Thomasville, NC- Mount Olive returns six starters from last year’s squad that went 24-13 overall, 15-3 in the CVAC, and earned their first-ever NCAA II Tournament berth, to take the top spot in this year’s CVAC Volleyball Pre-Season Poll as voted on by head coaches. Leading the way for the Trojans is two-time All-American senior outside hitter Heidi Busch, who ranked second in the nation with 701 kills and became the first player in conference history to win CVAC Volleyball Player of the Week honors four times in one season. Busch, the 2002 CVAC Freshman of the Year, has earned All-CVAC First Team honors in each of her first three years.

            The Trojans also return senior middle blocker Colby Mangum and senior setter Sara Christie, both of whom are two-time All-CVAC selections. Mangum has ranked in the top 10 in blocks per game in each of the last two seasons. Junior middle hitter Anna Luft, the 2003 CVAC Freshman of the Year, earned All-CVAC First Team honors and All-Region Honorable Mention last season.

            Sophomore hitter Sam Mitchell started every match as a freshman last year, ranking third on the team in kills and leading the team in digs. Junior libero Nikki Murphy moved into the starting lineup midway through last season and was among the team leaders in digs.  Mount Olive has finished second in the CVAC regular season standings in each of the last three seasons. The Trojans seek their first CVAC title since 1997.

            Lees-McRae enters the 2005 season with a realistic chance of obtaining their 8th straight CVAC championship.  While Lees-McRae will certainly miss the setting skills of All-CVAC Player of the Year Lenka Jamrichova and the hitting of Tatiana Moore, the Lady Bobcats still have four starters who played in all 128 games last season in which the Bobcats finished 29-9 overall, 16-2 in the CVAC to take both the 2004 Regular Season Championship and CVAC Tournament Championship. 

            All-CVAC 2nd Team member and outside hitter Lacie Smith, who led the team in numerous categories including kills per game, aces, and digs, will be a force on the outside.  Joining Smith will be junior middle blocker Amanda Huffaker, senior outside hitter Bridget Thornton, and opposite junior Olivia Luce.  Lees-McRae has added six outstanding players to their roster for this season.  Transfer middle blocker Caty Honey and transfer setter Valentina Petrova should fill in the holes left by the graduating seniors, with freshmen Nicole Burns and Natalie Burns seeing some court time.  Two other freshmen, Lori Congleton and Lindsey Pike, round out the 2005 recruiting class.  Also new to the team will be the Bobcat coaching staff, Head Coach Jamie Petrik and Assistant Coach Megan Wargo.  Petrik, a former assistant coach at George Mason University, feels that the Lady Bobcat’s solid work ethic and team chemistry will produce positive results on the court this season.

            Barton College comes in at the third spot in the poll after a solid 18-17 overall, 7-11 CVAC record.  The Bulldog volleyball team returns six players from an injury-plagued 18-17 team which beat the Nos. 2 and 3 seeds in the CVAC Championship Tournament before falling 15-12 in the fifth set of the CVAC Championship final.  Coach Wendee Saintsing feels the 2005 team will have much more depth at the skilled positions, and since five of the returnees were at least part-time starters, the experienced players should help the new ones adapt more quickly to college action. Seniors Laurie Alpert (All-CVAC 1st Team and 1st Team All-Region libero) and Melanie Mills who played everywhere from setter to defense, are expected to be the team leaders. They will be joined by three juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen.  Juniors Kari Poling (setter) and Keauna Vinson (one of the top hitters/blockers in the CVAC), along with sophomore Michelle Walker, also have plenty of court time and should play key roles.  “With our combination of experience and new talent, the Lady Bulldogs should see a move back to the top echelon of the CVAC,” Coach Saintsing said.

            Rounding out the poll 4-10 was:  Coker, Anderson, St. Andrews, Pfeiffer, Converse, Queens, Belmont Abbey, and Limestone respectively. 


CVAC Volleyball Preseason Poll (# of First Place Votes in Parenthesis)

1.     Mount Olive                                         (9)           99

2.     Lees-McRae                                          (2)           81           

3.     Barton                                                                    69

4.     Coker                                                                      59

5.      Anderson                                                             57           

6.     St. Andrews                                                          53

7.     Pfeiffer                                                                   43

8.     Converse                                                               40

9.     Queens                                                                  37           

10.   Belmont Abbey                                                    35

11.   Limestone                                                              32