VB: SFA favored to repeat as Southland Conference champs

Story courtesy: Southland Conference Media Relations


For the third consecutive season, Stephen F. Austin was selected to finish first in the Southland Conference Volleyball preseason poll, the league announced Wednesday. Southland preseason poll announcements are presented by Ready Nutrition.

After closing out the 2019 season with a 31-2 overall record and spotless 16-0 record in conference play, the Ladyjacks captured 16 first-place votes and 276 points to top this year’s preseason poll. SFA garnered a trio of preseason all-conference selections in first-teamers Maddie Miller and Taya Mitchell and second-team honoree Ariana Pagan. In the 2019 season, the Ladyjacks led the Southland in blocks (320.5), hitting percentage (.258) and opponent hitting percentage (.151). Mitchell, the reigning Southland Newcomer of the Year, looks to build upon her junior season, where she finished ranked ninth in the nation for blocks per set (1.45) and 10th nationally with 165 total blocks.

Sam Houston finished second in preseason voting with 266 points and eight first-place votes after closing out the 2019 campaign with an appearance at the National Invitational Volleyball Championship (NIVC). The Bearkats captured a 12-4 mark in Southland play and finished second at the Southland Conference Tournament. Sam Houston returns a trio of preseason all-conference selections in Breanne Chausse, Ashley Lewis and Catherine Krieger. The Kats tabbed 5,100 total attacks last season, ranking fourth nationally as a team. Chausse and Lewis racked up 896 kills, accounting for 49.6 percent of the Bearkats’ kills on the season.

Texas A&M-Corpus Christi placed in third place with 238 points and a pair of top choices. The Islanders also notched three preseason all-conference selections. Carissa Barnes, the 2019 Southland Freshman of the Year, returns for her sophomore campaign after finishing second in the Southland with 48 aces. Head coach Steve Greene will look to lead his offensively charged squad into the season after closing out the 2019 campaign with a league-best 184 aces and a .233 hitting percentage.

Rounding out the top four is Central Arkansas with 220 points, which enters the season with a trio of preseason all-conference returners. The Sugar Bears enter their first full season under head coach John Newberry, who guided his team on a late-year push that resulted in a postseason berth at the 2019 Southland Tournament. After finishing the 2019 season with 1,633 team kills, UCA will be in contention for the conference title behind returners Madi Bowles, Emily Doss and Lexi Miller.

Houston Baptist received 199 points to round out the top five, while Northwestern State was voted to finish in the sixth-place position with 181 points. Southeastern Louisiana was picked to finish seventh after capturing 157 points, just ahead of Abilene Christian’s 120 points for eighth place.

New Orleans (119), Nicholls (88) UIW (62), Lamar (57) and McNeese (45) fill out the remaining positions on the poll.

The preseason poll is voted on by head coaches and SIDs from each Southland volleyball school. Voting for one’s own team is not permitted.

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