Pepperdine Women’s Volleyball Entering NCAA Tournament

Madison Shields

The Pepperdine Waves women’s volleyball team will take to the court this year in the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Division Tournament for the third time in four seasons.  

The Waves will play the University of Central Florida (UCF) in the tournament’s first round at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles on Friday, Dec. 3, at 4:30 p.m.

Head coach Scott Wong said in a statement provided by Pepperdine Athletics that the women are excited to face off against UCF.

“One thing for sure, we are going to have to play good volleyball,” he said. “We are going to have to play the way we have been playing throughout this year to be able to play Central Florida and potentially the next team.”

If Pepperdine downs UCF, the team will face the winner of the matchup between 13th-seeded UCLA and Fairfield on Saturday, also at UCLA.

The Waves are entering the 64-team tournament with a 22-5 record and a four-game winning streak, which began with a 3-2 victory over San Diego on Nov. 13. Since then, Pepperdine has downed San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Gonzaga all by a score of 3-0. 

Four days before Pepperdine was admitted to the tournament, senior libero Madison Shields garnered her fourth West Coast Conference defensive player of the week award this season. She has now won the honor seven times. 

Shields’ play in the sweeps over San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Gonzaga earned her the weekly award. In the contests, she rang up 45 digs, 11 assists, and three aces. 

Shields was also one of the five Pepperdine players to receive WCC postseason recognition on Nov. 29. The others were freshman outside hitter Grace Chillingworth, senior outside hitter Rachel Ahrens, junior setter Isabel Zelaya, and sophomore middle blocker Meg Brown. 

Chillingworth was named the WCC freshman of the year, named to the conference’s all-freshman team, and received All-WCC honorable mention status. Chillingworth averaged 3.03 kills a set during the regular season with a total of 309. The freshman also averaged 0.55 digs and 0.31 blocks.

Ahrens and Zelaya were named to the All-WCC first team. 

Ahrens has been named to the squad for two consecutive seasons now. She won WCC offensive player of the week three times this season and was named the AVCA national player of the week once. She registered 50 aces this season, which broke her own Pepperdine record, and she tallied 1,358 career kills, making her the 21st Wave ever to smack at least 1,000 in her career. Ahrens had 484 kills in the regular season and averaged 4.79 a set. She also averaged 1.90 digs and 0.50 blocks. 

Zelaya has now been named to the conference’s first team twice. She led the WCC in assists. Zelaya averaged in the regular season 10.76 a set and amassed a total of 1,098. Her offensive prowess powered Pepperdine to a .252 hitting percentage, second in the WCC. Zelaya also averaged 1.75 digs, 0.56 blocks, 0.46 kills, and 0.14 aces. 

Brown, the conference’s freshman of the year a season ago, was named to the All-WCC second team along with Shields. Brown averaged 2.29 kills a set on a .300 success rate during the regulars season. She also averaged 0.87 blocks, 0.62 digs, and 0.27 aces.

Shields has been nominated to the second team for two consecutive seasons. She had 423 digs in the regular season with an average of 4.15 per set. Shields has 1,118 digs in her career. The player also averaged 0.91 assists and 0.19 aces. 

Pepperdine has now been admitted to the NCAA tournament 25 times. The Waves made it to the second round of the tournament in their last three appearances. Pepperdine advanced to the Elite 8 in 2011. 

The other teams in Pepperdine’s  portion of the NCAA bracket are fourth-seeded Wisconsin, Colgate, FGCU, and Texas Teach. The tournament’s overall top seed is Louisville. 

Wong is happy the Waves qualified for the tournament.  

“All the work they have put in, all the sacrifice and the way they got after this year, and how we have grown … it makes this a great feeling,” he said. “We are going to take it one match at a time.”