Volleyball ranked No. 25 in AVCA preseason poll
INDIANOLA, Iowa - Returning five starters and its libero from last year's NCAA Tournament team, the Simpson College volleyball team earned a No. 25 preseason ranking from the AVCA, as announced on Wednesday.
"Being ranked in the top 25 nationally is a great compliment to our players and program," head coach Lana Smith said. "We are taking on the challenge and aiming to move up in the polls as the season progresses. Ultimately, we will be focused on our performance this season rather than where we are ranked. We are working and preparing for the IIAC Conference Championship title."
Simpson finished second in the Iowa Conference in 2008, earning a trip to the postseason for the second time in three years. Conference-champion Loras handed the Storm its only league loss during the regular season, as Simpson went 7-1 and 20-15 overall.
With 51 points in the poll, Simpson begins the season in a tie for the No. 25 spot with Williams, which went 28-13 in 2008. Last year's national champion, Emory owns the top spot to start 2009.
Of Simpson's returners, four are reigning All-Iowa Conference performers. Setter Tara Christensen (pictured) (Sr. - Hinton, Iowa) is a three-time all-conference pick, twice earning first team honors. Entering the season second in program history in assists (4,161), Christensen landed spots as an AVCA Honorable Mention All-American and AVCA All-Central Region player in 2008. She needs only 213 assists to become Simpson's all-time leader in the category.
Joining Christensen are all-conference caliber players Amy Schuster (Jr. - OH - Indianola, Iowa), Brittany Friesth (Sr. - L - Adel, Iowa) and Whitney Oviatt (Sr. - MH - Carnation, Wash.). Schuster claimed Second Team All-IIAC honors in 2007 and 2008, while Friesth and Oviatt joined her with second team accolades in 2008.
Senior Lara Gillespie (OH - Lake Park, Iowa) and sophomore Megan Dunlavy (MH - Bettendorf, Iowa) round out Simpson's returning starters.
Simpson's 2009 schedule features nine matches against AVCA Top 25 teams, including three in the season-opening Puget Sound Invitational. There, the Storm joins host and No. 19 Puget Sound, No. 10 St. Benedict (Minn.) and No. 13 Pacific Lutheran.
The Storm opens the home slate Sept. 9, against Cornell.