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Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University women's volleyball program has been picked to finish second in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) North Division this fall, according to the 2013 GLIAC Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll announced today.
The Bulldogs captured two first-place votes and 42 total points in placing behind Northwood atop the GLIAC North Preseasonn Poll. The Timberwolves claimed five votes and 45 total points overall after winning the league's regular-season and tournament crowns a year ago.
Ferris State and Northwood were among six GLIAC teams to win 20 or more matches a season ago. NU finished 26-7 overall while Grand Valley State (25), Ferris State (24), Ashland (24), Malone (23) and Northern Michigan (20) all achieved the mark last campaign, reflecting the top-to-bottom strength of the conference.
The GLIAC race figures to feature tough battles nearly every time out in one of the nation's premier Division II volleyball conferences again this fall. Ferris State, Northwood, Grand Valley State and Hillsdale all were listed among others receiving votes in the 2013 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division II Preseason National Poll announced last week.
A year ago, Ashland, Ferris State, Grand Valley State, Hillsdale and Northwood all represented the GLIAC in the NCAA Division II Tournament. Ashland, Ferris and Hillsdale advanced to the semifinals and the Chargers advanced to the regional championship match before falling to Indianapolis.
In the preseason GLIAC poll, the coaches tabbed Northwood and Ferris State at the top of the division with Hillsale earning a single first-place vote and 35 total points to finish third. Grand Valley State was fourth with 35 points followed by Northern Michigan in fifth place with 28 points, Saginaw Valley State in sixth with 18 points, Michigan Tech in seventh with 14 points and Lake Superior State came in eighth with seven total points.
Meanwhile, Ashland was chosen as the preseason favorite in the GLIAC South Division with five votes and 47 points. They were followed by Wayne State with three votes and 44 points, Findlay with 33 points and Malone with 31 points in the top four overall. The bottom four schools included Ohio Dominican in fifth place with 26 points, Walsh in sixth with 21 points, Tiffin in seventh with 15 points and Lake Erie rounding out the division with seven points.
Ferris State officially opens its 2013 season on Friday, Sept. 6, with a pair of non-conference matches at the Ferris State Invitational in Big Rapids. The Bulldogs host California (Pa.) and Missouri-St. Louis in their first two matches of the tournament. FSU then concludes tourney play on Saturday, Sept. 7, with contests against Washburn (Kan.) and Cedarville (Ohio).
Overall, the Bulldogs are scheduled to play five of their first eight matches against teams either nationally-ranked or receiving votes in the first two weekends of action this fall.
Ferris State wrapped up the 2012 campaign with a 24-8 overall record and reached the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Semifinals for the second consecutive year. FSU also posted a 16-2 mark in GLIAC play and came within a single victory of claiming a second-straight conference championship.
The Bulldogs have advanced to the NCAA Tournament three of the last four years to date.
Here's an overview on the 2013 campaign for FSU:
Ferris State Bulldogs
Head Coach: Tia Brandel-Wilhelm, 18th Season
2013 Preseason Pick: 2nd N
2012 Record: (24-8, 16-2 GLIAC)
OVERVIEW: Expectations are high for Ferris State as it looks toward the 2013 campaign. A season ago, the Bulldogs finished 24-8 overall and reached the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional semifinals round for the second consecutive season. Prior to tournament competition, the Bulldogs finished 16-2 during the league's regular-season schedule and came within a single victory of claiming a second straight league title. Strengthened by a blend of experienced and youthful talent, the Bulldogs are geared up to remain near the top of the conference. Junior Courtney Rehm, a 6-2 outside hitter, and senior Brandie Merren are expected to be key leaders for Ferris this fall.
PLAYERS: In all, Ferris returns 10 letter winners from the 2012 season. The Bulldogs welcome back Merren, a libero, and Rehm, an outside hitter and former GLIAC Freshman of the Year, as leaders of the team. Merren and Rehm earned All-GLIAC recognition last season and Merren went on to earn Daktronics All-Midwest Region accolades. The Bulldogs also welcome back 6-2 middle hitter Angi Kent and sophomore outside hitter Megan Vander Meer. Ferris also is excited about a recruiting class that features 6-1 Alexis Huntey, a redshirt sophomore who transferred into the Ferris program, along with freshmen Kaley Konjarevich, an outside hitter; Stephanie Sikorski, an outside hitter/setter; Aspen Stuedemann, a middle hitter; and Elle Humphries, an outside/middle hitter.
COACH: Tia Brandel-Wilhelm will enter her 18th season as head coach of the Bulldogs and her 21st season, overall, as a head coach at the college level.
OF INTEREST: Ferris recorded its 15th consecutive winning season, in 2012, with a record of 24-8 overall.