Golden Eagles volleyball picked fifth, Murray State preseason OVC favorite

Golden Eagles volleyball picked fifth, Murray State preseason OVC favorite

Meffert, Kenline named to the preseason All-OVC first team

Despite returning the Ohio Valley Conference Player of the Year and OVC Defensive Player of the Year from last season's OVC championship team, the Tennessee Tech volleyball team has been selected to finish fifth in the 10-team conference according to the preseason poll of league coaches and sports information contacts. The Golden Eagles received two first-place votes and 115 total points, while preseason favorite Murray State received nine first-place votes and 142 points in the balloting. Morehead State, last year's regular season co-champion along with Tech, earned 136 points and five first-place votes followed by Southeast Missouri with two first-place nods and 125 points. Austin Peay was picked to finish just ahead of Tech, receiving 123 points and two first-place votes. Jacksonville State (85 points), UT Martin (52 points), Eastern Kentucky (49 points), Tennessee State (45 points) and Eastern Illinois (29 points) round out the poll

"I may look at it differently, but I'm not surprised at all," said head coach and reigning OVC Coach of the Year John Blair.  "I think it's a fair pick for where we are and gives us some motivation to outplay our pick."

The Golden Eagles finished 19-13 overall and 14-4 in the OVC a season ago, capturing the conference tournament title and a share of the regular season crown. Tech returns seven players from the 2008 team, including reigning OVC Player of the Year Leah Meffert and OVC Defensive Player of the Year Katie Kenline. Meffert overcame an early season injury last season to finish among the conference leaders in kills and points, while Kenline led the OVC with 558 digs from her libero position

"I think a lot of coaches look at what teams have returning, and the loss of a four-year setter and two middles who were a large part of our offense is a major blow, so I'm not suprised at all," Blair said. "Last year we weren't picked to win the conference either, so we'll see what happens."

Murray State posted a 13-5 league record while going 18-13 overall to finish the regular-season in a tie for third place. The Racers made it to the championship match of the OVC Tournament last year where they fell to Tennessee Tech in five sets. Murray State has four starters plus the libero returning to the team this season. Among the returnees is the 2008 OVC Freshman of the Year setter Jade Guo. A native of DaTong, China, Guo was third in the league with 9.44 assists per set while also recording 2.19 digs per outing last year. Junior middle blocker Sara Hayden will also be back on the court for the Racers this season. The Louisville, Ky. native led the league with a .336 hitting percentage, recording 290 kills as a sophomore.

Morehead State went 14-4 in the OVC while posting a 23-8 overall record to earn a share of its eighth regular-season title in 2008. The Eagles will have three starters plus the libero back from last year. Junior outside hitter Kaitlin Craven and senior libero Kristina Schoo are among the top returning players. Craven, a native of Louisville, Ky., ranked among league leaders with 3.27 kills per set as well as 3.63 points each time out last year. A product of Louisville, Ky., Schoo ranked third in the Conference in digs (4.71 dps) and service aces (0.29 saps) last year.

Southeast Missouri is coming off a season in which it went 13-14 overall and 11-7 in the Conference to place fifth. The Redhawks, who will bring back four starters plus their libero, will have the league’s top returning setter in senior Sara Barth. The Germantown, Ill, native was second in the league with 9.69 assists per set. Junior outside hitter Claire Keaton is also among the top returners. Keaton, who hails from St. Louis, Mo., ranked among league leaders with 3.19 kills per set and 3.57 points per outing in 2008.

The 64-member preseason All-OVC team features seven student-athletes that were named to the All-OVC squad last year. The first team is comprised of Tennessee Tech junior outside hitter Leah Meffert (Louisville, Ky.) and senior libero Katie Kenline (Ossian, Ind.); Murray State sophomore setter Jade Guo (DaTong, Shanxi, China) and junior middle blocker Sara Hayden (Louisville, Ky.); Jacksonville State senior outside hitter Brittney Whitten (Boonville, Ind.); Austin Peay senior outside hitter Stephanie Champine (Lambertville, Mich.); Morehead State junior outside hitter Kaitlin Craven (Louisville, Ky.); and Southeast Missouri junior outside hitter Claire Keaton (St. Louis, Mo.).

Receiving preseason All-OVC second team accolades are Southeast Missouri senior outside hitter Karleigh DeLong (Corona, Calif.) and senior setter Sara Barth (Germantown, Ill.); Murray State sophomore outside hitter Logan Su (A La Shan Zuo Qi, Inner Mongolia, China); Eastern Kentucky senior outside hitter Lindsey Loescher (Crystal Lake, Ill.); Morehead State senior libero Kristina Schoo (Louisville, Ky.); Jacksonville State junior middle blocker Caitlin Vorbeck (Raytown, Mo.); Austin Peay senior opposite hitter Kirstin Distler (Louisville, Ky.); and UT Martin sophomore outside hitter Britany Wilburn (Southaven, Miss.).

The Golden Eagles kick off their 2009 season on Saturday, August 29 at the University of Tennessee and begin conference play three weeks later on September 18 against Southeast Missouri.

2009 Preseason All-OVC Volleyball Team
(as selected by OVC Head Volleyball Coaches and Sports Information Directors)

First Team
Leah Meffert, Tennessee Tech
Brittney Whitten, Jacksonville State
Stephanie Champine, Austin Peay
Kaitlin Craven, Morehead State
Claire Keaton, Southeast Missouri
Jade Guo, Murray State
Katie Kenline, Tennessee Tech
Sara Hayden, Murray State

Second Team
Logan Su, Murray State
Lindsey Loescher, Eastern Kentucky
Karleigh DeLong, Southeast Missouri
Kristina Schoo, Morehead State
Caitlin Vorbeck, Jacksonville State
Kirstin Distler, Austin Peay
Sara Barth, Southeast Missouri
Britany Wilburn, UT Martin

Eight players appear on both teams due to ties.

2009 OVC Volleyball Predicted Team Order of Finish
(as selected by OVC Head Volleyball Coaches and Sports Information Directors)

1. Murray State (Nine first-place votes) - 142
2. Morehead State (Five first-place votes) - 136
3. Southeast Missouri (Two first-place votes) - 125
4. Austin Peay (Two first-place votes) - 123
5. Tennessee Tech (Two first-place votes) - 115
6. Jacksonville State - 85
7. UT Martin - 52
8. Eastern Kentucky - 49
9. Tennessee State - 45
10. Eastern Illinois - 29