CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Binghamton University received five of a possible six first-place votes to receive the head coaches’ nod to defend its America East volleyball title in 2010. The Bearcats earned 33 points to top the preseason coaches’ poll just ahead of University at Albany, which earned last year’s regular season crown. Head coaches were not permitted to vote for their own team.

The Great Danes, winners of four of the last six conference tournaments, received one first-place vote and garnered 31 points, while UMBC earned the last first-place vote with 24 points to finish third in the poll. University of New Hampshire and Stony Brook University finished closely behind with 22 and 20 points, respectively. University of Hartford (11 points) and first-year associate member Providence College (six) rounded out the seven-team poll. 

The top four teams during the regular season will compete at the 2010 America East Volleyball Championship on either November 19-20 or November 20-21. The top seed will host the tournament, with the winner earning an automatic berth into the NCAA Championship.

After entering the season as the favorite in 2009, Binghamton (15-16 2009 overall record, 5-5 in America East) won its second America East Championship as the tournament’s three seed last year. The Bearcats bring back the top pair of hitters for the 2010 campaign in first-team all-conference player Michelle McDonough (Orland Hills, Ill./Andrew) and second-team performer Anna Lejina (Riga, Latvia/Riga Secondary/U. of Latvia). Both seniors, they finished with 3.83 and 3.80 kills per set, respectively, last season to finish second and third in the league rankings. A third senior, setter Lindsey Mueller (West Bend, Wis./West Bend West) recorded the second-most assists (9.94 aps) in America East last season and received the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award.

Albany (22-9, 10-0) swept throught the conference regular season unscathed, but fell short in its bid to make a fourth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Led by the 2009 Coach of the Year M.J. Engstrom, the Great Danes return a pair of individual award-winners who hope to bring the team back to the postseason. Senior setter Brooke Stanley (Hendersonville, N.C./West Henderson) captured both the Player and Setter of the Year Awards after leading the conference in assists (10.66 aps), while co-Defensive Specialist of the Year junior Laurie Gonzalez (Carolina, Puerto Rico/St. Francis School) also returns after competing with the U.S. National A2 Red Team during the offseason. Senior Teresa Coppiellie (Canton, Mich./Salem) should lead the attack after averaging 2.83 kps in 2009 and rounds out Albany’s returning all-conference players.

UMBC (13-13, 5-5) is in search of its first-ever America East Championship title, and if it hopes to accomplish that feat, will need the help of eight newcomers. The squad’s veteran is senior outside hitter and defensive specialist Sabrina Hoeks (Olympia, Wash./AG West Black Hills), a 2007 all-rookie selection who led the league in service aces (0.43 saps) last season. The Retrievers, who topped all teams but Albany in blocks, were led in that category by junior Iman Kennedy (Charlotte, N.C./Independence) who tallied a team-high 77 total blocks.

New Hampshire (13-15, 5-5) senior libero Sarah Heldman (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove) returns after a season for which she was named a co-Defensive Specialist of the Year, averaging 4.79 digs per set. Classmate middle blocker Justine Elliott (Mitchellville, Md./St. John’s College) was among the league’s blocking leaders with 20 solo rejections and 72 overall, while the Wildcats will have to replace the offensive production from graduated all-conference outside hitters Lindsay Fogarty and Kirsten Bates.
 
In 2009, Stony Brook (13-13, 5-5) led America East in digs and finished second in service aces, assists and hitting percentage. Senior libero Jeanette Gibbs’ (Port Jefferson, N.Y./Ward Melville) 4.26 digs per set ranked fourth among league leaders. Fellow senior Ashley Headen (Alexandria, Va./St. Stephen’s & St. Agnes), a second-team all-conference middle blocker, was one the conference’s best in hitting percentage (.328), blocks (0.92 bps) and points (3.39 pps) as the Seawolves’ top returning all-around player.

Hartford (7-21, 0-10) sophomore outside hitter Kami Nethersole (Cortlandt Manor, N.Y./Hendrick Hudson) figures to be the Hawk’s top offensive threat after an all-rookie season a year ago where she finished second on the team with 2.73 kills per set and 2.85 points per set. Setter Lindsay Ford (Carson, Nev./Carson), who finished fourth last season in America East with 8.71 assists per set, is the lone senior and she will quarterback the team both on and off the court.

Providence (10-16) enters its first season in America East as an associate member after playing as an Independent since 2003. A trio of juniors in middle blockers Lauren Fletcher (Syracuse, N.Y./Marcellus), Shelagh Dolan (Westford, Mass./Westford Academy) and outside hitter Lauren Hendel (Llyod Harbor, N.Y./Saint Anthony’s) will lead the attack for the Friars, while Fletcher also returns as the team’s top blocker (0.91 bps).


2010 Preseason Poll
Rank    Team (1st-place votes)    Total

1.    Binghamton (5)    33 points
2.    Albany (1)    31
3.    UMBC (1)    24
4.    New Hampshire    22
5.    Stony Brook    20
6.    Hartford    11
7.    Providence    6