HENDERSON, Tenn. - After taking both the regular season and conference tournament championships last season, the Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) University Lady Lions have been voted by the TranSouth Conference volleyball coaches as the favorite to repeat as champions in 2010.
In 2009, FHU won its third straight regular season title and second conference tournament title in the last three years. The Lady Lions received seven of eight first-place votes in this year's coaches poll, totaling 63 points.
Tournament runner-up Union (Tenn.) University was close behind with 56 points, receiving the only other first-place vote. Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.) University placed third with 45 points, followed by Bethel (Tenn.) University in fourth with 39 points. Cumberland (Tenn.) University came in fifth, one point ahead of Martin Methodist (Tenn.) College. Lyon (Ark.) College was voted seventh with Mid-Continent (Ky.) University coming in eighth.
The NAIA Preseason National Rankings are scheduled to be released on Aug. 17 and can be found here
2010 Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll(rank-team-total points, first place votes in parentheses)
|1. ||Freed-Hardeman (7) ||63 |
|2.||Union University (1)||56|
TEAM-BY-TEAM PREVIEWS(listed in order of finish in coaches poll)
FREED-HARDEMAN UNIVERSITY LADY LIONS
The last three seasons have brought a long list of "firsts" to the Freed-Hardeman volleyball program, from conference championships to a national tournament appearance. This year, the Lady Lions have a chance to bring a first to the TranSouth Conference.
FHU will look to win its fourth consecutive regular season conference title, something that no team has done in the existence of the TSAC. Only one other program - Lee (Tenn.) University, now a member of the Southern States Athletic Conference - has pulled off the three-peat, doing it twice from 1996-1998 and from 2001-2003. Freed-Hardeman has won the last three regular season banners, posting a combined conference record of 42-4 during that span.
However, pulling off the unprecedented four-peat will be a challenge as three of the team's top four attackers will not be returning to the floor, including conference player of the year Diana Silva. This year's attack will be led by junior Sydney Rice and senior Claire Pennington as well as sophomore Fernanda Ferreira, who missed the 2009 season with an injury.
Other returnees include all-conference selections Amber Turner (Jr./S) and Callie West (Soph./LIB) as well as Carissa Foshee (Jr./S) and Rachelle Prince (Jr./DS).
"We know that everyone will be gunning for us this season but I feel we are going to be up to the task," he said. "We will be a little different on offense without Silva this season but our defense should remain strong. Big seasons are expected from our upperclassmen and I look for leadership from our lone senior Claire Pennington."
This year's schedule will again include matches against teams that are perennially ranked in the NAIA's top 25 including Lindenwood (Mo.), Olivet Nazarene (Ill.) and Georgetown (Ky.) College. The season opens at home on Sept. 7 against NCAA Division II Christian Brothers (Tenn.) University.
UNION UNIVERSITY LADY BULLDOGS
The Union University volleyball program begins their season under the leadership of Kelly Elliott, in her first season as the head coach. Elliott is the third head coach for Union volleyball since the program's beginning in 1998. Elliott is the daughter of, and former assistant coach for, NAIA volleyball coach Susie Toomey, who went 749-229 in 25 years at King (Tenn.) College.
The Union Lady Bulldogs return four award winning starters from last season's team that posted a 30-10 record and a runner-up finish in the conference tournament. Union lost one senior, setter Katie Adams to graduation, and the libero to transfer.
Union has three seniors this year including Marcela Madeira, Kelsey Duling and Heather Lieberman. All three players were selected to the all-conference team in 2009, while Madeira was also named an NAIA All-American. This group will look to be the leadership that helps Union return to the national tournament as they did in 2008.
Two juniors highlight the roster including returning starter Anna Sims. Sims was named an all-conference player in 2009. Newcomer Emmie Moroski will take on the role of setter in 2010.
The sophomore class is made up of three players, all returning from successful freshman seasons. Lauren Sprouse, Shelby Swink and Caroline Robbins will look to continue to tribute to the success of Union's program.
Jami Humphries is the lone freshman on the roster. She will get early opportunities to build her skills and contribute to the program's success over her career.
TREVECCA NAZARENE UNIVERSITY TROJANS
As she enters her third year at the helm of the Trevecca volleyball program, head coach Jayme Crowley is focused on continuing to build a solid foundation for the current and future success of Trojan volleyball. "I am excited about the opportunity to build a foundation for this team and this program," says Crowley.
With seven newcomers added to the roster, and only one senior and two juniors among the six returnees, youth is definitely the theme. Setter Brooke Cannon is the lone senior. The other returning starters are junior setter Halley Wiggins and junior libero Haley White.
Sophomore Cassidy Watkins, Casey Kania, and Maddie Burford also return from last year's team that finished 25-13 overall and 11-3 in the TranSouth Conference, good for second place.
"In order to be successful at volleyball, you must love volleyball: breathe it, live it, love it," says Crowley. "Our theme this year is Power-N-Unity; we want to develop a united team front."
Seven newcomers include sophomore Julie Dimick (Goddard, Kan.) and six freshmen - Persephonie Devereaux (Tehachapi, Calif.), Brittany Eller (Crossville, Tenn.), Savannah Hedges (Clarksville, Tenn.), Kristen Johnson (Franklin, Tenn.), Rebecca Shafer (Brea, Calif.), and Shelby Sorce (Chandler, Ariz.).
Eller comes according to Crowley "has the potential to be a great leader for the program." Johnson and Sorce are both utility players that can play multiple positions. Crowley says, "They both have excellent ball control skills and court sense." Shafer can simply "jump out of the gym."
BETHEL UNIVERSITY LADY WILDCATS
The Bethel Lady Wildcats are coming off the most successful season in school history. The Lady Cats finished 21-7 on the year. With a conference record of 9-5, Bethel finished in a tie for third in conference play.
Baker Fieldhouse was truly friendly confines for the Lady Cats last year. They were 9-1 during the regular season at home. Coach Starla Cupples begins her sixth season as head coach at Bethel. She is 77-80 at the school.
The Lady Wildcats will need to replace All-Conference performers, Abbey Masters and Michelle Cunha. Top returners include Thaise Vieira (All-Conference), Jessica Vieira, Adrianna Bookout Gonzalez, and Lori Magnuson. A top newcomer is outside hitter Taylor Ruiz from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.
Coach Cupples is excited about the season. "We had a fantastic year last year and we are proud of that. Teams will be shooting for us this season and we need to be up to the challenge. We lost some great players, but our returners and newcomers have the ability to keep us up there challenging for a conference title."
CUMBERLAND UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS
Coming off a fifth-place finish in the TranSouth Conference regular season standings, Cumberland University hopes to find its way closer to the top in 2010.
The Bulldogs, under the direction of 23rd-year head coach Dwayne Deering, return five starters and nine letterwinners from a year ago, including a pair of All-Conference players - sophomore Kaysi Arnold (First Team) and senior Jessica Gericke (Honorable Mention).
"I expect big things out of those two players," Deering said of Arnold and Gericke. "Jessica was our Team MVP last year and Kaysi should be one of the top hitters in the league."
Deering will also look to senior setter Taylor Denney, a three-year starter who has led the team in assists each season, to be a leader on the court for a team with 11 underclassmen, including three freshmen.
Newcomers that should make an immediate impact this season include outside hitters Danielle Girardeau and Mackenzie Gass, as well as defensive specialist Jaclyn Rodriguez, who will compete for the starting job with Brooke Bowers. The new libero will replace Jordan Pescatore, who was named All-Conference last season before graduating.
The Bulldogs finished the 2009 season with an overall mark of 19-14, but won only six of their 14 conference matches. CU went 2-2 in the TranSouth Championships and was eliminated by eventual runner-up Union University.
Cumberland opens the season with its annual Volleydawg Classic Aug. 27-28 at the Dallas Floyd Recreation Center.
MARTIN METHODIST COLLEGE REDHAWKS
After a 14-15 overall record in 2009, including a seventh place finish in TranSouth Athletic Conference
standings with a 4-10 TSAC mark, the Martin Methodist College volleyball program looks to rise back to
the top in the TranSouth this season. MMC improved in 2009 from just two overall wins in 2008, and looks
to continue their turnaround in 2010.
Head Coach Rose Powell enters her 13th season as the leader of the RedHawks program, a stint that
includes MMC's first-ever TranSouth regular season and tournament champion titles in 2005. MMC's
quest to once again reign over the TSAC will be in the hands of Coach Powell, who has used the off-
season to put together a combination of players to help the RedHawks compete in a tough conference.
The Redhawks open their season with two early tournaments, and will quickly begin conference play on
their home court against Mid-Continent on September 7th.
LYON COLLEGE SCOTS
Five strong returnees are set to take turns forming the personnel of an attacking frontline that has the potential to make the 2010 version of the Lyon College Scots volleyball team forget a dismal 2009 season.
Lyon's 11-26 overall record in 2009 was the first time in seven years that the Scots finished without a winning mark in the overall standings, but Lyon Head Volleyball coach Ray Green has the Scots primed for a return to competition in 2010.
Meghann LaBorn (SR, 6-2), a two-time All-TranSouth middle hitter, takes to the court for her senior season and will do so as the Scots leading returning hitter (251 kills, .271 hitting percentage in 2009) and blocker (80 blocks in 2009). Also checking in at middle hitter for her second season is Suzanne Fincham (SO, 6-0). Fincham put up an impressive 124 kills and 46 blocks as a freshman in 2009.
On the outside, Chelsea Hinton (JR, 5-11) and Jennifer Jones (SO, 6-0) are also back in the starting lineup. Hinton is Lyon's No. 2 returning kills leader with 143 in 2009, despite missing nine matches with an injury. As an added bonus on the outside, the Scots get Ashley Daniel (RS-JR, 5-9) back from an injury that cost her all but seven matches in the 2009 season. Before the injury, Daniel was one of the Scots' best hitters, as evidenced by a team runner-up 257 kills in 2008.
Among the new recruits and transfers, Green lists three - Outside hitter Danielle Reed (JR, 6-0, Southwest Baptist), hitter Audrey Myers (JR, 5-9, Galveston College) and setter Bre Wright (FR, 5-7, West Plains (Mo.) H.S.) - that could help Lyon's fortunes immediately in 2010.
The Scots jump serve into the regular season on Aug. 28 with a tri-match against Philander Smith and Mississippi Valley State at Little Rock.
MID-CONTINENT UNIVERSITY COUGARS
Mid-Continent volleyball has set records before killing even one ball. The Cougars begin with a record 14-player roster, nine with collegiate experience, and return a record seven letter-winners and four starters. Second-year coach Brittany Nicley, whose 2009 roster included just nine players with no previous collegiate experience, looks forward to the competition for playing time and the increased flexibility in substitution possibilities.
"MCU is improved on the front line this season," claims Nicley, whose plans include a quicker offensive pace. "MCU is somewhat undersized at the net so must play a scrappy defense and get the ball up every play," says Nicley.
Optimism begins with the fact that MCU returns its top three hitters and top four defenders. Senior OH Tiffany Payton, MCU's kills leader who ranked second in the TSAC in digs, earned All-TSAC H.M. honors. "Tiffany provides on-court leadership and is a smart player," says Nicley.
Also an All-TSAC Honorable Mention pick, junior MH Katie Perry led in blocks and ranked third in kills and fourth in digs. Perry provides "vocal leadership and competitiveness and is a threat offensively and defensively," says Nicley.
Sophomore OH Kristin Selph, who ranked second in kills and digs, and sophomore MB Andria Miller, who ranked second in blocks, both return. Battling for playing time up front are freshmen Ashlee Crockrell and Jessica Taylor.
Junior Lindsey Davis and freshman Jessica Gonzalez compete for at the setter position this season. Davis provides "leadership, intensity and the ability to make plays," according to Nicley.
Sophomore liberos Lorraine Vaughan, who led MCU in service receptions and ranked third in digs, and Alyssa Ybarra are battling for time with college transfers Lindsey Whipp and Tara Bauch and freshman Brianna Latham.