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NM STATE FAVORED IN WAC PRESEASON POLL
The WAC coaches selected NM State to win the WAC regular-season crown in 2018 as the Aggies received six of the first-place votes and 62 total points to earn the top spot in the poll. UT Rio Grande Valley finished in second place with 57 points and the other three first-place votes. Reigning WAC Tournament champion CSU Bakersfield was picked to finish third with 48 points, while Utah Valley was fourth with 42 points. Kansas City was selected in fifth place with 35 points, while Grand Canyon was sixth with 30 points. Seattle U was picked seventh with 23 points, while WAC newcomer California Baptist was selected eighth with 17 points. Chicago State rounded out the poll with 10 points.
UT Rio Grande Valley senior outside hitter Ragni Steen Knudsen was selected as the WAC Preseason Player of the Year. NM State and UT Rio Grande Valley placed the most players on the preseason All-WAC team with three apiece, while CSU Bakersfield, Kansas City and Seattle U had two each. Joining Knudsen on the preseason team are teammates Alexandra Ecker and Barbara Silva, NM State's Briana Ainsworth, Tatyana Battle and Megan Hart, CSU Bakersfield's Briannah Mariner and Desiree Sukhov, Kansas City's Emma Dyer and Alicia Harrington, Seattle U's Shae Harris and Maja Stojanovic, Grand Canyon's Teagan DeFalco and Utah Valley's Kristen Allred.
2018 PERSONNEL CAPSULE
Five of the nine schools return at least four starters from last year for the 2018 campaign. Kansas City and UT Rio Grande Valley return six starters apiece, while Chicago State returns five. The following is a breakdown of each team's letterwinners returning and lost and starters returning and lost.
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2018 WAC TOURNAMENT
The 2018 WAC Volleyball Tournament will be held Nov. 22-24 at the Icardo Center in Bakersfield, Calif., and will include the top six eligible teams in the regular-season standings.
2018 WAC TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
Thursday, Nov. 22 (First Round)
Match 1 - No. 4 seed vs. No. 5 seed, 4:30 p.m.
Match 2 - No. 3 seed vs. No. 6 seed, 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 23 (Semifinals)
Match 3 - Winner Match 1 vs. No. 1 seed, 4:30 p.m.
Match 4 - Winner Match 2 vs. No. 2 seed, 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 24 (Championship)
Match 5 - Winner Match 3 vs. Winner Match 4, 7 p.m.
TOP STAT LEADERS
In hitting efficiency, five of the top 10 hitters are back, led by Seattle U's Maja Stojanovic (.307), who ranked second a year ago. NM State's Lia Mosher (.287), who ranked third last year, also returns. The remaining leaders are UT Rio Grande Valley's Alexandra Ecker (.260, seventh), Chicago State's Summer Farris (.255, ninth) and Kansas City's Mykal Sadler (.254, 10th).
Four of the top 10 kill leaders return, led by Chicago State's Lauryn Dela Cruz, who last year led the WAC with 4.08 kills per set, followed by Knudsen in second (3.76). Kansas City's Alicia Harrington ranked fourth with 3.44, while the Aggies' Tatyana Battle ranked ninth with 3.18.
Six of the top assist leaders from last season return for the 2018 campaign, including last year's leader, Lacee Adams of Chicago State, who averaged 10.38 assists per set. UT Rio Grande Valley's Dubravka Vukoja ranked second in the WAC with 10.08 assists per set. Also returning are Seattle U's Shae Harris (9.48, third), Kansas City's Alli Schomers (6.43, fifth), and NM State's Briana Ainsworth (6.20, sixth) and Natalie Mikels (5.59, ninth).
Five of the top 10 servers return, led by UTRGV's Knudsen in third place with 0.31. Chicago State's Megan Klavitter was sixth with 0.27, followed by Seattle U's Rachel Stark in seventh (0.27) and Grand Canyon's Kayla Redfield in eighth (0.26). NM State's Mikels rounds out the group in 10th (0.24).
Six of the top blockers return, led by Seattle U's Stojanovic, who last year ranked third in the WAC with 1.12 blocks per set, followed by NM State's Mosher in fourth (1.06). The remaining leaders are Grand Canyon's Maria Adams (1.02, fifth), UTRGV's Ecker (1.02, sixth), Kansas City's Sadler (1.01, seventh) and NM State's Megan Hart (0.92, 10th).
Eight of the top 10 dig leaders return for the 2018 season, led by Seattle U's Tijana Milojevic in third place with 4.89 digs per set. The remaining leaders are Chicago State's Megan Klavitter (4.63, fourth), UTRGV's Gysell Zayas (4.39, fifth), Grand Canyon's Emma Ahern (4.37, sixth), Kansas City's Rhegan Spiegel (4.12, seventh), Utah Valley's Seren Merrill (3.91, eighth), GCU's Teagan DeFalco (3.29, ninth) and Chicago State's Dela Cruz (3.22, 10th).
Four of the top 10 point leaders from a year ago return, led by last year's leader Dela Cruz of Chicago State with 4.35 points per set. The other returning point leaders are UTRGV's Knudsen (4.24, second), Kansas City's Harrington (3.97, fourth) and NM State's Battle (3.58, 10th).
RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS
Of the seven first team All-WAC players in 2017, two return for the 2018 season – Preseason Player of the Year Ragni Steen Knudsen of UT Rio Grande Valley and NM State's Tatyana Battle.
Three of the seven second team honorees return, including Kansas City's Alicia Harrington, Seattle U's Shae Harris, the reigning WAC Setter of the Year, and Barbara Silva of UTRGV.
Four of the six All-Freshman Team honorees from a year ago return – Kristen Allred of Utah Valley, Teagan DeFalco of Grand Canyon, Tijana Milojevic of Seattle U and Lia Mosher of NM State.
2018 NCAA TOURNAMENT INFORMATION
The NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball Championship bracket (64-team field with 32 automatic qualifiers and 32 at-large selections) will be announced Sunday, Nov. 25. First and Second Round competition will be held Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at 16 non-predetermined campus sites. At each campus site, four teams will compete in single-elimination competition. The two winning teams then compete against each other in second round competition at the same campus site. The winning team from each of the 16 second rounds advances to the Regionals, which will be held Dec. 7-8 at four non-predetermined sites. At each site, four teams compete in Regional Semifinal competition. The two winning teams then compete against each other in Regional Final competition at the same site. The winning team from each of the four regions will advance to the Division I Women's Volleyball Championship at the Target Center in Minneapolis. The national semifinals will be held Dec. 13, while the national championship will take place Dec. 15.