TERRE HAUTE —
The Indiana State volleyball team was picked to finish ninth in the Missouri Valley Conference this season, according to a poll of coaches released Wednesday by the league office.
The Sycamores were 4-24 during an injury-plagued 2012 campaign that also saw them finish 2-16 in conference action. The benefit of that season was many of the younger players were called upon and gained valuable experience, which should benefit the squad in 2013.
“We have a bright outlook for the upcoming season,” ISU coach Traci Dahl said. “We have several new freshmen and our younger players from last year got a lot of playing time and will be stepping up into bigger roles for this year. The preseason poll is not indicative of the outcome we expect to have this season.”
Fresh off its first-ever NCAA Sweet 16 appearance, Wichita State has been tabbed as the league favorite in the annual coaches’ preseason poll, receiving 98 points and eight first-place votes. The Shockers were a sound favorite over second-place pick Northern Iowa (84 points) and third-place Missouri State (83 points, two first-place votes).
Wichita State opens the season ranked 24th nationally in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) pre-season rankings. Northern Iowa also received votes in the poll but did not crack the top 25.
The Valley will look to continue to build off the success of another historic season in 2012 that saw three league teams selected as part of the field of 64 teams to play for the NCAA national title. This marked the fifth time in league history that three volleyball teams were invited to the dance (also in 2011, 2010, 2008 and 2007). The Valley earned three first-round NCAA tournament wins for the first time in MVC history, while Wichita State advanced to its first-ever Sweet 16 after knocking off Arkansas in second-round action.
The 2013 regular-season campaign begins Aug. 30 with all 10 teams in non-conference tournament action. Wichita State will host the 2013 MVC Championship, Nov. 28-30, in Wichita, Kan., where the league's top-six teams will battle it out for the Valley's automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA tournament.
Four starters return for Indiana State who will open the season on Aug. 30 and 31 when they compete in the SIUE Cougar Classic in Edwardsville, Ill., taking on SIUE on Aug. 30 and Akron on Aug. 31.
The Sycamores’ attack will be powered by a trio of players, including fifth-year senior Morgan Dall (299 kills in 2011), who returns to the floor after missing last season with an injury, senior Molly Murphy (219 kills, 240 digs) and sophomore Cassandra Willis (182 kills, 63 blocks). Junior Kyla Thomas (115 kills, 58 blocks) also will add to the battalion at the net for Indiana State, while senior Loni Mackinson (741 assists, 212 digs), who shared time at the setter position last season, also returns to the floor for the Sycamores.
Two sophomores who saw considerable court time a year ago were Erika Nord (319 assists, 137 digs) and Victoria Swigart (100 kills).
Illinois State (67 points) was picked to finish fourth in the league with Southern Illinois fifth (60 points) and league newcomer Loyola sixth (44 points). Evansville came in at seventh (37 points), Bradley eighth (35 points), Indiana State ninth (26 points), and Drake 10th (16 points).
2013 MVC Preseason All-Conference Team
Chelsey Feekin, Wichita State, Sr., S
Elizabeth Field, Wichita State, Sr., MB
Kaitlin Jaeger, Missouri State, Jr., MB/OH
Ashley Rosch, Illinois State, So., OH
Carly Thomas, Missouri State, Sr., S
Macy Ubben, Northern Iowa, Sr., OH