If you follow the site, you know that for the past 8 nation championships the only common statistic that each winner has shared is that they were all in the Top 11 of hitting percentage. (Yeah, that doesn’t sound as nice as Top 10 but blame Emory, not me.) So, like last year I wanted to take a look at the top hitting teams in the West Region while sprinkling in some of the top hitters returning. First let’s take a look at the top 13 teams nationally from last year and their chances to repeat in 2019. (There was a three-way tie for 11th last year.)
|1||JWU (Providence) (Great Northeast)||114||1,602||446||3,901||0.296|
|3||Colorado Col. (SCAC)||124||1,705||583||4,282||0.262|
|4||Baldwin Wallace (OAC)||107||1,447||464||3,824||0.257|
|5||Trinity (TX) (SCAC)||120||1,622||541||4,213||0.257|
|6||Calvin (Michigan Intercol. Ath. Assn.)||129||1,700||567||4,470||0.253|
|7||Wm. Paterson (NJAC)||95||1,116||330||3,144||0.250|
|8||Mary Hardin-Baylor (ASC)||124||1,659||554||4,463||0.248|
|10||Marymount (VA) (Atlantic East)||103||1,389||471||3,724||0.247|
|13||Wis.-Eau Claire (WIAC)||134||1,857||669||4,876||0.244|
JWU appears to be returning their hitters next season so they should be in a really good position to repeat their hitting percentage victory. I will say that their schedule looks a little tougher this season with matches against Emory, Juniata and Ithaca as well as playing most of the top teams in the New England Region.
MIT is losing 44% of their points to senior graduation so expect them to slip down these standings a bit.
I’ll talk about Colorado College, Trinity and UMHB below.
Baldwin Wallace was a bit of a surprise here but expect them to repeat these statistics as they only lose 16% of their points to graduation. They also have to replace one of their setters.
Calvin loses 29% of their statistics in the name of Anna Kamp and for the first time in a long time there will not be a Kamp on the roster in 2019. I still expect Calvin to be a top team in hitting as they are a program that typically reloads pretty easily.
Another surprise team was William Paterson but with 53% of their points leaving, they should struggle more next season.
Expect Amherst to repeat as they only lose 4% of their points while Marymount will need to compensate for the loss of half of their points and should drop.
The rest of the teams are a little iffy. Chicago is losing 31% of their points but it might be low enough to compensate with what they have returning. Emory is another program that tends to reload but they are facing a bigger 47% loss as well as losing their setter. Finally, UW-Eau Claire is looking at a 32% loss in addition to their setter.
Let’s take a look specifically at the West Region teams that finished in the Top 50 in this statistic. One thing that may be surprising is that CMS wasn’t one of these teams as they finished 60th. They are returning everyone so a Top 50 finish is in the cards but as one of my favorites for the championship, they are going to have to improve a lot to make the Top 11.
Colorado College finished 3rd in hitting percentage after finishing 4th the year before. They ran into Emory in the NCAA Tournament or they could have gone further. They are only losing 22% of their points so expect another run by the Tigers in 2019. Along with CMS, they are another national champion possibility for me.
Trinity finished 5th but they are losing almost half of their points to graduation. I expect them to take a step back although the Tigers are really good about finding replacements each year.
UMHB finished 8th and are another team that should be returning everyone in 2019. They should only get better and after making the Regional Final (also losing to Emory) they may have the experience to make take that next step. That’s right; we’ve got three West Region teams that have a really strong shot at a championship this year.
It’s a bit of a drop-off until we find Chapman coming in at 32nd (0.227). They are losing 36% of their points to graduation but they have a couple of amazing sophomores leading them in 2019. With that said, I don’t see them cracking the Top 11.
UT-Dallas finished 46th (0.222) and are only losing 15% to senior graduation. We’d expect some improvement but I’ve done a roster analysis on the Comets and another two really good hitters are also leaving.
Coming in at number 50 was McMurry (0.221). They are losing 31% of their points to graduation so we won’t be seeing them jump to far up these rankings.
One of the more surprising things to me was that there were only 6 schools in the Top 50 in hitting percentage from the West Region. Last year there were 8 teams so overall a bit of a down year for the West.
Turning our attention to individual players, let’s take a look at the Top 50 in hitting percentage that should be returning in the West Region.
Hope Hoelscher (UMHB – MB / 0.392 / 8th in Nation)
The leading hitter in the West Region was a freshman and there is improvement to be found here. Hope was a little inconsistent during the year so if that gets cleaned up then she’ll be taking a run at the top spot in 2019.
Margo Spaethling (Colorado College – MB / 0.373 / 15th in Nation)
As a Southwestern fan, Margo was really annoying last year. She heads into her senior year as the best hitter in the SCAC who often has her best matches against the best teams.
Alyssa Porter (UT-Dallas – MB/OH / 0.366 / 22nd in Nation)
Alyssa got her chance to shine in 2018 and didn’t disappoint. She’ll be heading into her senior year and should improve on her statistics as she becomes even more important to the offense.
Justice McGowan (McMurry – MB / 0.360 / 25th in Nation)
The ASC will finally get rid of Justice after this upcoming season. One of the most efficient hitters in the conferences not to mention her outstanding blocking.
Milana Ivkovic (Pacific – MB / 0.360 / 25th in Nation)
The most efficient hitter out of the NWC is Milana. She had 22 kills in a losing effort to Pacific Lutheran but more efforts like that will be needed for Pacific to be successful in 2019. Milana was 22nd last year in this statistic.
Maci Haddad (Cal Lutheran – MB / 0.359 / 28th in Nation)
Another freshman making waves as Maci lead the SCIAC in hitting percentage in 2018, which really was a bit of a surprise in that tough conference.
Sarah Paolini (UMHB – MB / 0.355 / 30th in Nation)
Sarah was 12th in this statistic in 2017 and had another outstanding year last season. She’ll be a senior in 2019 on a very loaded Cru team.
A lot of middles, which just goes to show you how important the service receive and defense is to a team trying to run their offense. Playing out-of-system means you miss out on the high hitting percentages that middles often bring. With that said, let’s look further down the list of 250 that the NCAA ranks for some non-middle players.
Laney Swan (Colorado College – OH/RS / 0.291 / 162nd in Nation)
At the beginning of last season I would have never guessed Laney would be the most efficient returning non-middle in the West Region in 2018. She was pressed into service due to injuries while playing on both the right and left sides. She’ll be a junior in 2019 and she’ll only get better.
Sophie Srivastava (Chapman – S/RS / 0.279 / 203rd in Nation)
Still one of my favorites to watch as the setter/right side can put a hurt on the ball and those unfortunately on the receiving end. She’ll be a Sophomore in 2019 and it will be interesting to see how the team uses her. If she gets converted to a pure right side player than these statistics will jump a lot higher.
Phoebe Madsen (CMS – S/RS / 0.275 / 213th in Nation)
The Player of the Year in the West Region will be returning for her final year and these statistics show how hard it will be to take Phoebe off the front row. She was pressed into a larger role last year due to injuries and how she’s used in 2019 is one of the more interesting topics I’m looking forward to seeing.