If you remember from last year, I wrote about the only statistic that was common to the last 7 national champions in Division III volleyball. The statistic is hitting percentage and we now have to make that the last 8 national champions as CMS finished 8th in the nation. I wanted to loop back around this year and highlight some of the better hitting West Region teams and take a quick look at some of the top individual hitters returning.
When you see Colorado College getting mentioned as one of the top teams in the nation, part of that is because they finished 4th in hitting percentage (0.259) and are returning most of the student-athletes that contributed to that statistic. I can basically guarantee you that Colorado College will again finish in the Top 10 in hitting percentage this season, which essentially means that if history holds they are only one of ten teams that have a chance at the title.
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, as I mentioned, finished 8th nationally (0.253) but are losing over half of their hitting stats from senior graduation. So, they still have a strong base to work from but will obviously have to prove the replacements can be as efficient.
UMHB finished 11th (0.246) last year and all of their hitters should be returning. They are in a great position to repeat their success and this is one of the main reasons I have them in my Top 25.
Southwestern came in as 15th (0.241) in the nation but, like CMS, will be losing around half of the players that contributed to it. Another team that will have to prove they have the underclassmen ready to step up.
Trinity finished the year in 18th place (0.239) but will lose a couple of players that contributed to this statistic.
Other teams in the Top 50 from the West Region were UT-Tyler (36), Pacific (41) and UT-Dallas (43). All three teams should return enough to improve on these positions in 2018. As I’ve mentioned in past posts, UT-Tyler is one of my favorite teams to watch hit.
Looking at the top 50 individuals returning back to the West Region, we have:
Sarah Paolini (UMHB – MB / 0.368 / 12th in nation)
UMHB didn’t play the strongest of schedules last year but Sarah had some of her best matches against top teams.
Melanie Moore (CMS – MB / 0.355 / 20th in nation)
Melanie accomplished this feat as a freshman, which is a clear sign that you can never count out CMS even when they are losing half of their hitting to graduation. I would expect teams to pay a little more attention to her this year, but you have to figure she’ll come close to repeating these numbers.
Milana Ivkovic (Pacific – MB / 0.352 / 22nd in nation)
You may be sensing a trend that middles tend to have a higher hitting percentage. As a former middle, deal with it! Milana is one of the leaders of a team that doesn’t get much press. That could change this year as Pacific and Milana are only getting better.
Lauren Friend (Chapman – MB / 0.330 / 39th in nation)
Chapman will be leaning on Lauren a lot this year to stay in the top four in the SCIAC. Her hitting percentage has increased every year as she enters her senior season.
Samantha Lee (UT-Tyler – MB / 0.328 / 43rd in nation)
Samantha came back strong her junior year but her freshman year is still her best with respect to hitting percentage (0.344).
Alright, I’m sure you want to see some other positions represented, so here are the top returning right side and outside hitter from the West Region:
Aria Dudley (Colorado College – RS / 0.313 / 77th in nation)
In addition to middles, you see a number of right sides in this category. Aria is one of the best returning right sides in the nation.
Jordan Mullen (Colorado College – OH / .280 / 167th in nation)
Jordan was probably the best player in the Southwestern Regional last year not named Margaux Arntson. She was rewarded by NOT making the all-tournament team after hitting over 0.400 in two of three matches and getting 22 points against CMS. Tough crowd. Only a junior, she will be one of the most efficient outsides in the West Region in 2018.
Some parting thoughts. Colorado College is going to be good. Their middles didn’t make my list but they were there, just outside the cut. There were a number of seniors on the list but I wanted to highlight Margaux Arntson (CMS – Right Side) and Kate Mitchell (Southwestern – Right Side). Arntson hit 0.340 (!) while Mitchell hit 0.320 in their final season and were really the two best hitters I got to see last year. If I needed one ball put down and I knew I was going to stay in system, give me Arntson. If my set was going to be a little off then give me Mitchell. I look forward to see who is going to step up in 2018 and take their places in the West Region.