From Emory University/Washington University Athletics
Emory University and defending UAA champion Washington University are each ranked among the top six teams in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) preseason poll. The Eagles are ranked fourth and the Bears are ranked sixth.
A year ago, Emory made its 20th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament where it advanced to the NCAA Rome, Georgia, Regional Final. The Eagles closed out the campaign with an overall record of 34-4 and a No. 7 national ranking.
Head coach Jenny McDowell enters her 21st year at the helm of the Emory program with a number of key pieces returning from the year's squad, headlined by senior middle Jessica Holler, who claimed First Team All-America honors after leading all D-III players in hitting percentage (.421). A three-time All-American, the 6-foot-1 Holler has been tabbed to the first team of the All-UAA squad on three occasions and is coming off a 2015 season that saw her average 2.40 kills and a team-leading 0.83 blocks per set.
Also bolstering the team's fortunes will be the senior tandem of right side Sarah Maher and outside hitter Kathryn Trinka, both of whom landed Third Team All-America honors last year. The 6-foot Maher, one of D-III's outstanding all-around performers, stood second on the team and 11th among conference players in kills average (2.76 kps), and was second on the team's score sheet in digs average (2.70 dps). The 6-foot-1 Trinka emerged as a dynamic offensive force, leading the team and placing second on the conference chart with a 3.61 kills-per-set average. She pounded out a team-high 459 terminations and turned in 31 matches of double-figure kills.
The Bears finished 34-3 overall last season in head coach Vanessa Walby's second season at the helm. WashU reached the Regional Championship for the 28th consecutive season.
Senior middle hitter Caroline Dupont returns after earning second team All-American honors last season. She led the team with 372 kills and a hitting percentage of .413 while also totaling 94 blocks along with 35 service aces. Fellow WashU seniors Rexi Sheredy and Amanda Palucki also return after starting every match last season. Junior defensive specialist Lauren Fournier returns after contributing in 33 matches.
Sheredy earned All-Conference and All-Region recognition last season as an outside hitter posting 369 kills, 376 digs, 52 blocks and a team-leading 50 aces. She was also an All-American honorable mention selection
Palucki added 327 kills and 81 blocks while Fournier averaged 3.37 digs per set. The Bears also return six sophomores in Julianne Malek, Lauren Martin, Loren Shin, Natalie Stephanus, Ifeoma Ufondu and Savannah Zhang. The 2016 squad also has a strong group of nine newcomers.
Carnegie Mellon University, University of Chicago, Case Western Reserve University, and NYU all received votes in the AVCA preseason poll.