SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Defending regular-season Southern Conference champion Furman was picked to win the league in 2018 in preseason voting by the SoCon’s nine head coaches. The coaches also selected the eight players named to the preseason all-conference team.
Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams or players in the balloting.
Furman collected four first-place votes and 60 points to claim the preseason honor. ETSU, the defending SoCon tournament champion, followed closely behind with 57 points and three first-place votes. Wofford picked up the two remaining first-place votes and totaled 53 points to earn sole possession of third. Samford tallied 41 points to claim fourth and UNCG received 37 points to take fifth. Chattanooga had 31 points to claim sixth. Mercer (19), Western Carolina (18) and The Citadel (eight) rounded out the field of nine.
Reigning SoCon Coach of the Year Michelle Young and the Paladins are coming off of a 21-10 overall record in 2017 and a 14-2 record in the conference. Entering her 19th season at the helm of the program, Young’s squad will be led by preseason all-conference team members Meg DeMaar and Jamila Johnson as well as six other letterwinners.
DeMaar, a redshirt senior, was an All-SoCon second-team selection in 2017 as she tallied 498 digs. The libero was named SoCon Defensive Player of the Week twice last season. Johnson, a senior, led Furman with 407 kills en route to being named a first-team selection.
ETSU returns five starters and its libero from last year’s 19-12 squad as the Bucs won the SoCon Championship in Cullowhee after finishing 12-4 in conference play and earning the No. 2 seed. Leah Clayton, a first-team all-conference selection in 2017, tallied 354 kills last season and returns to lead the Bucs at outside hitter. Popovic, the 2017 SoCon Rayna Taylor Freshman of the Year, was second in the conference with 4.85 digs per set and was named defensive player of the week twice and defensive player of the month in October.
After advancing to the SoCon Championship for the first time in school history and finishing with a 22-11 overall record, the Terriers return their entire lineup and are led by preseason all-conference selections Colleen Reilly and Catie Cronister. Reilly, a two-time first-team selection, hit .312 with 305 kills in the 2017 campaign. Cronister led the conference in kills (556), kills per set (4.56), aces (55) and aces per set (0.45) and was named the 2017 Co-Player of the Year after racking up three offensive player of the week and two offensive player of the month honors.
Samford enters the 2018 season after finishing with a 13-18 record. The Bulldogs are led by preseason all-conference selection and senior outside hitter Krista Boesing. Boesing was second in the conference with 501 kills and was honored with a second-team all-conference nod. UNCG finished 2017 with a 19-12 record, including an 11-5 mark in SoCon play, and returns all but four players from last year’s squad, though the Spartans did lose SoCon Co-Player of the Year Ashley Muench to graduation. Chattanooga went 13-18 overall and 6-10 in conference play in 2017 and returns 13 of its 16 letterwinners from 2017.
Mercer totaled a 10-21 record in 2017 and will be led by preseason pick Paige Alsten. Alsten was a preseason pick in 2017 and earned second-team all-conference honors after hitting .325, second in the league. Western Carolina finished 2017 at 11-19 went 6-10 in conference play, while The Citadel had a 3-0 sweep at Samford and a 3-2 win over Mercer at home to go 2-14 in conference last season.
The 2018 regular season begins on Friday, Aug. 24, with all nine league teams in action. The 2018 SoCon Volleyball Championship will be hosted by UNCG in Greensboro, North Carolina. The first-round and quarterfinal matches will be held on Nov. 16 between seeds 3-9 followed by the semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 17. The final will take place on Sunday, Nov. 18.
2018 Volleyball Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. Furman (4) 60
2. ETSU (3) 57
3. Wofford (2) 53
4. Samford 41
5. UNCG 37
6. Chattanooga 31
7. Mercer 19
8. Western Carolina 18
9. The Citadel 8
() denotes first-place votes
2018 Volleyball Preseason All-Conference Team
OH, Leah Clayton, ETSU
LIB, Marija Popovic, ETSU
LIB, Meg DeMaar, Furman
OH, Jamila Johnson, Furman
MB, Paige Alsten, Mercer
OH, Krista Boesing, Samford
OH, Catie Cronister, Wofford
MB, Colleen Reilly, Wofford