From the Great American Conference
Following an undefeated run through the inaugural Great American Conference volleyball season, Arkansas Tech emerged as the overwhelming favorite to claim the 2012 title; the Golden Suns claimed the top spot in the preseason coaches' poll, the conference office announced on Wednesday.
The 2012 Golden Suns' roster features nine letter winners from last year's 35-4 team that reached the national tournament for the first time since 2000. Arkansas Tech returns a pair of 2011 All-GAC first team selections - Sara Motsinger and Amber Cerrillos. Motsinger ranked second in the GAC in hitting percentage (.305) while Cerrillos led the league in assists and service aces.
2011 regular-season and tournament runner-up Harding again finds itself in the second position to Arkansas Tech. The Lady Bisons took the Golden Suns to five sets in all of their three matches last season, but fell short each time. This year, they welcome former record-setting defensive specialist Merideth Fear as their new head coach. Fear, the former Meredith Rosenbaum set single-season records for digs and digs per set in 2007.
Southeastern Oklahoma State and Southern Arkansas claimed the following two spots. The Savage Storm face the challenge of replacing the 2011 Player of the Year Lunden Azuara. She earned All-South Central Region honors after placing fourth in nation with 4.70 kills per set.
East Central and Ouachita Baptist finished fifth and sixth in the poll while Southwestern Oklahoma State took seventh. The Bulldogs also underwent a coaching change as Bo Pagliasotti switched positions with assistant coach Josh Collins.
Arkansas-Monticello and Henderson State rounded out the poll. The Cottom Blossoms feature a new head coach, Peter Cruz, who comes Monticello following a season as an assistant coach at The American University. The Reddies feature 2011 GAC Newcomer of the Year Ty Lindberg. She led the team in kills with 413 finished third in the GAC in kills per set with an average of 3.88.
The volleyball season begins on Friday, August 31 and concludes with the GAC Championship Tournament, which will be held on the campus of the regular season champion November 15-17.
Coaches did not include provisional members Northwestern Oklahoma State and Southern Nazarene in the preseason ballot.