Concordia-St. Paul takes preseason No. 1 spot in AVCA Coaches' Poll
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) released its Division II preseason poll Tuesday and Concordia University-St. Paul has garnered the No. 1 spot after claiming its unprecedented fifth consecutive NCAA national championship last season.
Despite the loss of two-time AVCA All-American Megan Carlson, the Golden Bears return a total of four AVCA All-Americans, including AVCA National Freshman of the Year Katie Habeck. CU finished 2011 with a 34-2 overall record, 18-2 in the NSIC and capped its campaign with a 3-0 shutout against then-No. 1 ranked CSU-San Berardino, who was also the host of the national tournament.
The Golden Bears open their 2012 campaign by hosting their own tournament on August 31-September 1 at the Gangelhoff Center. They will take on Regis University and BYU-Hawaii on August 31 and Hillsdale College on September 1.
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The University of Tampa comes in at No. 2 of the preseason poll. It had an incredible run last year finishing 33-2, but eventually losing to Concordia-St. Paul in the national semifinals. Look for it to get right back to the NCAA tournament as it returns five starters and 10 letter-winners. Leading the way will be senior middle hitter Danielle Selkridge. The 2011 AVCA First-Team All-American not only took home the Sunshine State Conference Player of the Year, but also completed the season as the Division II leader in hitting percentage (.498).
Very few teams have the kind of success in a single year quite like what Cal State San Bernardino experienced a year ago. Heading into the NCAA national championship match, it was a perfect 31-0 before falling to the consecutive five-time champion Golden Bears. Expectations are still high for the California squad, but it will have to make do without two-time AVCA National Player of the Year Samantha Middleborn and just three returning starters. One of the players expected to continue to play at a high level will be two-time AVCA All-American setter Camille Smith. Middleborn’s departure will also make way for junior outside hitter Danielle Newcomb to take more swings.
Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference winners Nebraska-Kearney will look to make its way back to the dance after a season that saw them finish 32-2. It is moving to a more difficult MIAA (Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association) conference, but that doesn’t lessen the expectations. It is a veteran team returning five starters, but will have to move on without AVCA First-Team All-American Haley Lake. Look for 2011 AVCA Honorable Mention All-American Ariel Krolikowski to be one of the main pieces to pick up the offense. A year ago she was second on the team with 2.92 kills per set.
The University of Central Missouri rounds out the top-5 of the 2012 AVCA Preseason Coaches' Poll. AVCA First-Team All-American setter Julia Bates returns to quarterback the Jennies squad after averaging 11.47 assists per set. She will be missing one of her main weapons this year as All-American Allie Hoffman was lost to graduation, but stepping in her place will be Taylor Goodness. Finishing the 2011 season ranked fourth in the AVCA Coaches' Poll, Central Missouri will certainly once again be a top contender in 2012.