A-Sun Volleyball Opens Season Against Top Competition

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

MACON, Ga. – The first weekend of regular season Atlantic Sun Conference Volleyball includes a total of 28 matches, featuring six matches against teams who participated in last year’s NCAA Tournament and three of which are AVCA Coaches Preseason Top 25 selections. The action begins at 10 a.m. EST on Friday, Aug. 24.

Three-time defending A-Sun champion Lipscomb is the preseason favorite to the A-Sun crown once again, but the Bison could not find a more difficult way to begin their 2012 campaign. Lipscomb faces NCAA Tournament participants Long Beach State and North Carolina, along with tournament host and preseason No. 13 Kentucky to open the season in the UK Invitational in Lexington, Ky.

North Florida also faces stiff competition in its opener in the Missouri Tiger Invitational in Columbus, Mo. The Ospreys’ schedule includes host and NCAA Tournament participant Missouri, then preseason No. 23 Michigan. North Florida also faces Nicholls State in its third match of the tournament.

Florida Gulf Coast squares off against No. 18 Florida in the Gainesville tournament that includes FIU and Florida A&M, while Kennesaw State faces NCAA Tournament participant Jackson State and SEC foe Mississippi State in the Bulldogs’ tournament in Starkville.

A-Sun Volleyball Weekly Notes

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• Lipscomb is the preseason favorite of A-Sun coaches to claim its fourth consecutive A-Sun Championship crown, and is also the preseason fan favorite to claim its third regular season title in four years. The Bison have finished first or second in the regular season the last four years, including regular season championships in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Lipscomb’s A-Sun regular season mark since 2008 is an amazing 59-4. Leading the Bison is senior Kaycee Green, the preseason fan favorite for A-Sun Player of the Year. Green is a member of the Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team and begins the season as the No. 2 active player in kills with 971.

• Picked second in the preseason coaches poll, FGCU has finished third or better in the regular season three of the last five years, including a regular season title in 2008. One of two Eagles earning preseason All-Atlantic Sun honors, sophomore Jill Hopper returns after claiming Freshman of the Year and Second Team All-Atlantic Sun honors in 2011. She led the Eagles in points, kills and service aces. Sophomore Gigi Meyer
joined Hopper on the 2011 A-Sun All-Freshman Team, ranking fifth on the team in digs. Meyer also led FGCU and ranked fifth in the A-Sun in total assists.

• ETSU’s Megan Devine, the Preseason Player of the Year, was a unanimous selection to the 2012 Preseason All-Atlantic Sun team. In 2011 she earned First Team All-Atlantic Sun and Atlantic Sun All-Tournament Team accolades, playing in all 31 matches and setting the ETSU single-season record for kills per set (4.16), which also ranked her second in the A-Sun. In addition, Devine posted the second highest school marks in kills (503) and attack attempts (1,358), while ranking 34th nationally in kills per set and 54th in points per set (4.51). Devine’s point total also placed her second in the A-Sun. ETSU’s last regular season title came in 2006.

• KSU also boasted two members of the Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team in juniors Camille Pedraza and Sara Metroka. Selected as Preseason Libero of the Year, Pedraza played in all 29 matches and 109 sets for KSU in 2011 and finished ninth in the A-Sun in digs. Metroka set the program’s career-assists record in 2011 and finished second in the A-Sun in assists with 1103, or 10.12 per set. Metroka is the No. 2 career-active leader in assists with 2082.

• North Florida’s Steve Loeswick, Jacksonville’s Michele Collier and Mercer’s Damian Elder each make their indoor court debut as head coaches this season. Each coached their program’s sand volleyball teams last spring, with Loeswick’s Ospreys winning the inaugural 2012 A-Sun Sand Volleyball Championship.

• North Florida’s Paige Pridgeon is ranked among A-Sun career-active leaders in three categories: No. 1 in Kills (1147), No. 2 in Service Aces (100) and No. 3 in Digs (901). A Preseason All-Atlantic Sun selection, she led the Ospreys and ranked fifth in the A-Sun in kills with 3.28 per set in 2011. Pridgeon also became just the ninth player in UNF program history to record 1,000 career kills. North Florida’s best regular season finishes came in 2005 and 2006 when they finished 7-2 both seasons.

• Jacksonville junior Kendall Courtney ranks No. 1 in the A-Sun among active leaders in Assists (2317) and Service Aces (104). Senior Alison Loeppky also ranked in the top five in the A-Sun in Blocks (.85/set) and Hitting Percentage (.292) in 2011.

• By the numbers, Mercer is the A-Sun’s most veteran team with more than two-third of its roster consisting of juniors and seniors. First-year coach Damian Elder inherits a solid defensive team that led the A-Sun in Opponents Hitting Pct. (.172) and was second in Blocks (1.93/set) and Digs (15.96/set). Senior Jennifer Katona was in the Top 20 in the conference in Blocks (.88/set, 4th), Kills (2.38/set), Hitting Percentage (.248, 9th) and Points (3.01/set).

• Northern Kentucky opens its first NCAA Division I contest at noon ET with a match against St. Peter’s. Picked to finish eighth in their inaugural A–Sun season, the Norse finished 26-6 and advanced to the NCAA D-II Midwest Regional Final in 2011.

• Senior Kelli Carneal and junior Kaley Melville return to lead the Hatters in 2012. Carneal is the No. 3-ranked active player in the A-Sun in Career Assists (1689). Melville was 10th in Kills (3.04/set) and 11th in Points (3.34/set) in 2011.

• The Spartans have two student-athletes ranked as A-Sun career-active leaders in seniors Emily Sanders and Mindy Quimby. Sanders is fourth on the career-active leader list, while Quimby is fourth on the active leader list in Kills (619).

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The Atlantic Sun Conference is an NCAA Division I league with 10 member institutions committed to Building Winners for Life. The A-Sun meets the challenge of maintaining the highest standards in academic and athletic achievement with a true balance between student and athlete. Headquartered in Macon, Ga., the A-Sun footprint reaches into seven of the top  media markets in the Southeast. The A-Sun includes a blend of the most prestigious and dynamic private and public institutions in the region: East Tennessee State University, Florida Gulf Coast University, Jacksonville University, Kennesaw State University, Lipscomb University, Mercer University, University of North Florida, Northern Kentucky University, University of South Carolina Upstate and Stetson University.