Sept. 17, 2013
Article written by Mechelle Voepel of ESPNW.com
It just makes sense for there to be great volleyball played in San Diego, right? Well, this year, the University of San Diego women's volleyball team indeed might be on a path to greatness. If nothing else, the Toreros certainly have had a great start to their 2013 season.
USC is the latest ranked team to fall to San Diego, which upset the then-No. 1-ranked Trojans 3-1 on Friday at home. That was preceded by San Diego victories over Hawaii (in Honolulu), and Iowa State and Illinois (both in Ames, Iowa.) The Rainbow Wahine, Cyclones and Illini were all ranked in the top 20 of the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll when they lost to San Diego.
The only loss for the 7-1 Toreros was to then-No. 1 Texas, the defending NCAA champion, on Aug. 31 in Hawaii. And San Diego took that match to the wire, losing 15-10 in the fifth set.
All of this has resulted in the No. 2 spot for San Diego in this week's AVCA Top 25 poll, released Monday. It's not just the highest ranking ever for the volleyball team, but the best national ranking for any Toreros athletic program in the Division I era.
The timing of this ascension in the poll is sublime, because it's a big week for the Toreros. Tuesday night, they will host crosstown rival San Diego State. Then they travel to Utah to begin West Coast Conference play Friday against the team picked first in the league, BYU.
The Toreros, who earn our No. 2 ranking this week, were 21-7 last season and tied for the league crown with BYU at 13-3. San Diego brought back 11 letter winners from 2012, led by first-team all-conference players Chloe Ferrari and Katie Hoekman, both seniors.
Ferrari's season was cut short last year on Nov. 3 by a knee injury. She didn't get to play in the NCAA tournament, in which the Toreros lost in the first round to Michigan State. So far this year, Ferrari has twice been named WCC player of the week.
The Toreros have made the NCAA tournament field 16 times in the past 20 years. San Diego has advanced as far as the NCAA Sweet 16 twice in program history, in 2004 and '06. And while it's a ways off, the Toreros are showing they may be a fearsome foe come tournament time.
Here are this week's espnW Power Rankings:
1. Penn State (6-1)
The Nittany Lions' only loss was a 3-2 battle at Texas on Sept. 7. They have swept the rest of their opponents, and you can expect the same at the Penn State Classic this weekend, where Albany, Eastern Kentucky and Yale are the designated victims. Compared to those of some other top teams, the Nittany Lions' nonconference schedule is pretty bland. But considering the difficulty of Big Ten play -- which starts Sept. 27 -- Penn State probably didn't feel the need to load up too much on the toughest foes during the opening weeks of the season, other than the meetings with Texas and Florida.
2. San Diego (7-1)
A little more background on the Toreros: Coach Jennifer Petrie is a native of San Diego but actually went all the way across the country for her college volleyball playing career at William & Mary in Virginia. She was Colonial Athletic Association player of the year in 1990 and '91 and is the Tribe's all-time leader in kills (1,572). After being an assistant at Indiana State and North Carolina, she returned to San Diego in that role for the Toreros before taking over the program in 1999.
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