White of UC Davis, Cal’s Rennie highlight first weekend, new AVCA poll, POWs

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NCAA volleyball 9/3/2019-Nika Markovic
Nika Markovic goes for the pancake against Cincinnati. Her Panthers are ranked No. 10 this week./Matt Hawley, Pitt Athletics.

As we regroup after a really fun first weekend of NCAA volleyball, we bring you the first regular-season AVCA top-25 coaches poll, a look at Monday’s and Tuesday’s action, and players of the week as they trickle in from around the nation.

None is more stunning than the Pac-12’s, and we’ll get to that in a bit. But first consider the incredible story of Mahalia White. 

NCAA volleyball 9/3/2019-Mahalia White-UC Davis volleyball
Mahalia White

She’s a 6-foot sophomore for UC Davis who sat out last season recovering from Hodgkins Lymphoma. 

And talk about recovered! 

Davis was the MVP this past weekend of the UC Davis Aggie Invitational as her team beat Montana, San Jose State and Pacific and finished with 28 kills, hit .511, and had four blocks.

We wrote about White, who is from Canoga Park, Calif., in January 2018.

“Mahalia is an inspiration not only to me, but the team as well because of her fight and recovery and her optimism in the face of tough circumstances,” UC Davis coach Dan Conners said. “I’m just so proud of her to accomplish what she has.”

But White is not the only one in the midst of a remarkable comeback.

Consider Cal’s Savannah Rennie.

NCAA volleyball 9/3/2019-Savannah Rennie-Cal Volleyball
Savannah Rennie

What she’s been through defies explanation. 

The 6-2 middle from San Diego got sick her freshman year and then not only had a liver transplant, sat out her sophomore year, and later missed another season to recover from Non-Hodgkin Post-Transplant Lymphoma. 

Last year, as a redshirt junior, she played in just 27 sets. But the Cal coaches were optimistic this summer that she could be a factor in 2019.

Was she ever: This past weekend, Cal beat Oklahoma, host Colorado State and Chicago State and Rennie was named MVP of the tournament. She finished the three matches with 27 kills, hit .500, and led the Bears with 14 blocks, one solo. 

And not only that, but Rennie was subsequently named the Pac-12 offensive POW.

We wrote about her amazing story in June 2016 and updated it along the way.

We’re doing a video chat with Rennie later Tuesday and will post it here on VBM on Wednesday.

Monday’s results: There were three NCAA matches on Monday and while Maryland improved to 3-0, it had to go the distance to get past visiting Howard 25-23, 24-26, 25-16, 21-25, 15-9.

Maryland of the Big Ten was led by Erika Pritchard, who had 17 kills, 11 digs, and three blocks, one solo. Rebekah Rath had 12 kills. The Terps hit .178.

The Bison of the MEAC (1-3) hit .056. Kailyn Williams led with 12 kills but hit .000 …

Wyoming of the Mountain West improved to 1-2 and dropped visiting LIU Brooklyn of the Northeast Conference, which came a long way to get swept, to 0-3. KC McMahon had 14 kills and hit .385 for Wyoming in the 25-16, 25-18, 25-14 victory. Teammate Jackie McBride had nine kills and hit .615.

Louisiana-Monroe of the Sun Belt is 3-1 after sweeping Grambling of the SWAC. Mikaela Worley led with 17 kills, 11 digs and two blocks. Grambling hit minus .012.

College of Charleston was scheduled to play South Carolina neighbor The Citadel, but that match was postponed because of Hurricane Dorian.

Tuesday’s slate: There are 28 matches listed on the NCAA.com schedule, including Ball State at Purdue, Utah at Utah State, Charlotte at Duke, South Dakota at Iowa State, Kansas at Omaha, and Georgia Tech at Kennesaw State.

AVCA Poll: Three teams entered — not surprisingly Utah, Hawai’i and Florida State — and three dropped out, Washington State, Arizona and Cal Poly. 

Stanford and Nebraska stayed 1-2, but Minnesota, upset by FSU, dropped five spots to No. 8. Texas moved up a notch to third, and is followed by Wisconsin, Illinois, and Penn State, giving the Big Ten four of the top six.

Florida moved up three spots to No. 7, Oregon jumped two to No. 9, and Pittsburgh did the same to land at No. 10.

Click here for the complete AVCA Poll.

POWs: In addition to Rennie, the Pac-12 honored Oregon freshman setter Kylie Robinson, who not only had 69 assists but averaged 11.5 digs, and Arizona State’s Courtney Leffel, who had 20 or more digs in three matches, including a whopping 39 in a win over LSU … 

The Big 12 honorees include Texas freshman right side Skylar Fields, who had 29 kills and is hitting .520 after the Longhorns beat UNI and USC … The ASUN POW is FGCU junior outside Cortney VanLiew, picking right up where she left off last season. She had 52 kills and 22 digs in a 3-0 weekend … Alli Lowe of Colgate is the Patriot POW after getting 60 kills in three matches … UNI’s Kate Busswitz is the Missouri Valley POW for getting 40 kills and hitting .326 in three matches … 

A big reason Hawai’i is in the AVCA Poll is Oregon transfer Jolie Rasmussen. She’s the Big West POW after the junior outside had 57 kills, 17 digs and 13 blocks as the Rainbow Wahine opened 3-0 … Hannah Brister had 59 kills in three matches and the Northwestern State junior is the Southland Conference POW … Albany’s Akuabata Okenwa and Hartford’s Jenna Bridges are the co-America East POWs …

The WAC honored Julia Sangiacomo as the Santa Clara freshman outside had 54 kills in a 4-0 week. She not only hit .341, but had 25 digs, nine aces and two solo blocks … Cheyenne Hayes, a junior outside for Troy, is the Sun Belt offensive POW after averaging 5.18 kills per set and hitting .307 in three matches … The Big East’s defensive POW is DePaul junior libero Isabelle Banez, who had 32 digs in a win over Southeast Missouri … 

The WAC defensive POW is Utah Valley senior middle Makaila Jarema, who averaged 1.8 blocks against Marquette, BYU and Boise State … Delaware had the Colonial offensive POW in senior outside Maria Bellinger, who averaged 4.4 kills in three matches, and rookie in Lani Mason, as the freshman outside averaged 3.4 kills, 3.7 digs and hit .308 … 

What a start for Ohio Valley offensive POW Rachel Giustino as the Murray State senior outside had 24 kills and 18 digs in the season opener against Valparaiso, 28 and 15 the next match against IUPUI, and then 9 and 6 against South Dakota but her team started 0-3 …  Who else but Jordan Thompson of Cincinnati would be the American Athletic offensive POW? The senior had 47 kills in three matches and seven aces …

Pittsburgh took both of the ACC POW honors. Junior outside hitter Kayla Lund is the top player and setter Lexis Akeo is the freshman of the week … Florida took three of the four SEC awards. Thayer Hall is the offensive POW, Rachael Kramer is the defensive POW and Marlie Monserez took the setter honors. The top freshman is Arkansas’ Jillian Gillen …

And in the Big Ten, two of the awards went to Wisconsin players. Junior middle Dana Rettke is the POW and junior Sydney Hilley is the top setter.

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