University of Nebraska at Kearney coach Rick Squiers liked enough of what he saw in the spring that he isn't fazed about the Lopers No. 1 spot in the MIAA volleyball poll.
UNK received 118 points and eight of the 12 first-place votes from league coaches. Central Missouri picked up one first-place vote and came in second with 108 points. Washburn was third with 107 points and three first-place votes.
Emporia State was fourth, Pittsburg State fifth and Northwest Missouri State sixth.
Squiers said he figured the Lopers would land anywhere from first to third. The upper half of the poll, he said, is filled with the usual suspects. Perennial contender Truman State left for the Great Lakes Valley Conference.
“There is a lot of talent on all of those rosters,” he said.
The Lopers went 35-3 and 16-1 last fall, winning the MIAA regular-season and tournament titles. But they have to replace outside hitter Ariel Krolikowski and setter Jenna Rouzee, both All-Americans.
They did some work on that in the spring, when they picked up victories against Northern Colorado and Wyoming and competed well against Colorado. And that was without middle blocker Ellie Pesavento, who sat out to protect her shoulder.
UNK still had first-team All-America libero Liz McGowan and all-region middle hitter Katie Sokolowski. Sophomore outside hitter MJ Massanet, who Squiers called the team's most complete all-around hitter, also will contribute.
“We saw some people emerge,” Squiers said. “I think we'll have a confident team. You've got to win a lot of close ones to win the MIAA.”
Setter Erin Seele, who came in last year as a designated server, improved as the spring progressed. Still, Brenna Nelson, a freshman from Elkhorn, could make things interesting, the coach said.
The Lopers begin fall camp Monday and open the season hosting William Jewell (Mo.) on Sept. 6.
“Hopefully,” Squiers said, “we'll be a contender.”
In other volleyball news:
» UNK is ranked third and Wayne State 20th in the AVCA preseason Top 25. Six of the top eight teams are from the Central Region.
Six-time defending national champ Concordia-St. Paul (1,188) is No. 1 and received 43 of a possible 48 first-place votes, with runner-up Tampa second.
» Chadron State opens its practices Wednesday, and second-year coach Janel Baily has high hopes after a good spring.
Though the Eagles lost several seniors who were key contributors last fall in a 5-24 campaign, Baily thinks Chadron State could turn some heads this season.
“I'm confident we will compete with everyone in the conference,” she said, “and I can't wait to get the season started.”
The Eagles open Sept. 6 against Newman University and UNK.
» Bellevue University was picked to win the MCAC for the sixth straight season. The Bruins return nine letterwinners and five starters from last year's squad that won a school-record 36 matches and went 13-0 in the league. College of the Ozarks was picked second, Waldorf College third and College of St. Mary fourth. York College was seventh.
Lopers to introduce new A.D.
The University of Nebraska at Kearney will introduce its new athletic director at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the UNK Health and Sports Center.
Four finalists visited the school. Jon McBride is stepping down after 11 years.
Hastings soccer teams picked to win GPAC
The Hastings College men and women were picked to win the Great Plains Athletic Conference soccer titles.
The Bronco men, 16-7 last year, totaled 100 points and 10 first-place votes. Midland was second and Northwestern third.
The Hastings women, 12-7-1 last season, also got 100 points and 10 first-place votes. Doane was second and Midland third.
Men's poll: 1, Hastings (10 first-place votes), 100 points. 2, Midland (1), 91. 3, Northwestern, 82. 4, Dordt, 62. 5, Doane, 59. 6, Nebraska Wesleyan, 53. 7, Concordia, 51. 8, Morningside, 49. 9, Dakota Wesleyan, 26. 10, Briar Cliff, 22. 11, Mount Marty, 10.
Women's poll: 1, Hastings (10 first-place votes), 100 points. 2, Doane (1), 89. 3, Midland, 81. 4, Northwestern, 71. 5, Morningside, 64. 6, Briar Cliff, 51. 7, Concordia, 48. 8, Nebraska Wesleyan, 43. 9, Dakota Wesleyan, 28. 10, Dordt, 16. 11, Mount Marty, 14.
Morningside football starts at No. 1
Morningside is No. 1 in the NAIA football preseason coaches poll.
The Mustangs are coming off their most successful season in school history after they went 13-1 and played in their first national championship game, where they lost 30-27 in overtime to Marian (Ind.).
Morningside is one of three ranked teams from the GPAC. Northwestern is 13th and Doane is 20th.