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Volleyball Picked Fourth; Whitmer and Meeks Earn Preseason Honors

ROCK HILL, SC -- Catawba is ranked fourth in the preseason South Atlantic Conference coaches’ poll which was released by the league office on Tuesday.  Coming off last season’s 14-13, 9-9 record, the Catawba garnered one first-place vote in the poll.  Junior Kaitlyn Whitmer (Ferrum, VA/Franklin Co. HS) and senior Shay Meeks (Kings Mountain, NC/Kings Mountain HS) earned spots in the preseason All-SAC teams.

Whitmer, an outside hitter, earns preseason first-team accolades.  She was a second team All-SAC selection in 2010 and was named to All-Region teams by Daktronics and the AVCA.  Whitmer ranked fifth in the league with 3.15 kills per set in 2010.

Meeks, also an outside hitter, is a second-team preseason all-conference selection.  She finished 10th in the league with 2.92 kills per set in 2010.

Five-time defending SAC champion Wingate has been picked as the favorite to win the league title again in 2011.  League coaches gave the Bulldogs six of the 10 first place votes in the preseason poll.  WU had a total of 93 points.

Wingate is coming off a dominant season, in which it went 31-2 overall, 18-0 in the SAC, and had a streak of 29 consecutive wins.  The Bulldogs advanced to the NCAA Division II Volleyball Championship quarterfinals.  The Bulldogs haven’t lost a conference match since 2006.

Just behind Wingate in the preseason coaches’ poll is Tusculum with 89 points, including one first-place vote.  The Pioneers also had an impressive 2010, going 25-7 overall, 16-2 in the SAC.  Tusculum was runner-up in last year’s SAC Championship, and earned a selection into the NCAA Southeast Regional Championship.

Coming in third in the preseason coaches’ poll was Carson-Newman with 71 points and one first-place vote.  The Eagles advanced to the semifinals of last year’s NCAA Southeast Regional Championship, and finished with an overall record 20-11 and 10-8 in league play.

Catawba picked up 68 points to place fourth in the poll.  Lincoln-Memorial, a 2010 NCAA Southeast Regional Championship selection is fifth in the poll, followed by Newberry -- which also received a first-place vote -- and Mars Hill tied for the No. 6 slot.

Rounding out the coaches’ poll is Anderson at No. 8, Lenoir-Rhyne at No. 9 and Brevard at No. 10.

The 2011 SAC volleyball season gets underway on Sept. 2.

2011 SAC Volleyball Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. Wingate, 93 (6)
2. Tusculum, 89 (1)
3. Carson-Newman, 71 (1)
4. Catawba, 68 (1)
5. Lincoln Memorial, 67
t6. Newberry, 40 (1)
t6. Mars Hill, 40
8. Anderson, 39
9. Lenoir-Rhyne, 33
10. Brevard, 10

Tusculum, coming off back-to-back trips to the NCAA Tournament, had four players earn first team preseason All-SAC honors.  The Pioneers finished second in the conference in 2010, going 16-2 in league play.  No other SAC school has more than two players on the preseason teams.

Tusculum junior middle blocker Alyssa Raterman and junior outside hitter/middle blocker Sam Underwood are joined by sophomore setter Ashley Sarmiento and sophomore libero Caitlyn Dean on the first team.  Raterman, Sarmiento and Dean were first-team All-SAC selections in 2010, while also earning All-Region honors.  Underwood earned second-team honors last season. Sarmiento led the league with 10.39 assists per set, and was named the SAC Freshman of the Year in 2010.  Dean, the nation’s leader in digs per set, earned first-team All-American honors from Daktronics.  Raterman averaged 2.09 kills per set, while ranking second in the league with a .350 hitting percentage. Underwood was second on the team with 2.60 kills per set in 2010, adding 2.83 digs per set.

Carson-Newman senior middle hitter Nikki James earns first-team preseason honors.  The nation’s leader in blocks per set in 2010, James earned second team All-SAC accolades in 2010, while also earning All-Region honors from the AVCA.  She helped lead Carson-Newman to the NCAA regional semifinals in 2010.

Newberry sophomore outside hitter Samantha Parrish (Angola, Ind.) earns first-team preseason all-conference accolades.  A second-team all-conference selection in 2010, Parrish finished third in the league with 3.41 kills per set last year.  Wingate senior setter Liz Willis (Raleigh, N.C.) rounds out the first team.  The three-time All-SAC selection was ninth with 6.95 assists per set in 2010, helping lead Wingate to its fifth straight SAC title.  The Bulldogs became the first school in SAC history to earn a trip to the Elite Eight last season.

Lincoln Memorial had a pair of second-team preseason All-SAC selections.  Sophomore outside hitter Kaitlin Walton is joined by senior outside hitter Candace Richardson. Walton was a second-team All-SAC selection in 2010, while also earning All-SAC freshman honors.  She was ninth in the SAC with 2.92 kills per set last season. Richardson averaged 1.99 kills and 2.13 digs per set in 2010.

Mars Hill also had a pair of representatives on the second team.  Senior outside hitter Evie Tafunai joins sophomore libero Maggie Murphy.  Tafunai was seventh in the SAC with 3.08 kills per set in 2010, while Murphy finished second in the conference with 6.38 digs per set. Murphy was a second-team All-SAC selection in 2010.  Brevard College senior outside hitter Jordei Osby earns second team-honors in the preseason. She was second in the SAC with 1.03 blocks per set in 2010, to go along with 1.60 kills per set.

Carson-Newman senior outside hitter Carly Swisher is also a second-team selection. She averaged 2.36 kills and 0.74 blocks per set last season.  Wingate sophomore outside hitter Cory McGowan rounds out the second team.  The All-SAC Freshman team selection in 2010 was eighth in the league with 2.96 kills per set last season, while also collecting 2.95 digs per set.

2011 Volleyball Preseason All-SAC Team

First Team
Nikki James, Carson-Newman
Kaitlyn Whitmer, CATAWBA
Samantha Parrish, Newberry
Caitlyn Dean, Tusculum (Libero)
Alyssa Raterman, Tusculum
Ashley Sarmiento, Tusculum
Samantha Underwood, Tusculum
Liz Willis, Wingate

Second Team
Jordei Osby, Brevard
Carly Swisher, Carson-Newman
Shay Meeks, CATAWBA
Candace Richardson, Lincoln Memorial
Kaitlin Walton, Lincoln Memorial
Maggie Murphy, Mars Hill (Libero)
Evie Tafunai, Mars Hill
Cory McGowan, Wingate


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