Women's volleyball NCAA regional finals 09

Brigham Young University outside hitter Madelyn Robinson (3) celebrates a point during an NCAA regional final match between the Brigham Young University Cougars and the University of Texas Longhorns held Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, at Smith Fieldhouse in Provo. Isaac Hale, Daily Herald

After extending its own conference record in marching to its seventh consecutive NCAA Sweet-16 berth en route to the program’s second NCAA Final Four since 2014, BYU was picked as the favorite to win the 2019 West Coast Conference Volleyball Championship in the annual preseason poll of the WCC’s 10 coaches. The Cougars have won or shared six of the last seven WCC titles including five straight.

For the third straight year, BYU was a unanimous selection to win the conference title, earning 81 points and a maximum nine first place votes. After marching to its ninth straight NCAA Tournament last season, San Diego, who advanced to the 2018 NCAA Sweet 16, collected 71 points and the remaining first place vote for second place in the poll.

Pepperdine advanced to the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament and was tabbed third with 66 points, followed by PCH rival LMU with 58. The Lions also marched to the second round of the 2018 postseason. Saint Mary’s rounded out the top half of the predicted leaderboard with 42 votes. All five programs appearing in the top half of the preseason poll advanced to the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

Pacific and Portland snared 33 points to share sixth place followed closely by Gonzaga (32). The Pilots are fresh off the first-ever postseason appearance in program history, advancing to the quarterfinals of the NIVC Postseason Tournament. Santa Clara (18) and San Francisco (16) rounded out the survey.

No fewer than four programs placed at least three student-athletes on the preseason All-WCC squad, led by four apiece from BYU and Pepperdine. LMU and San Diego each earned three preseason selections, while Gonzaga and Pacific each collected a spot.

Five returning All-Americans made the preseason team led BYU senior libero Mary Lake (2nd), the 2018 WCC Defensive Player of the Year, who earned a spot on the USA Volleyball roster and BYU sophomore middle blocker Heather Gneiting (3rd), the 2018 AVCA National Freshman of the Year and a member of the USA Volleyball Junior National Team. Junior middle blocker Kennedy Eschenberg and senior outside hitter McKenna Miller both earned honorable mention selection last season for the Cougars as did LMU junior setter Tess Reid.

All 10 West Coast Conference teams open the 2019 campaign Friday, August 30. 

Follow Darnell Dickson on Twitter @darnellwrites or e-mail him at ddickson@heraldextra.com.

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