The U of M, Crookston volleyball team was picked to finish 11th in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Preseason Coaches’ Poll as announced Thursday by the league office. The Golden Eagles garnered 81 points in the poll.
Five-time defending NCAA Division II Champion Concordia University, St. Paul was slated first in the poll for the ninth consecutive season after going 34-2 (18-2 NSIC) during the 2011 campaign. The Golden Bears received 225 points including 15 first-place votes. University of Minnesota Duluth was picked second in the poll with 202 points. Southwest Minnesota State University was selected third by the coaches and received one first-place vote. Wayne State College (183 votes) and Minnesota State University, Mankato (166 votes) round out the top five in the poll.
The Golden Eagles are coming off a 12-18 (6-14 NSIC) record in 2011. UMC returns five starters from last season’s squad led by NSIC Player to Watch Brittany Looker (So., OH, Rochester, Minn.). Looker led the team with 375 kills (3.41 kills/game) and was second on the team with 29 service aces and 255 digs. The Golden Eagles also return libero Chelsea Wiesner (Jr., Rochester, Minn.) who notched 562 digs (5.11 digs/game) as a sophomore, in addition to middle hitter Morgan VanGerpen (So., Overland Park, Kan.), outside hitter Amanda Swann (Sr., Rochester Hills, Mich.) and middle hitter Katie Miedtke (Jr., Maple Grove, Minn.).
Concordia-St. Paul setter Kayla Koenecke was selected the NSIC Preseason Player of the Year. Koenecke was named an American Volleyball Coaches’ Association (AVCA) First Team All-American a season ago. She was also a NSIC First Team pick and an NCAA All-Tournament Team selection.
Minnesota, Crookston will open up the 2012 slate Aug. 31 and Sept. 1 with four matches at the Ferris State Tournament in Big Rapids, Mich. The Golden Eagles will play games against Northern Michigan University, Glenville State College, Alderson-Broaddus College and Clarion University. UMC will open NSIC play Sept. 14 versus University of Mary Sept. 14 in Bismarck, N.D.