WINTHROP, Mass. – After checking in at No. 8 nationally last week in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III Preseason Poll, Johnson & Wales University (RI) has received all 13 first-place votes to run away with the top spot in the 2019 Great Northeast Athletic Conference Preseason Poll, as voted upon by the league's head coaches.
Winners of the last four GNAC titles, the Wildcats have hosted the NCAA Regional in Providence, R.I. each of the last two years, advancing to the 2017 Elite Eight in Grand Rapids, Mich. before falling in last year's regional final against Wesleyan.
Finishing second to the Wildcats' maximum 169 points was Rivier University with 155 points overall in the preseason tally, followed by Colby-Sawyer College with 136 points, Simmons University with 130 points, and Suffolk University with 110 points. Lasell University was just outside of the top-five with 108 points closely behind the Rams.
For the complete poll results, please see below.
The top hitting team in D3 the last three seasons, JWU head coach Nancy Somera returns the senior All-American trio of outside hitter Maria Coniglio, setter Brylee Frank and outside hitter Kate Walker, as Frank was the 2018 GNAC Player of the Year and Walker was the 2017 East Region Player of the Year. Also back in the fold is junior defensive specialist Elyssa Nicolas.
Last fall, Frank led the GNAC in assists per set (10.96), Walker led the conference in hitting percentage (.407), and Nicolas led the league in digs (539), as JWU at one point was ranked as high as No. 2 in the nation.
En route to sweeping Rivier in the 2018 GNAC Championship, JWU won all 36 sets in GNAC play for the second straight year. The Wildcats will begin the season at the Emory Classic against Sewanee, Emory, Guilford and Belhaven on Friday-Saturday, August 30-31.
The remainder of the poll featured Emmanuel College (85 points), Saint Joseph's College of Maine (80), Regis College (75), Norwich University (47), University of Saint Joseph (41), Albertus Magnus College (34), and Anna Maria College (13).
Poll runner-up Rivier, which has won six GNAC titles in program history, will travel to San Juan for the 2019 Puerto Rico Classic on Saturday-Sunday, Aug. 31-September 1.
Colby-Sawyer will travel to Plattsburgh State for the Best Western Plus-Ground Cardinal Classic on Aug. 30-31. The Chargers completed their first GNAC season last autumn by going an impressive 10-2 in league play en route to a GNAC Tournament Semifinals appearance.
2019 GNAC Women's Volleyball Preseason Poll
1. Johnson & Wales (13) - 169
2. Rivier - 155
3. Colby-Sawyer - 136
4. Simmons - 130
5. Suffolk - 110
6. Lasell - 108
7. Emmanuel - 85
8. Saint Joseph's Maine - 80
9. Regis - 75
10. Norwich - 47
11. Saint Joseph (CT) - 41
12. Albertus Magnus - 34
13. Anna Maria - 13
The Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) is an NCAA Division III association made up of 13 member institutions and over 3,000 student-athletes across the New England region. Founded in 1995, the GNAC annually sponsors and administers 22 championships, while balancing academic integrity, athletic opportunity and community involvement in an effort to enhance the student-athlete experience.
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