HIGH POINT, N.C. - Lees-McRae College is primed for a run at the program’s 14th Conference Carolinas title in the last 15 years and has been voted the league favorite by conference coaches in this year’s preseason poll. The Bobcats return five starters from last year’s 25-8 squad which posted an unblemished 18-0 record in league play en route to both the conference regular season and tournament crowns. A new look Pfeiffer University squad was picked seventh.
Megan Epperson, Taylor Clendenin, and Megan Mitchell return to anchor the Bobcat rotation, and with the help of key returners Jessica Singewald, Lauren Fox, and Dana Oliver, look poised for a deep run into the NCAA Tournament under the guidance of head coach Wes Schneider.
After Erskine College’s run last year to the conference tournament finals, league coaches chose the Flying Fleet second in this year’s preseason poll. Erskine brings back an experienced team that will look to contend for this season’s conference championship. The Fleet finished last season 20-11 overall and 14-4 in conference play.
Erskine returns eleven players from last year’s squad, including five All-Conference players in Jamie Murray, Sandra Campbell, Brooke Dodge, Larz Chabra, and Liz Massey. Seniors Sandra Campbell and Jamie Murray led the Fleet in kills last season and give the Fleet an explosive frontline. Junior setter Larz Chabra will once again direct the Erskine offense that was second in the conference last season while fellow classmate Brooke Dodge anchors the back row from her libero position. Junior right-side hitter Liz Massey returns from an ankle injury and is an excellent all-around player who can play both rows.
King College enters its first season participating in Conference Carolinas and is already garnering the attention of coaches around the league with a third place vote in the preseason coaches’ poll. After completing the transition to NCAA Division II from the NCCAA, the Tornado look to continue their success following a 31-12 record and willing their way to the NCCAA national tournament in 2010.
The Tornado will be faced with a steep challenge after losing three NCCAA All-Americans from a season ago. Sophomore Kelsey Griffitts and junior Sarah Van Goethem will be called upon to fill the void on the offensive end after the duo combined for 597 kills last season. Junior Natalie Brown is expected to be a major contributor as a defensive specialist bringing back 346 digs. Junior Shannon Earwood will resume setting duties after posting over 1,400 assists last season and also contributing 239 digs on the year. Ashley Pittman returns healthy after missing half the season due to a knee injury. She led the team in kills prior to the injury and is expected to return to form.
Belmont Abbey finished fourth in the poll with Queens fifth followed by Barton, Pfeiffer, Limestone, Mount Olive, North Greenville, Coker, and Converse respectively rounding-out the poll standings.
Conference Carolinas Women's Volleyball Preseason Poll (# of First Place Votes in Parenthesis)
1. Lees-McRae - (6) 113
2. Erskine - (3) 112
3. King (3) 97
4. Belmont Abbey - 85
5. Queens - 84
6. Barton - 64
7. Pfeiffer - 58
8. Limestone - 48
9. Mount Olive - 47
10. North Greenville - 41
11. Coker - 24
12. Converse - 19