Christopher Newport Secures Top Billing in CAC Volleyball Preseason Poll
Christopher Newport Secures Top Billing in CAC Volleyball Preseason Poll

WATCH: CAC Volleyball Preseason Poll Video

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - Defending champion Christopher Newport secured top billing in the 2018 Capital Athletic Conference Volleyball Preseason Poll. The Captains received six first-place votes and tallied 48 points to earn the top position in a preseason vote among the conference head coaches. 

Mary Washington, which advanced to the CAC championship match last fall, earned two first-place votes and 44 points to finish second in the voting. 

Salisbury notched 34 points to claim third in the rankings, followed by York (29 points) and Southern Virginia (26 points) in fourth and fifth place, respectively. Frostburg State placed sixth with 19 points, with Penn State Harrisburg (13 points) and St. Mary's (11 points) closing out the preseason rankings. 

The 2018 season opens up on Friday, Aug. 31, with conference play beginning in late September. The CAC Championship match is set for Saturday, Nov. 3. 

2018 CAC Volleyball Preseason Poll

Points (First-Place Votes)
1. Christopher Newport 48 (6)
2. Mary Washington 44 (2)
3. Salisbury 34
4. York 29
5.  Southern Virginia 26
6.  Frostburg State 19
7. Penn State Harrisburg 13
8. St. Mary's 11

Below is a team-by-team capsule entering the 2018 campaign: 

After winning its fourth CAC title in the past five years, CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT enters 2018 with high expectations. Ranked 23rd in the AVCA Preseason National Coaches Poll, head coach Lindsay Birch's team returns four players that started at least half of the team's matches last year, including three who registered 200 or more kills. Headlining the veteran contingent will be All-Region libero Josie Lucernoni as well as All-Conference performers Katie Piper and Riley Garrison.

FROSTBURG STATE is coming off its best season in terms of winning percentage under eighth-year head coach Becky Fletcher. The Bobcats return three starters but will have to replace seven impactful graduating seniors. Last season, the Bobcats led the CAC in digs per set (17.77), and will lean on junior defensive specialist Cori Smothers, Kathryn Lough and Hannah Brown. In the middle, the Bobcats return juniors Biamba Tshitenge and Ashante Corey-Bey. Tshitenge finished fifth in the conference with 71 blocks and Corey-Bey ranked sixth in the CAC with a .264 hitting percentage.

MARY WASHINGTON came up just short of a third straight NCAA tournament appearance last season as they fell in the CAC Championship. Head coach Matt Troy brings back a wealth of experience and talent that can get them back there. Leading the way for the Eagles in the hitting department are All-CAC selections Leslie Walters, Peyton Dunow, and Savannah Powers. 2017 Rookie of the Year, Wren Berry, will be on the hunt to lead the CAC in assists for a second straight season. Defensive specialist and captain, Ryan Cho, will provide the leadership needed to guide UMW throughout the season. Tenley Hares and Skyler Sisk will look to be key contributors.

Under the leadership of third-year head coach Angela Burkett, PENN STATE HARRISBURG enters the 2018 campaign hope to grow on last season successes. The Blue & White return 10 players from last season's squad including senior defensive specialist Kari Ammerman, who became the school's all-time leader in digs last season. Harrisburg also returns junior outside hitter Brittany Wolf who is third in school history in kills.  

ST. MARY'S will look to bounce back after a disappointing, three-win season in 2017. Third-year head coach Kelly Martin is excited to blend a strong veteran nucleus with seven talented and eager newcomers. The Seahawks will have a sound defensive base with the return of libero Marissa Dangler '19, who led the conference last year with 5.32 digs per set. In addition, the team's top two hitters - Meghan Kelley '19 (256 kills) and Hannah Krauss '19 (139 kills) - are back to lead the offense.

SALISBURY returns 10 players from its 2017 squad including CAC First Team honoree Nicole Venturelli. Venturelli led the team in kills, total attacks, and sets played totaling 457, 1,327, and 110 respectively. Venturelli also posted a team and conference best 4.15 kills per set during the 2017 season. Venturelli enters the season just 13 kills away career 1,000. The Sea Gulls will also have Gianna Savarese, who posted a team and conference best 1.10 blocks per set while finishing the season with 89, which placed her third in the conference. Another key return for the maroon and gold will be libero Hailey Dougherty. Dougherty finished the season with a team-best 559 digs while posting a digs per set mark of 5.08 to place third overall in the conference.

SOUTHERN VIRGINIA is looking to fill the void of losing their top two kill leaders. Four starters return to the Knights, LaRee Crocket returns who led the conference in assists (336) and assists per set (9.88). First-year head coach Debby Baker will look to build her young core for post-season play.

YORK enters the 2018 season looking to take the next step after the Spartans went 19-10 overall and 5-4 in the Capital Athletic Conference. Head coach Dan Mickle enters his second season at the helm of the program with his entire lineup back intact. Mickle will turn to senior All-CAC outside hitter Eryn Brady and senior libero Alexis Harbold to lead the squad. Thye are surrounded by experienced talent as setter Gabby Emeigh, middle hitter Madyson Whitcomb, outside hitter Brooke Krebs, and middle hitter Cheyenne Altland all return to the Spartan lineup.