Aug. 4, 2010

Courtesy of UWF Athletics

After two Gulf South Conference championships and a 32-2 record in conference play over the past three years, head coach Melissa Wolter and the West Florida volleyball team have gained the respect of the league’s coaches and players.  In the preseason coaches’ poll announced by the conference office on Wednesday, UWF was picked to finish first in the GSC East Division and win the overall championship, and four Argonauts earned preseason All-GSC selections.

“It’s a great honor for our program to receive this type of recognition from the GSC coaches,” said Wolter.  “Our returners have worked very hard to set a standard for this program and have high expectations for the 2010 season.  However, every team in our conference will bring great volleyball out of us and force us to play our best night in and night out.  That’s what GSC volleyball is all about.”

In the preseason All-GSC picks, UWF’s four players led all teams in both divisions.  Senior outside hitter Chelsea Wilhoite (Jacksonville, Fla./Bishop Kenny HS) and sophomore setter Tricia Tirabassi (Kenosha, Wis./Tremper HS), both members of the All-GSC team in 2009, led the way for UWF.  Senior middle hitter Kara Gonzalez (St. Augustine, Fla./St. Augustine HS) and senior outside hitter Jamie Nichols (Crawfordville, Fla./Wakulla HS) were also preseason all-conference picks.

UWF received five of five possible first place votes in the East from the league’s coaches, tallying a division-high 25 total points.  North Alabama followed in second place with 21 points and the one other first place vote, and UNA was followed by West Alabama and Valdosta State, both finishing with an identical 15 points.  Alabama-Huntsville and West Georgia rounded out the division, finishing with nine and five points, respectively.

In the overall tournament champion voting, UWF received 11 of 13 total votes, with North Alabama from the East and Harding from the West picking up the remaining two votes.  Harding edged Arkansas Tech as the preseason pick to win the West Division.

Finally, the league also recognized the top newcomers for each team, and Chandler Carney (Indianapolis, Ind./DePaul) and Katie Johnson (Tallahassee, Fla./Loyola-Chicago) were West Florida’s picks.  Carney is a 6-1 sophomore outside hitter from Indianapolis, and she comes to UWF after playing one year at DePaul.  Johnson, a 5-10 outside hitter from Leon High School in Tallahassee, transferred to West Florida for her senior season in 2010, and she comes to UWF after three years at Loyola-Chicago.

West Florida has taken over as the perennial favorite in the GSC, being picked to win the conference championship each of the last three seasons.  North Alabama had previously held that title, as the Lions took home the GSC East Division crown every season from 1996-2006 and won the overall conference championship in all but one season over that span.  UWF added volleyball as a varsity sport in 2000.