Fort Hays State volleyball was picked seventh in the MIAA Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll, released on Tuesday (Aug. 13). The Tigers are slotted right where they finished in conference play in 2012, coming off a 23-14 overall season in 2012. Last year marked the first 20-win season for FHSU since the 2004 season.
Fort Hays State looks to continue its rise in the conference standings seeing steady improvement in head coach Kurt Kohler‘s first four seasons. Seven conference wins in 2012 marked a new high for the program since joining the extremely difficult MIAA in 2006. The Tigers look to chase down the three top dogs in the conference, Nebraska-Kearney, Washburn, and Central Missouri, which entered the NCAA Tournament last year all in the top five of the national rankings. The MIAA lost one strong program in Truman, a nationally ranked program that moved to the Great Lakes Valley Conference starting this year.
The 2012 MIAA Champion and Central Regional finalist Nebraska-Kearney is picked No. 1 in the poll with 118 points and eight first-place votes. Central Missouri edged out Washburn for the second spot, 108 points to 107.
Next in line is a pair of Kansas schools in Emporia State and Pittsburg State. Fort Hays State went 3-1 against those teams in 2012, splitting with ESU and sweeping PSU. Northwest Missouri State at No. 6 is all that separates the four Kansas schools from stacking in a row in the polls. The Tigers dropped their only match with NWMSU on the road in 2012.
The Tigers dominated opponents in neutral site matches in 2012, going 13-2. They also had a decent 5-6 road record, but taking advantage of the home atmosphere was a struggle in 2012. FHSU finished just 5-6 at home last year and looks to improve on that mark to take the next step up the ladder of the mighty MIAA.
The Tigers are loaded with several solid returners, including five players with All-MIAA accolades in their careers. Senior middle hitter Jenna Ulrich and senior outside hitter Madison Schwartz are each two-time All-MIAA selections, while senior libero Makenzie Weinman grabbed her first all-conference nod in 2012. Junior outside hitter Sara Hewson and junior rightside hitter Taylor Mares each have an all-conference selection to their credit as well. Returning to give FHSU added punch are juniors Camille Hubert and Samantha Ledy. Hubert redshirted 2012 with an injury and bolsters the outside hitter position, while Ledy gives the Tigers another solid option in the middle. Sophomores Tara Hoekman and Mallory Flagor are also in the mix after seeing significant action last year. A new pair of setters, junior transfer Libby Ary and freshman Rachel Parsons, look to gel with the talented veterans. Several newcomers to the squad look to make the Tigers even stronger in 2013.
2013 MIAA Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Nebraska-Kearney (8) 118
2. Central Missouri (1) 108
3. Washburn (3) 107
4. Emporia State 89
5. Pittsburg State 71
6. Northwest Missouri 68
7. Fort Hays State 65
8. Central Oklahoma 52
9. Lindenwood 42
10. Missouri Western 39
11. Southwest Baptist 21
12. MIssouri Southern 12
-FHSU Sports Information-