Panthers working toward return trip to conference championship
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The Plymouth State University women's volleyball team was picked to finish third in the Little East Conference (LEC) in 2017 by the league's eight head coaches.
The University of Massachusetts Boston was selected as the preseason favorites, as the Beacons earned six of the eight first place votes for a total of 48 points.
Eastern Connecticut State University took the second slot after earning 36 points and garnering one first place vote, while PSU and Western Connecticut State University were each awarded 34 points to finish third in the poll. The Panthers, coming off a 20-11 (6-1 LEC) season, obtained the final first place vote.
PSU will return just three starters from last year's squad that roared into the conference championship match with UMass Boston after an impressive straight set win over Western Connecticut in the semifinals.
"Despite graduating such a large class last year we haven't skipped a beat," said head coach Chris Kilmer, who enters his seventh season at the helm. "Our on-court chemistry has been incredible and everyone came in focused and prepared to win the Little East and get to the NCAA tournament."
|2017 PSU Volleyball Season Preview|
Leading the way will be senior libero Brenna Peruch (Cave Creek, Az.). Peruch, a two-year captain, was named All-LEC Second Team after finishing fourth in the league with 446 digs and 4.21 digs/set last fall. She is joined by co-captain senior outside hitter Claire Sporer (Medford, Ore.). The team's leading hitter in 2016, Sporer pounded 277 kills while adding a team-best 50 aces and 240 digs.
Senior setter Megan Bailey (Canterbury, N.H.) is once again expected to lead the offense. In her first full season as a starter in 2016, Bailey finished second in the LEC with an impressive 9.13 assists/set.
Rounding out the senior class is Grace Sporer (Medford, Ore.). The defensive specialist averaged 1.52 digs per set as a junior, but is expected to fill a much larger role in 2017.
Sophomore hitters Alexis Bowers (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) and Samantha Walker (Barrington, N.H.) are also expected to see their roles increase. The two will compete for playing time at the outside hitter position, with Walker also adding depth as a middle blocker.
A trio of newcomers could make an immediate impact. Junior Ari Linden (Lena, Ill.) joins the squad after two seasons at Highland Community College, with freshmen Francie Shaffer (Frederick, Colo.) and Nikki Flanagan (Milton, N.H.) also pushing for court time.
The Panthers kick off the 2017 campaign with four matches in two days at the SUNY Plattsburgh Tournament on Friday, Sept. 1 and Saturday, Sept. 2. The team will open its home schedule with a pair of matches against New England College and Colby-Sawyer College on Friday, Sept. 8, and will open LEC play at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth on Saturday, Sept. 16.
"With the talent, attitude and senior leadership we've shown so far, the sky's the limit for us," added Kilmer.
The top six teams in the final regular season standings will participate in the 2017 LEC Volleyball Championship, with the top two seeds earning first round byes to the semifinals. The winner of the LEC Championship will earn the conference's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
2017 LEC Volleyball Preseason Coaches' Poll
(First Place Votes in Parentheses)
|1.||UMass Boston (6)||48 points|
|2.||Eastern Connecticut State (1)||36 points|
|3.||Plymouth State (1)||34 points|
|Western Connecticut State||34 points|
|5.||Keene State||31 points|
|6.||Southern Maine||22 points|
|7.||Rhode Island College||11 points|
|8.||UMass Dartmouth||9 points|
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