Aug. 19, 2010

Courtesy of Concordia-St. Paul University

Three-time defending National Champion, Concordia University, has once again been pegged as the program to beat, with the Golden Bears being voted the No. 1 team in the 2010 AVCA Division II Coaches Top-25 Preseason Poll, as announced by AVCA headquarters late yesterday afternoon. FULL POLL

Concordia-St. Paul, under the direction of the NCAA's winningest active head coach, Brady Starkey, reeled off its third straight national title last year after turning in a perfect 37-0 record, extending its NCAA Division II record 74-match win streak along the way. Despite losing setter Maggie McNamara, who was twice named the AVCA Division II National Player of the Year, the Golden Bears weren't left shorthanded as the squad returns four starters and eight total letterwinners. Leading the charge will be middle blocker Emily Palkert, a two-time AVCA First-Team All-America selection and 2009 AVCA Second-Team All-American outside hitter Megan Carlson. AVCA All-Central Region Honorable Mention selection Cassie Haag bolsters the middle heading into her sophomore season.

Concordia once again faces a tough schedule with two teams ranked in the preseason top-5 on the opening weekend at the University of Tampa tournament where they face No. 5 Central Missouri and No. 3 Tampa on the same day. The following weekend, they head to the Rocky Mountains for the Metro/Regis Premiere where day two certainly could match them up with a ranked opponent, especially with tournament co-host Metro State boasting the No. 10 ranking.

In the Northern Sun, five teams are ranked in the top-20 and Concordia will play the other four ranked teams a total of seven times including two late season matches against No. 9 Minnesota Duluth, the next highest ranked team in the league.

The second ranked team in the nation is the last team to beat Concordia. Cal State San Bernardino, who knocked off CU in the opening match of the 2008 season, picked up two first place votes in the preseason poll. Concordia has handed CSUSB season-ending losses in each of the last two seasons: in the 2008 National Championship and the 2009 National Semifinal.

Concordia opens the season at the University of Tampa Tournament on Sept. 3-4 where they will play opening day matches against Northern Kentucky University and Grand Valley State University. GVSU is the second-highest ranked vote getting team not to make the top-25.