Aug. 27, 2009

By Amy Farnum

TITAN POWER:  With an ultra-experienced squad back on the court in 2009, Wisconsin-Oshkosh is the favorite to claim the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title for the second straight year.

The Titans return all seven starters from a team that went 40-3 and advanced to the NCAA quarterfinal round before falling to eventual national champion Emory in three sets last year.  Headlining the group are All-Americans Christina Cahoon and Jacque Ray.  

Cahoon, a junior libero, was a first-team All-America pick after tallying a WIAC record for digs with 860 last year.  Ray, a senior middle blocker who finished second on the team in kills, was a third-team selection in 2008.

UW-Oshkosh is No. 4 in the AVCA Division III Coaches Preseason Top 25 as the Titans look to post at least 32 victories for the fifth straight year.  Head coach Brian Schaefer enters the year as the sixth-winningest active coach in all divisions of the NCAA.  He has compiled a .852 winning percentage in the last five years.  The Titans were one of three WIAC ranked in the Top 25, joining No. 15 UW-Whitewater and No. 20 UW Eau Claire.

Action gets underway at the Elmhurst College Invitational on Sept. 4.

EAGLES EYE TOP SPOT: After winning its first-ever national championship, the Emory volleyball team will set out to defend the title as the nation’s No. 1 squad in the AVCA Division III Coaches Preseason Top 25.  It is the first time that Emory has been dubbed preseason No. 1 since the poll began in 2000.

The Eagles have plenty of talent returning from last year’s championship club with 11 letterwinners and four starters back.  Leading the way will be First Team AVCA All-American Alysse Meyer and setter Natalie Schonefeld, who earned second team honors as a freshman.

Emory opens the season by hosting West Georgia on Sept. 1.

SEEING RED:  The College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin coaches believe Carthage College will challenge for a sixth straight league title as the Lady Reds were voted as the top team in the preseason poll.

The Lady Reds posted a perfect mark against CCIW foes last year, making their fourth consecutive NCAA appearance before falling to UW-Oshkosh in the final match of the NCAA Midwest Regional Championship.

Carthage welcomes back 12 letterwinners and six starters from last year’s successful squad, including AVCA First Team All-American Rachel Swoboda, who contributed 2.81 kills and 1.13 blocks per game.  CCIW Player of the Year Katie Lundgren is also back at her libero position after average 5.1 digs per set as a junior.

The No. 7 Lady Reds will travel to Claremont, Calif., for the Pacific Coast Classic on Sept. 4-5, and will get immediately tested as they face No. 3 University of La Verne in a battle between Top 10 teams.

NOTABLE:  Despite losing two-time AVCA Division III Player of the Year Amber Thomas to graduation, Juniata College is still grabbed the No. 2 spot in the preseason national rankings as the Eagles return All-Americans Megan Sollenberger and Steph Strauss from a team that advanced to the national semifinals in 2008.  Juniata hosts the Asics Invitational beginning Sept. 4 which pits the Eagles and No. 23 Eastern in a rematch of last year’s regional championship … No. 13 Pacific Lutheran looks to become the first Northwest Conference program to win five straight titles since Willamette accomplished the feat in 1996-96, and will be led by two-time NWC Player of the Year Beth Hanna.  The Lutes are the coaches’ pick to take the league title again in 2009 …Simpson College, which cracked the preseason national poll at No. 25 opens the season at the Puget Sound Invitational on Sept. 4-5 where the Storm will clash with three other Top 25 foes, including No. 10 St. Benedict, which they fell to in last year’s NCAA Tournament first round.