Golden Bears begin journey to a hopeful seventh national title
No. 1 Concordia-St. Paul, No. 9 Indianapolis
Six-time defending national champion Concordia-St. Paul kicks off its season this Friday with matches against Colorado Mines and Hillsdale in the Concordia University Tournament in St. Paul. On Saturday, the Golden Bears face No. 20 Wayne State and No. 9 Indianapolis. They finish off the tournament on Sunday with a match against No. 21 Wingate.
The Golden Bears enter the season with high expectations as the preseason No. 1 team in AVCA preseason poll. The Golden Bears will have some continuity with two returning first team All-Americans in seniors Amanda Konetchy and Kayla Koenecke.
No. 2 Tampa
The Spartans open the 2013 season at the Terrace Hotel Classic at Florida Southern College on Friday against Northwood. Tampa will play eight matches away from home before returning home on Sept. 27 to play Florida Tech.
The Spartans are coming off a 2012 season where they sported a 32-4 overall record while winning the program’s eighth consecutive Sunshine State Conference and fourth consecutive NCAA South Regional championship. Tampa advanced all the way to the national championship match where they were defeated 3-2 by Concordia-St. Paul.
No. 3 Nebraska-Kearney
Nebraska-Kearney starts the 2013 campaign at home on Friday with a match against William Jewell.
The Lopers went 35-3 last fall, winning both the MIAA regular season and tournament titles. Going 16-1 in league action, UNK has won at least a share of a regular season conference title (RMAC or MIAA) the past nine seasons.
No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth
UMD's season tips on Friday against the Lady Cardinals of Wheeling Jesuit, a national quarterfinalist in 2012. Friday evening, UMD takes on the host Argonauts of West Florida, another 2012 NCAA tournament team which saw its season end in the South regional's first round. Saturday, play continues in West Florida as the Bulldogs face off with Southern Indiana and Missouri S&T.
After she was named the preseason player of the year in one of the strongest volleyball conferences in the league, it should be no surprise that the Bulldogs' roster breakdown begins with senior outside hitter Kate Lange. Lange and her fellow captains Elizabeth Benua and Julie Rainey will lead the way on a team that returns nearly all of its top contributors from 2012.
No. 5 BYU-Hawaii
No. 5 BYU-Hawaii hosts three mainland teams as part of the Hawaii Invitational Tournament on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.
In the first matchup, the Seasiders welcome Lewis on Thursday, followed by Fort Hayes State on Friday and Chico State on Saturday.
BYU-Hawaii defeated Alaska-Anchorage last week in three sets and followed it up with win against Alaska-Fairbanks in the same fashion to start the season 2-0.
Pacific West Conference Preseason Player of the Year Ying Chun Chen is helping the team out early, averaging 10.5 assists per set and fellow preseason All-PacWest outside hitter Shih Ting Chen leads the team with 4.33 kills per set, hitting at a .423 percent clip.
No. 6 Southwest Minnesota State
Southwest Minnesota State will open the 2013 season this weekend with four matches at the Grand Valley State Classic tournament in Allendale, Mich. SMSU, which is ranked No. 6 in the 2013 AVCA Preseason Coaches' Poll, will square-off against No. 16 Truman State (Mo.) -- a rematch of the 2012 NCAA tournament first round match in which SMSU swept 3-0. SMSU will then take on Eckerd (Fla.) later in the day and will conclude the two-day tournament with matches against Wayne State and Grand Valley State on Saturday.
SMSU is coming off of its ninth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance after winning its first Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament title in 2012. SMSU finished the 2012 season 30-3 overall, captured SMSU's first No. 1 ranking in a national poll, and won a share of the 2012 NSIC regular season title -– its first since 2001.
No. 7 Washburn
The Ichabods will open their 2013 season Friday and Saturday with four matches in the Ferris State Bulldog Invitational in Big Rapids, Mich. Seventh-ranked Washburn will play Cedarville Friday at 10:30 a.m. and Ashland at 3:30 p.m. Saturday the Ichabods will play California (Pa.) at 9:30 a.m. and Ferris State at 2:30 p.m.
Washburn went 31-4 last year and finished second in the MIAA with a 15-2 record. The Ichabods made their ninth consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament and 10th overall, all under head coach Chris Herron as he begins his 12th year at Washburn.
No. 8 Central Missouri
The Central Missouri Jennies open up the 2013 campaign with a trip to San Antonio, Texas, where they will compete in the Hilltopper-Rattler Classic co-hosted by St. Mary's and St. Edwards. The Jens will start the season with four non-conference matches, against teams that they have not faced off against in the past decade.
The Jens get the season underway with a late-morning matchup against Western New Mexico, before facing Minnesota-Crookston later in the afternoon. On Saturday, Texas Woman's and Adams State await Central Missouri to wrap up the tournament.
No. 10 West Texas A&M
The defending South Central Regional Champion Lady Buffs of West Texas A&M enter the 2013 season ranked No. 10 and they will host the ThunderWolves of Colorado State-Pueblo on Thursday.
West Texas A&M returns just two starters from a 2012 team that claimed the program's 14th overall and seventh consecutive LSC tournament title before winning the South Central Regional Championship for the 12th time in school history. The Lady Buffs are guided by fifth year Jason Skoch, who enters the season with an overall record of 133-21 (.863) in Canyon with four NCAA postseason appearances including two quarterfinals and a national runner-up finish in 2009.