Utah State volleyball was picked fourth in the Western Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, as selected by the league's coaches and announced Tuesday by the conference office. The Aggies received 57 points.
USU has been picked in the top four of the conference for the fourth-straight season, having been picked third in 2009, fourth in 2010 before ending the season winning its first WAC Tournament title, and then third in last season's preseason poll.
Preseason favorite New Mexico State received eight first-place votes and totalled 79 points, while Idaho was second with the remaining two first-place votes and 67 points. League newcomer UTSA was third with 58 points, followed by USU. Texas State and Denver, two new teams, were fifth and sixth with 52 and 43 points, respectively, while San Jose State was seventh with 34 points. Two other newcomers to the conference, UT Arlington at eighth with 27 points and Seattle ninth with 18 points, preceded Louisiana Tech in 10th with 15 points.
“The preseason polls are fun to look at and get people excited about volleyball. We are looking forward to starting our season and competing in a few weeks,” said USU head coach Grayson DuBose. “We have a lot to look forward to this year and we will continue to improve as the season progresses.”
The coaches also voted on the preseason award winners. New Mexico State's Meredith Hays was the pick for the WAC Preseason Player of the Year. Utah State had two players on the preseason team in senior opposite hitter Shay Sorensen (North Ogden, Utah) and senior outside hitter Josselyn White (Smithfield, Utah). Sorensen earned second-team all-WAC honors last season.
“I am pleased that Josselyn White and Shay Sorensen were recognized by the conference coaches," DuBose said. "It is a tribute to their hard work and the hard work of their teammates."
NMSU placed the most players on the preseason all-WAC team with three, while Idaho, UTSA and Utah State had two apiece. Joining Sorensen, White and Hays on the preseason team are NMSU's Lauren Loerch and Desiree Scott, Idaho’s Alex Sele and Allison Walker, UTSA’s McKenzie Adams and Whitney Walls, Denver’s Faimie Kingsley, San Jose State’s Alex Akana and Texas State’s Amari Deardorff.
The 2012 season begins the weekend of Aug. 24 with all 10 teams in action. The 2012 WAC Volleyball Tournament, hosted by UTSA, will be Nov. 19-21, at the Convocation Center in San Antonio, Texas, and will include the top eight teams in the regular-season standings. The championship match will be televised live on ESPNU.
DuBose opens his seventh season at the helm of the Aggie program, and returns five starters and eight letterwinners from last year's team that went 12-17 overall and finished in a tie for fourth-place in the Western Athletic Conference with a 7-7 league record.
The Aggies officially kick off the season by hosting the Utah State Invitational, on Aug. 24-25, welcoming in-state foes Utah, Southern Utah and Weber State along with Portland.
Among those returning for USU besides Sorensen and White is sophomore setter Paige Neves (Otto, Wyo.), who was named to the WAC's all-freshman team in 2011. Other starters returning for the Aggies include sophomore libero Ashlan Rogers (Highland, Utah) and sophomore middle blocker Kaitlyn VanHoff (Draper, Utah).
Sorensen hit .202 last season and averaged 2.57 kills, 0.71 digs and 0.86 blocks per set. Neves ranked seventh in the WAC in assists at 8.83 per set and added 2.48 digs per set, as well as 16 service aces, second among the USU returners. White was among the WAC leaders statistically last year as she was ninth in kills (2.73), eighth in blocks (1.01) and seventh in points (3.45) per set. Rogers is the returning starter at libero, averaging 2.61 digs per set, as well as leading the team with 23 service aces a season ago, while VanHoff was fourth in the WAC in blocks at 1.19 per set.
Adding to the mix are three newcomers in junior college transfer Jocelyn Hobbs (Rexburg, Idaho) along with a pair of in-state signees in freshmen Candace Richins (Kaysville, Utah) and McKell Staheli (Pleasant Grove, Utah). Hobbs is a middle blocker who joins the Aggies from nearby Western Wyoming Junior College. Outside hitter Richins comes to USU after a highly-decorated career at Davis High School, and Staheli, a libero, joins the Aggies after a standout career at Pleasant Grove High School.
The USU volleyball team opens the 2012 season with the Blue-White Scrimmage on Tuesday, Aug. 21 at 7 p.m. Prior to the scrimmage, the team will be holding a free Mother-Daughter skills clinic. Registration begins at 4:30 p.m. at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, and the clinic will run from 5-6 p.m. prior to the team's Blue-White Scrimmage.
The clinic, which is for children under the age of 14 and adults who are at least 18, will focus on basic volleyball technique, as well as providing up-to-date information on rule changes in the collegiate game. All participants will receive a free USU Volleyball T-shirt. The team will be available for autographs following the scrimmage.
Utah State volleyball tickets are available by contacting the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or by phone by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305.
Fans can follow the Aggie volleyball program at twitter.com/USUVolleyball or on facebook at facebook.com/USUVolleyball. Aggie fans can also follow the Utah State athletic program at twitter.com/USUAthletics or on facebook at facebook.com/USUAthletics.
2012 WAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll
Rank Team Points
1. New Mexico State (8) 79
2. Idaho (2) 67
3. UTSA 58
4. Utah State 57
5. Texas State 52
6. Denver 43
7. San Jose State 34
8. UT Arlington 27
9. Seattle U 18
10. Louisiana Tech 15
2012 Preseason All-WAC Team
Player Yr. Pos. School
McKenzie Adams Jr. OH/MB UTSA
Alex Akana Sr. MB San Jose State
Amari Deardorff Jr. RS Texas State
Meredith Hays So. OH NM State
Faimie Kingsley Sr. MB Denver
Lauren Loerch Jr. OH NM State
Desiree Scott Jr. MH NM State
Alex Sele Sr. MB Idaho
Shay Sorensen Sr. OPP Utah State
Allison Walker Jr. OH Idaho
Whitney Walls Sr. RS UTSA
Joselyn White Sr. OH Utah State
Preseason Player of the Year
Meredith Hays, So., New Mexico State
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.