Aug. 27, 2009

By Amy Farnum

GOLDEN GIRLS:  After winning back-to-back Division II titles, Concordia University, St. Paul is poised to challenge for a third straight national championship as the Golden Bears return five of their seven starters in 2009.

Concordia’s returning group is highlighted by 2008 AVCA Division II Player of the Year Maggie McNamara, who has led the nation in assists each of the last three years.  The senior setter has helped the Golden Bears to a 109-7 record in her first three years, and is a three-time AVCA All-American.
McNamara is joined by returning All-American middle blocker Mary Slinger (first team) and libero Emily Palkert (second team), and will begin defense of their NCAA title at the University of West Florida Tournament on Aug. 28-29.

SENIOR MOMENTS:  West Texas A&M is the preseason favorite to win the Lone Star Conference title after claiming the last three league championships.

The Lady Buffs posted a perfect 13-0 mark in conference play last year, and return four seniors from that squad, including the LSC Preseason Offensive Player of the Year Laura Prinsen and Preseason Setter of the Year Katie Rickwartz.  Both players earned the preseason honors for the second straight year.

No. 5 WTAMU opens its season on Aug. 27 by hosting the Lady Buff Classic on Aug. 27-29, which will include a match against No. 19 Nova Southeastern.

FLYING HIGH:  Lewis University has already won three consecutive Great Lakes Valley Conference titles, but now the Flyers are seeking a fourth, and the league’s coaches agree they have the talent to do it.

Three seniors return to lead the Flyers, including outside hitter Stephanie Sagat, who is a three-time All-GLVC selection.  Sagat is within reach to become the program’s all-time leader in kills.

Lewis has compiled a 47-6 mark against conference foes over the last three years, while posting a 44-2 record at home.  The Flyers will enter the season with a 27-match home winning streak that dates back to the 2007 season.  The string will be tested in the Flyers’ second home match of the season against No. 14 California (Pa.) – the only Division II squad in the nation to win 40 matches last year.

Before defending its home court winning streak, Lewis will open the 2009 season at No. 15 West Florida on Aug. 27.

NOTABLE:  Cal State San Bernardino is predicted to win the California Collegiate Athletic Association for the fourth straight year.  The Coyotes turned in their best record (30-4) in program history last year before falling to Concordia-St. Paul in the NCAA championship match in five games.  CSSB begins the year at the SoCal Classic, which includes a match versus No. 23 Western Washington … The University of Tampa is ranked in the AVCA Division II Preseason Coaches Top 25 for the 12th straight year, entering 2009 at No. 10.  The youthful Spartans have no seniors on the roster, but welcome back nine letterwinners from the 2008 squad that won the Sunshine State Conference title.  Headlining the group of three returning starters is All-American Melissa Vanderhall, who is the reigning SSC and South Region Player of the Year.  She led Tampa with 381 kills in 2008.   The Spartans start the year by hosting Lock Haven on Aug. 27.