Big Rapids, Mich. - The Ferris State University women's volleyball squad, which is the defending NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Champion after advancing to the Elite Eight a year ago, will begin the 2014 campaign right where it left off as FSU is ranked 13th nationally in the 2014 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division II Preseason Top 25 Poll.
Last season, Ferris State registered one of its highest final rankings in school history as the Bulldogs were listed 13th in the final 2013 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division II National Rankings.
In this year's preseason poll, the Bulldogs are ranked the highest of two Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) programs found in the top 25 with rival Grand Valley State right behind FSU at 14th in the country. Additionally, two other league schools received votes with Ashland picking up 45 points and Northern Michigan nine.
Ferris State totaled 581 points in the poll, which is conducted by the AVCA. Seven-time defending national champion Concordia-St. Paul came in first with 1,186 points and 39 first-place votes followed by Tampa with 1,151 points and eight top votes. Minnesota-Duluth, BYU-Hawaii and Central Missouri rounded out the top five overall.
With the preseason ranking this year, the Bulldogs have now been ranked among the nation's top 25 teams a total of 114 weeks in school history, including 11 times last fall. After not being ranked in last year's preseason poll, the Bulldogs climbed into the national rankings in early September and were ranked 10 consecutive weeks to end the campaign.
Ferris State closed a memorable 2013 campaign with a 25-9 overall record after nearly pulling off a major win over eventual national runner-up BYU-Hawaii in its first appearance deep on the national stage since the late 1980's. FSU, which made its 18th all-time NCAA Tournament appearance this past fall, claimed a regional crown to reach the Elite Eight and national quarterfinals for only the third time in school history and first since 1989.
Last year marked Ferris State's first regional championship since previously winning two back in 1987 and 1989. The Bulldogs reached at least the regional semifinals for the third year in a row and have now made the NCAA Tournament nine times under head coach Tia Brandel-Wilhelm, who led FSU to the Elite Eight for the first time in her tenure after notching her 500th career victory in an exciting 3-2 comeback win over archrival Grand Valley State in the Midwest Regional title match in Allendale.
The Bulldogs also placed tied for second last season in the GLIAC with a 15-3 overall record, reached the conference tournament for the 16th consecutive year and posted 20 wins or more for the 12th time in 18 seasons under Brandel-Wilhelm's direction.
Ferris State will enter the 2014 campaign with high hopes again after winning the NCAA Division II Midwest Regional Championship to advance to the Elite Eight a year ago under Brandel-Wilhelm. Five starters and 10 letterwinners return for the Bulldogs, including a pair of All-GLIAC performers in talented hitters Courtney Rehm and Alexis Huntey.
Sophomore Stephanie Sikorski also returns at the setter position after an impressive freshman campaign with senior hitter Caroline Heitzman and junior Megan Vander Meer also back in the Bulldog lineup. Ferris State, which placed tied for second in the GLIAC North a year ago before its postseason run, will be seeking its 19th NCAA Tournament appearance this year. A talented incoming freshman class will help offset the loss of a pair of seniors from last year, which includes the GLIAC Libero of the Year in Brandie Merren.
Ferris State is slated to open the fall 2014 season by taking part in the highly-competitive University of Tampa Invitational from Sept. 4-6 in Tampa, Fla. The Bulldogs will face two of the nation's top five teams in the event, including host Tampa along with Central Missouri. Additionally, another scheduled opponent, Indianapolis, is ranked 24th in the preseason listing.
Below is the 2014 AVCA Preseason Division II Poll:
|Rank||School (First-Place Votes)||Total Points||2013 Record||Final Ranking|
|1||Concordia-St. Paul (39)||1186||35-3||1|
|3||Minnesota Duluth (1)||1086||33-3||4|
|6||West Texas A&M||897||34-4||5|
|7||Southwest Minnesota State||861||24-8||7|
|8||Cal State San Bernardino||842||27-6||9|
|11||UC San Diego||650||26-6||11|
|14||Grand Valley State||557||31-4||14|
|18||Colorado School of Mines||389||25-7||19|
|20||Wayne State (NE)||296||22-10||21|
|25||Palm Beach Atlantic||100||29-4||24|
Others Receiving Votes and listed on two or more ballots: Point Loma 83; Ashland 45; Truman State 45; Florida Southern 37; Rockhurst 33; Augustana (SD) 32; Metro State 31; Lewis 29; Fresno Pacific 26; Central Washington 22; Alaska-Anchorage 13; Colorado Mesa University 13; Texas Woman's 11; California Baptist 9; LIU Post 9; Northern Michigan 9; Harding 6; Eckerd 3
15 teams mentioned on only one ballot for a total of 81 combined points.
Next Poll: September 8, 2014