Coyotes No. 2 in preseason poll

Concordia University, St. Paul debuts the 2009 volleyball season as the nation’s top squad according to the AVCA Division II Coaches Top 25 Preseason Poll, released Thursday afternoon by the organization. CSP, under head coach Brady Starkey, earned a unanimous 32 first-place votes and 800 total points after turning in a 37-1 record and capturing its second-consecutive national championship in 2008.
The Golden Bears enter 2009 hungry for their third-straight title. Reigning AVCA Division II National Player of the Year Maggie McNamara returns to the setter spot for her senior season and will anchor the roster along with junior middle blocker and AVCA First-Team All-American Emily Palkert. Defensive ace Mary Slinger also returns to her libero position which saw her earn AVCA Second-Team All-America accolades a year ago, as the Golden Bears welcome back nine total letterwinners to the court this season.
Right back in the mix of things is west coast power Cal State San Bernardino, last year’s national runner-up, as they take hold of the No. 2 spot in the poll. Veteran mentor Kim Cherniss’ squad, fresh off a 30-4 campaign, returns four starters and nine letterwinners for another shot at title glory. The Coyotes will be guided by senior setter Sara Hoffman, an AVCA First-Team American in 2008. Providing CSUSB an offensive spark will be senior outside hitter and Second-Team All-CCAA honoree Ashtin Hall along with junior outside hitter Jane Chafeh, who was named to last year’s NCAA championship all-tournament team.
Emporia State University rings in 2009 as the No. 3 preseason vote-getter after rolling through last year with a 35-5 record, a MIAA championship and an appearance in the NCAA regional final. Floor general Bing Xu’s Hornets will see four starters, the libero and nine letterwinners back on the court with one goal in mind. Look for junior setter, AVCA First-Team All-American Ting Liu, to lead Emporia State’s offensive attack, which will be spearheaded by another returning AVCA All-American in senior outside hitter Arica Shepard (Second-Team).
Coming in at No. 4 on the AVCA poll is Grand Valley State University, who ended 2008 with a 33-4 record, a GLIAC championship and a trip to the NCAA Championship semifinals. Taskmaster Deanne Scanlon brings 11 letterwinners back to the court this season, including three starters and the libero. Leading the charge for the Lakers will be junior middle blocker Rebeccah Rapin, who was an AVCA Honorable Mention All-America selection a year ago. Joining her will be senior outside hitter Whitney Tremain, the 2008 Midwest Regional Tournament Most Valuable Player and senior outside hitter Katey Crichton, an All-GLIAC Honorable Mention honoree.
Completing the top-five is West Texas A&M University, who returns five starters and eight total letterwinners from a campaign that saw them rack up a 34-5 record, capture a Lone Star Conference championship and earn a spot in the NCAA regional semifinals. First-year head coach Jason Skoch will turn to Laura Prinsen, a senior rightside/opposite, who earned an AVCA First-Team All-America nod at the conclusion of last season, to get the offense ignited. Also back for a final go-around is a pair of senior AVCA Honorable Mention All-Americans in setter Katie Rickwartz and middle blocker Melissa Harper.

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