The Slippery Rock University volleyball team was picked to finish the season in eighth place in the Western Division of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, according to the Preseason Coaches Poll released on August 20.
California University, who has claimed four of the past six PSAC titles, is projected to be the conference champion as they claimed four first place votes.
Clarion and Gannon both received two first place votes and are expected to finish second and third, respectively. Mercyhurst is projected to finish fourth, followed by Edinboro, Indiana, and Seton Hill.
The projected top team from the Eastern division is Shippensburg, who received three first place votes. Lock Haven gathered in four first place votes, but is expected to finish second in the East after being the runner-up in the PSAC last season.
Last season, the Green and White took fifth place in PSAC-West after finishing with a 14-19 overall record and a conference record of 7-12.
Entering her 30th season as head coach, Laurie Lokash returns eleven players to her squad. Nine of those players are upper classmen.
Lokash doesn’t believe the coaches poll will have any outcome on her team’s performance this season.
“We have a young team,” Lokash said, “Coaches polls are coaches polls. Through the preseason we have gotten progressively better.”
The expected leaders for the Rock this season are senior Caroline Houston, junior Janna Reilly and redshirt sophomore Kristy Lake.
A young Slippery Rock team will also look up to seniors Sarah Beals, Kayla Woo, Alexandra Fleagle, Lauren Rojek and Morgan Olson.
The Green and White will have to replace their graduating leaders in kills, digs, and their top blocker from last season.
Houston played in all 33 matches last season and was top three on the team in most major statistical categories including kills, aces, and digs.
Reilly, the 2011 Atlantic Region Freshman of the Year, led the team in sets played and assists. The junior setter also finished third on the team in digs and is currently sixth in Slippery Rock history in assists.
The Rock expects to get a boost from the return of Lake, who missed all of last season with an injury. In the 2011 season, she was second on the team in kills and kills per set.
Lokash welcomes a large freshman class to her squad consisting of eight true freshmen and two redshirt freshmen. The head coach expects the freshman to see some significant playing time this season.
“We only have one middle who had playing time last season,” Lokash said, “We have a lot to put together this season.”
Slippery Rock opens the season on Saturday in the Glenville State Tournament when they face off against West Virginia State.
The first home match for the Green and White will be on Sept. 17 against Alderson-Broaddus at Morrow Field House.