SPARTANBURG, S.C. ---- The Samford University volleyball team has been predicted to defend the Southern Conference North Division title this season, announced the conference office Monday. College of Charleston was picked to defend their South Division title.
The Bulldogs received eight first-place votes and 65 points overall. The 2008 regular season North Division Champion posted a record of 28-5, 16-2 in league play, and returns eight players from last season's roster. Two of those eight players are junior setter and 2009 first team All-Conference selection Hillary Fountain and senior middle blocker Sheriden Stangohr, who both landed on this year's preseason All-Conference Team.
"Hillary and Sheriden have led the way this summer ushering in a new era in Samford volleyball," Schroeder said. "All our returners were here for six weeks this summer in order to train and prepare for this season. This sacrifice was a direct result of Hillary's and Sheriden's will and they are very deserving of their preseason accolades."
Rounding out the North Division picks were Elon in second (three first place votes), UNC Greensboro in third (one first place vote), Chattanooga in fourth and Appalachian State and Western Carolina in fifth and sixth, respectively.
"If our supporters will forgive the pun, then the North is going to be a ‘dog fight' this year," Samford head coach Derek Schroeder said. "Without a doubt Elon, UNCG or we could come out on top. I believe you are looking at improvements from Appalachian State and Western Carolina as well. This division will be won by the team that comes to battle every week. Losing a midseason match by just not quite being prepared will cost someone this year."
Following College of Charleston (10 first place votes) in the South Division poll are Furman and Georgia Southern (one first place vote each) in second and third, respectively. Davidson, Wofford and The Citadel rounded out the South Division in fourth, fifth and sixth place, respectively.
The Preseason All-Southern Conference team included two players from both Samford and UNC Greensboro while College of Charleston landed three. Joining Fountain and Stangohr on the team are setter Cole Dawly, middle blocker Elyse Chubb and outside hitter Emily Sawin from College of Charleston. Representing UNC Greensboro are middle blocker Kayren Finney and libero Catherine Hanners.
The 2009 season kicks off Friday, Aug. 28 as several Southern Conference teams take the court in preseason tournaments. Samford will be hosting its own tournament that weekend, hosting Southern Miss, ULM and Tennessee State. Match play begins Friday at 4:30 p.m., as Southern Miss and Tennessee State face off in the Samford Tournament.
Conference play begins Friday, September 25. Samford will play its first conference play at home against UNC Greensboro at 2 p.m. on Sept. 26 at 2 p.m.