Lady Lions Picked 3rd in Red River
UT-Brownsville and Wiley College Ranked at the Top
WAXAHACHIE, Texas -- The Preseason Poll among the eight head coaches in the Red River Athletic Conference shows no change in the predicted order of finish among women's volleyball teams this coming season.
They pretty much pointed to last season's final standings.
Southwestern Assemblies of God University was rated third. Last fall the Lady Lions finished with a 28-12 won-lost record in all of their matches after going 10-6 in competition within the RRAC. Coach Hansford "Hank" Moore's squad will have a largely new look this season. Literally.
With six freshmen in camp this week, all of them between 5-foot-9 and 6-foot tall, this year's squad will be one of his tallest units ever. Gone are two of SAGU's best-ever in Outside Hitter Kelani Daniels and Setter Rachel Brown. The graduated All-Americans hold the school's record in kills, serving aces and assists.
But the cupboard is far from bare. Returning will be seniors Brittani Toole (Whitehouse, Tx / Whitehouse HS) and Jordan Briggs (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS), who, along with junior Tina Brown (Seguin, Tx / Lifegate Christian) were named the team's Tri-Captains this week.
Toole led the RRAC in hitting percentage and kills, and Briggs and Brown were impressive as well. They nearly matched Daniels in aces, and both ranked in the conference's Top 10 in digs. Brown was #6 with 437 digs (3.2 per set), with Briggs adding 391 (2.8).
Sophomore Caitlyn Hudson (Mansfield, Tx / Legacy HS), like junior Krystal Cisneros (El Paso, Tx / Del Valle HS) the year before, had an impactful freshman performance. She had nearly 300 kills, served 44 aces and saved the defense with 370 (2.6) digs. Cisneros was #11 in the league in blocked shots with 96. The season before she was #1 with over 140 rejections. Also returning is junior Laura Espinoza (Duncanville, Tx / Duncanville HS), a Defensive Specialist who is known for her quickness and ability at handling blistering serves by the opposition. She will be pushing for more court time this year.
The freshman class has talent! During three early season tournaments they will vie with the veterans for a berth in the starting lineup or in the primary rotation. They include Brittany Briggs (Maypearl, Tx / Maypearl HS), Taylor Calverley (Mansfield, Tx / Grace Prep), Kassy Cox (Lufkin, Tx / Lufkin HS), Beka Dollar (Weatherford, Tx / Brock HS), Devan Guynes (Red Oak, Tx / Red Oak HS) and Stephanie Pena (San Antonio, Tx / Clark HS).
A complete team preview will be posted on-line next week. This year the Lady Lions will offer a Media Guide, which will be available to fans at the start of the season. The home opener will be on Tuesday, August 31, against Southern Nazarene. The Crimson Storm went 23-13 last year, splitting two matches with the Lady Lions.
SAGU begins the 2010 campaign in Fort Worth, Aug. 27-28, for three matches during the Hughes Volleyball Classic at Texas Wesleyan University. Team Lioness will take on Loyola University (New Orleans, La), MidAmerica Christian (Oklahoma City, Ok) and Brenau University (Gainesville, Ga). Loyola had a 20-15 mark in 2009, MACU (10-25) and Brenau (pronounced BREE-now) had a 24-11 ledger.
The coaches had little trouble with ranking last year's top two squads in the RRAC poll. The University of Texas at Brownsville (34-3 record) swept the field in going 16-0 in conference play. So dominating were the #9 ranked Scorpions, they didn't lose a single set within the RRAC, winning all 54 games. They almost advanced to the NAIA finals, losing to the eventual champion Sunbirds of Fresno Pacific (38-0). Wiley College was picked second. The Wildcats were 21-5 overall and 14-2 in league play. They were 63-26 in individual games (matches are best of three sets/games). Wiley won the league two years with a 23-8 effort.
Southwestern came closer than anyone in the RRAC to beating UT-Brownsville, falling in the Sheaffer Full Life Center in Game One, 26-24. SAGU's record in games was an impressive 80-32.
Picked fourth through eighth: 4th - Our Lady of the Lake University (16-13 / 10-6), 5th - Texas Wesleyan (16-17 / 10-6), 6th - Huston-Tillotson University (6-33 / 5-11), 7th - Bacone College (6-22 / 4-12), 8th - Texas College (3-21 / 0-16). Jarvis Christian College is not entering a team this season.
Every conference preseason poll is listed on the NAIA website. The national Top 25 Coaches Poll will be released today, August 17, also on-line.