (San Diego, CA/Valhalla) who has been named the PacWest Preseason Player of the Year.
The three-time All-PacWest First Team selection was second in kill percentage in the PacWest last year after posting a .306 average. She registered 289 kills on 641 attempts with 93 errors and ended the season eighth in the conference in kills per game (2.95).
Balanay totaled 359 points in 2009, averaging 3.66 per game to stand sixth in the league. Her point total also featured 70 block assists, 21 block solos and 14 aces.
In addition to being the Preseason Player of the Year, Balanay was the lone HPU representative on the Preseason All-PacWest Team.
Dixie State landed a pair of players on the preseason squad, including the 2010 Preseason Libero of the Year in junior Jayci Jeffress (Brighton, CO/Brighton). Last season Jeffress made her All-PacWest First Team debut and was named the Libero of the Year after averaging 5.46 digs per game. Her defense was stellar as she totaled 524 digs in 96 games, ranking second in dig average and third in total digs.
Jeffress is joined on the preseason squad by junior middle hitter Morgan Hill (Logan, UT/Logan) who was an All-PacWest Second Team choice in 2009. Last season Hill ranked second in the PacWest in blocks per game (1.09), finishing her campaign with 88 blocks on 25 solos and 63 assists. She also finished ninth in the league in hitting with a .266 average.
Hawai‘i Hilo also posted two players on the preseason team thanks to senior setter Katie Swenson (Omaha, NE/Gross Catholic) and senior right side Kawena Cubi-Otineru (Haleiwa, HI/St. Francis). Both players were named All-PacWest Second Team in 2009.
Swenson claimed PacWest Newcomer of the Year honors in 2009 after leading the conference in assist average (12.13 per game). She totaled 1104 assists in 91 games last season.
Cubi-Otineru ended the 2010 campaign third in the PacWest in hitting with a .302 average – one of just three conference players to finish the season above the.300 mark. She posted 198 kills in 398 attempts with 78 errors.
BYU-Hawaii junior outside hitter Losaline Faka‘osi (Salt Lake City, UT/Highland) earned preseason accolades after making the All-PacWest First Team last year. In 2008 she was the Freshman of the Year.
Faka‘osi, who is outstanding on offense and defense, finished the 2009 campaign ranked fourth in digs per game (4.25) and sixth in kills per contest (3.07) in the PacWest. She totaled 273.5 points, 353 digs, 255 kills, six aces and 25 block assists, and ended her season eighth in the league in points per game (3.30).
Academy of Art senior outside hitter Dan Yang (Beijing, China/Beijing 5th Sports School) rounds out the preseason squad after earning All-PacWest First Team accolades in 2009. Last season she led the conference in scoring with a 4.80 points-per-game average.
She totaled 571.5 points – a league high – on 518 kills (also tops in the PacWest), 19 aces, 13 block solos and 43 block assists. She ranked first in kills per game (4.35) and eighth in hitting with a .271 average.