PacWest poll predicts first place, winning conference run

For the first time in PacWest Conference history, the women’s volleyball program at California Baptist University has been favored to win the conference in the preseason poll.

Last season, the women finished with 16-12 overall, with 11 of the wins in conference play.

Making an impression in her freshman season, Lauren Hackett, sophomore international studies major and outside hitter, finished the season with 393 kills and multiple PacWest honors, including winning the title “Freshman of the Year.”

Hackett was also the only freshman to be named as an American Volleyball Coaches Association third team All-American.

Hackett said the honors are something the team is proud of and is a reflection of the team as a whole.

Branden Higa, head women’s volleyball coach, said the favorable ranking is an honor, but it does not change the team’s goal.

“Our goal every year is to win the PacWest,” he said. “It is going to be a great conference this year, and we are working hard to prepare for the competition of the regular season.”

Higa also said the team has been working together on self improvement.

“We’re really stressing making each other better,” he said. “The best thing you can do as a teammate is be the best at what you do so you can push the girl you’re competing against in practice to make her better.”

Making each other better during practice seemed to pay off once the pre-season polls were released. The team received votes from not only their peers in the PacWest, but in the AVCA’s Division II Top 25 Preseason Poll.

The goal of the 2015 season is not only to win a PacWest Conference championship, but a campaign in the NCAA Division II post-season. Higa said the chemistry of the team will contribute to achieving their goal.

“Our strength this year is going to be the team, our togetherness and how much work our girls have put in since last spring and coming into the fall,” Higa said. “Our team was in tremendous shape when they showed up to camp this year and that means something.”

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