Albany Tabbed America East Volleyball Favorites for 2013
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — University at Albany, winner of eight of the last nine America East regular-season crowns, is the favorite once again in 2013 as the Great Danes edged out Binghamton and UMBC as the conference’s preseason pick on Tuesday afternoon. The top-three teams were separated by just two points, but it was Albany collecting three first-place votes from the league’s head coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own team, to collect 37 points.
Last year’s conference tournament champion, Binghamton, was picked second, earning two first-place votes and 36 points, while UMBC followed in third after receiving one first-place vote and 35 points. New Hampshire also received a first-place vote, coming in fourth with 29 points. Stony Brook followed in fifth (25), with Hartford sixth (17), Providence seventh (11) and UMass Lowell eighth (6).
The 2013 campaign begins this weekend with all eight teams starting their seasons at tournaments on Aug. 30. The top four teams in the standings at the end of the regular season will qualify for the 2013 America East Championship, which will take place at the top seed on Nov. 22 and 23 or 23 and 24. The tournament champion will receive an automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA Volleyball Championship.
Albany (14-15 overall in 2012, 10-2 America East), has won five-straight regular-season titles, losing a total of only five conference matches in that time. The Great Danes return All-Conference Second Team selection Viktoriia Stroilo, who led the conference in digs per set (5.33) last year. Head coach MJ Engstrom, who has led the squad to three conference titles, welcomes nine newcomers to campus while trying to replace a pair of first-team all-conference honorees. Albany plays a very challenging first month of the season, with six matches against NCAA tournament teams from 2012 and not playing a home contest until Sept. 28 against Binghamton.
Binghamton (13-18, 8-4) won its thrid America East title last year after sweeping Albany on its home floor. The Bearcats return four starters from the 2012 teams, including America East Championship Most Outstanding Player Grace Vickers (.271 hitting percentage) and Co-Setter of the Year Amanda Dettmann (9.74 assists per set). Binghamton begins its title defense on Aug. 30 at the Colgate Tournament.
UMBC (15-15, 8-4) welcomes back three of its four all-conference selections in 2013. The Retrievers, who have qualified for five-straight America East Championships, led the league in blocks last season at 2.17 per set thanks in large part to the efforts of Emily Witsaman (1.16 per set) and Krystal Mlemchukwu (0.85 per set). Sophomore outside hitter Sherelle Walker was an All-Conference Second Team selection last year and led the team at 3.15 kills per set. The Retrievers begin their season on Aug. 30 vs. Ole Miss at the GW/Nike Invitational.
New Hampshire (15-14, 7-5) has qualified for back-to-back and three of the last four America East Championships. All-Conference First Team honoree Morgan Thatcher returns after leading the team in kills for two-straight seasons, averaging 3.52 kills per set this season. The Wildcats led the conference in kills with 12.55 per set last season and also bring back a pair of All-Rookie team selections in Tori Forrest and Brenna Buckwalter. UNH opens at the Lehigh Classic on Aug. 31.
Stony Brook (11-14, 6-6) enters its first season under head coach Coley Pawlikowski and will open the year on Aug. 30 against Sacred Heart. Pawlikowski inherits the 2012 America East Rookie of the Year, Melissa Rigo, who led the country among freshmen in kills at 4.52 per set to become first rookie to lead the conference in kills per set. The Seawolves return 10 from last year’s squad, while Cailyn Hart will be the only true freshman.
Hartford (9-19, 3-9) begins its second season under head coach Alex Temkin after matching its league best record since 2003. The Hawks will be led by returning outside hitter Sareeta Nethersole who finished with a team-best 372 kills and 310 digs. The returning junior will be joined by classmate Jackie Tamburri in leading the team in 2013. Tamburri, the primary setter, finished with 1,032 assists while adding 58 kills and 308 digs. Hartford opens the season with four matches at the Canisius Invitational.
Providence (1-30, 0-12) begins its fourth season as an America East associate member. The Friars return nine from last year’s squad while adding six freshman to the mix. Providence starts play at the DePaul University Tournament on Aug. 30.
UMass Lowell volleyball will be the first of the River Hawk teams to play a home match, hosting Manhattan on Friday, Aug. 30 to open Division I play. Head coach Karen McNulty ushers the River Hawks into Division I with 10 veterans from the 2012 team that went 11-14.
For more information on America East volleyball, including schedules, stats and record book log on to www.AmericaEast.com.