COLORADO SPRINGS -- In a vote of the eight head coaches in the Mountain West Conference, Utah is the favorite to win the 2002 MWC title after earning six first-place votes and 48 points. Defending regular season champion Colorado State was second with 40 points, while BYU was third with 39 points. San Diego State was picked fourth for the third straight year, followed by UNLV, Wyoming, New Mexico and Air Force.
The 2002 season opens Aug. 30-31 with all eight league teams participating in tournament play. Highlighting the MWC non-conference slate are 19 matches vs. teams ranked in the 2002 USAToday/AVCA Top 25 preseason poll, and another 47 matches vs. 2001 NCAA Tournament teams. The conference season gets underway Sept. 7 when Wyoming visits Colorado State. The remaining MWC teams begin conference action Sept. 27-28. The Mountain West Conference Championship will be held in Fort Collins, Colo., at Colorado State's Moby Arena Nov. 21-23.
Seven All-Mountain West Conference selections return for the 2002 season. UNLV returns Freshman of the Year Sheila Ocasio-Clemente (So., MB) and Blair Wilkes (Sr., OH) to the front row. Wilkes ranked second in the league with a .365 hitting percentage a year ago, while Ocasio-Clemente ranked second in the nation in blocks. Utah returns a talented front line, led by Kim Turner (Jr., MB), last year's MVP at the conference tournament, and Sylva Strzinkova (Sr., OH). Turner, a two-time all-conference performer, ranked fourth in the MWC for hitting percentage (.346) and third in blocks (1.50 per game), while Strzinkova ranked in the league's top 10 for digs and kills. BYU junior Karina Puikkonen returns as one of the top setters in the conference after ranking second in the league with 12.65 assists per game. Junior defensive specialist Uila Crabbe returns to the back row for BYU after averaging 2.57 digs per game. San Diego State returns scoring threat Robyn Gregg (Jr., DS/S). Gregg set an MWC record and ranked fifth nationally with .78 service aces per game last season.
2002 Mountain West Conference Preseason Volleyball Coaches Poll
Rk. Team (1st-pl votes) Points 2001 season notes
1. Utah (6)* 48 NCAA Regional semifinals, Ranked No. 15
2. Colorado State (1)# 40 NCAA Regional semifinals, Ranked No. 10
3. BYU (1) 39 NCAA 1st Round, No. 22 final ranking
4. San Diego State 32 NCAA 1st Round
5. UNLV 28 5th in MWC
6. Wyoming 18 6th in MWC
7. New Mexico 13 7th in MWC
8. Air Force 9 8th in MWC
*indicates 2001 MWC Tournament champion
#indicates 2001 MWC regular season champion