August 20, 2010

The AVCA Releases the Division III Preseason Poll

Washington-St. Louis Voted Top Team in AVCA Division III Coaches Top 25 Preseason Poll

Lexington, Ky. (August 19, 2010) - Washington University in St. Louis begins the 2010 volleyball season in the same position in which it exited last year – as the No. 1 team in the AVCA Division III Coaches Top 25 Poll, it was announced this afternoon by the AVCA headquarters.

The defending national champion Bears, led by veteran mentor Rich Luenemann, snagged all 24 first-place votes in the poll after rolling through 2009 with a 34-4 record.  Wash U returns five starters and its libero from that squad, led by setter Marilee Fisher, a 2009 AVCA Second-Team All-America pick and libero Kelly Pang, who was the 2009 AVCA Division III National Freshman of the Year. Also back is middle blocker Lauren Budde, the 2009 NCAA Tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.

Giving chase to Washington-St. Louis is another perennial Division III power, Juniata College, who enters the season as the No. 2 team in the rankings. Taskmaster Larry Bock’s Eagles ended the 2009 campaign with a 36-4 record, the Landmark Conference Championship and were the NCAA National Runners-Up. The program welcomes five starters back in 2010, and will be led by two-time AVCA All-American setter Steph Strauss. Joining Strauss is middle blocker Kelsey Fuller, the 2009 AVCA Mid-Atlantic Region Freshman of the Year, 2009 NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional Most Outstanding Player Amanda Schmidt at middle blocker and outside hitter Drew Barnhart, a member of the 2009 NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team.

Coming in at No. 3 in the poll is Emory University, a program that finished 2009 with a 34-6 record, securing the University Athletic Association (UAA) title and advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.  Head coach Jenny McDowell has four starters and 15 total letterwinners coming back to campus, and will look to a pair of AVCA First-Team All-Americans in Natalie Schonefeld (setter) and Jessica McAlvany (outside hitter) to propel the squad to another berth in the NCAA postseason. Also aiding the cause will be veterans Amelia McCall (outside hitter) and Alexandra Wright, both all-conference selections a season ago.

Hope College rings in the new season right where it left off in 2009 – as the No. 4 vote-getter in the rankings. Head coach Becky Schmidt’s Flying Dutch advanced to the NCAA semifinals in a year ago, ending the campaign with a 34-4 record and a Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) championship. Leading the four returning starters and ten letterwinners will be couple of 2009 AVCA Honorable Mention All-America selections in outside hitter/middle blocker Jacie Fiedler and middle blocker Kara VandeGuchte, while all-conference right side hitter Cassidy Bulthuis also returns.

After reaching the NCAA quarterfinals a season ago, ending the year as the seventh-ranked team in the country, Colorado College debuts 2010 as the poll’s No. 5 squad. Floor general Rick Swan, after directing the team to a 35-5 record in 2009, will return his entire starting lineup to the court, including his libero, in a quest to send the Tigers back to the NCAA postseason. Leading the charge will be 2009 AVCA First-Team All-American middle blocker Emily Perkins. Right side hitter Meredith Ballard and setter Amy Schornack, both AVCA Honorable Mention All-America picks last season, will also add fuel to the Tigers’ fire.

Rounding out the poll’s top-ten are the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Carthage College, the University of St. Thomas (Minn.), Calvin College and Ohio Northern University.

The complete poll can be found here.