YORK, Pa. - Boasting a 17-0 conference record and two conference championships since joining the CAC in 2013, it's no surprise that Christopher Newport was picked as the favorite to three-peat in a vote among CAC volleyball head coaches. CNU was unanimously atop the preseason poll with nine first-place votes and 81 points.
Salisbury (62 points) edged Mary Washington (59 points, 1 first-place vote) for second place in the poll, followed by other 2014 playoff teams St. Mary's (57 points), Marymount (54 points) and Southern Virginia (48 points) in the top six.
Rounding out the preseason poll were Frostburg State (37 points) in seventh, York (26 points), Wesley (17 points) and Penn State Harrisburg (9 points).
CNU represented the CAC in the NCAA Tournament in 2014, advancing all the way to the Elite 8 before falling to Calvin, 3-1.
The CAC will once again feature some new faces on the sidelines this year as three teams – Southern Virginia, Wesley and York – enter the 2014 season with new coaches. It's the second straight year the CAC has had at least three new coaches entering the season.
The 2015 season begins for eight of the 10 squads on Tuesday, Sept. 1, while Mary Washington opens up on Sept. 2 and Penn State Harrisburg on Sept. 4. The 2015 CAC playoffs are scheduled for the first week in November, leading to the championship match on Saturday, Nov. 7.
Here is a brief look at each team heading into the 2015 season:
Picked sixth in the AVCA Preseason National Coaches Poll, CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT has high expectations entering 2015 after claiming the past two CAC Championships. Last year, the Captains advanced to the Elite Eight and finished 34-4 overall after winning their fifth Regional Championship in the last six years. Led by head coach Lindsay Birch, CNU brings back a solid veteran core, including reigning All-Americans Hannah Miller, Rachel Conway, Briana Sutton, and Eliza Fisher.
FROSTBURG STATE turned a corner last fall and fifth-year head coach Becky Fletcher is optimistic that her '15 Bobcat squad can continue that upward trend. With the return of two seniors and a strong sophomore class, Frostburg State should improve on its 13 wins from a year ago and earn a spot in the CAC Tournament. Seniors Aimee Petrides (324 kills) and Caitlyn Collins (129 digs, 51 assists) will provide veteran leadership to a young, but talented Bobcat roster.
MARY WASHINGTON enters the 2015 season with high hopes after a 22-12 season a year ago, which ranked as the team's highest winning percentage since 1997. Leading the returners is senior Emma Murphy and All-CAC selections Emma Olson and Dani Fiore, who gained CAC Rookie of the Year honors last year. In all, UMW sees the return of seven lettermen from 2014, and a talented freshman class will bolster the Eagles' efforts for this fall.
After a second-place finish in the CAC regular season in 2014, MARYMOUNT and head coach Beth Ann Wilson look to remain a tough match up for conference opponents. The Saints return two of their three kill leaders, junior Emileigh Rettig (406) and senior Morgan McAlpin (251), while adding seven freshmen to the roster.
ST. MARY'S is excited to be back on the court after a highly successful 2014 campaign which saw the Seahawks just one set away from appearing in the CAC championship title match. St. Mary's only lost one player from the 2014 squad and the team is looking forward to extending their CAC championship tournament run this season. Mandy Goodspeed, a three-time first team All-CAC selection, will lead the charge once again while key newcomers will bolster an already solid team.
SALISBURY is looking to advance to its fifth-straight CAC championship match in 2015. The Sea Gulls return their offensive leader from last season in Katie Stouffer, who paced the team with 431 kills, good for fifth all time for kills in a season in program history. Defensively, the Gulls bring back Shannon Russell (289 digs) and Kacey Franz (140 digs); Russell also ranked third on the team with 179 kills. Alexis Howatt and Rachel Pierson return for Salisbury, after splitting the setting duties in 2014, finishing with 542 and 560 assists, respectively.
SOUTHERN VIRGINIA is looking for back-to-back bids in the CAC tournament under the new direction of head coach Nicole Gwynn. The Knights lost All-CAC Second Team member Kaitlyn Eaton but return the leadership of setter Katelynn Tlustek and outside hitter Hannah Phillips.
WESLEY graduated just one senior from the 2014 team and return their top four hitters to begin the 2015 campaign. Defensive specialist Meghan Marshall, last year's team leader in digs, returns to help bolster the team's back line as well. First year head coach Lindsay Miller will look to guide the Wolverines into the CAC playoffs for the first time since joining the conference in 2007.
YORK starts the 2015 season with a new look as Tim Bonitz has taken over the reigns of the program after the retirement of long-time head coach Sue DuMars. Bonitz will look to All-CAC libero Katherine Graziano to lead a team that will be extremely young. Other key returners include middle hitter Ali Dorsey and setter Sarah Wutkich. Bonitz has recruited a strong class of newcomers. He will need to count on a slew of freshman to help the Spartans climb the ladder in the CAC standings.
2015 CAC Volleyball Preseason Coaches' Poll
|1. Christopher Newport (9 first-place votes)||81 points|
|2. Salisbury||62 points|
|3. Mary Washington (1 first-place vote)||59 points|
|4. St. Mary's||57 points|
|5. Marymount||54 points|
|6. Southern Virginia||48 points|
|7. Frostburg State||37 points|
|8. York||26 points|
|9. Wesley||17 points|
|10. Penn State Harrisburg||9 points|