CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – For the first time since 2007, the UMBC volleyball team has been picked as the America East preseason favorite in the league's annual preseason poll, as announced by the conference office on Wednesday. Voting was conducted by the league's seven coaches, who were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
UMBC garnered 33 votes, including three first-place votes, to edge out the defending regular-season and tournament champion New Hampshire, who also captured three first-place votes and 30 votes overall. Stony Brook came in a close third with 28 votes and the conference's final top vote. Albany (21) was picked fourth, followed by Binghamton (17), Hartford (12) and UMass Lowell (six).
"We are humbled and honored to be selected as the preseason number one," said head coach Ian Blanchard. "Considering we graduated six seniors and three starters, including the two-time America East Setter of the Year (in Mallory McIntyre), this was a surprising pick, but we are excited for the honor. I think this shows the respect that has been built within the America East."
Blanchard returns 10 letterwinners and four starters for his 10th season at the helm of the program. The Retrievers posted a 9-5 record in conference action last season, marking its highest league win total since joining in 2003, and advanced to the title game of the America East tournament for the first time since 2010.
Senior Hannah Schmidt is the lone All-Conferene returnee from a season ago, earning a spot on the second team after registering 280 digs and 268 kills in the regular-season. Also returning for the Retrievers are red-shirt junior middle Krystal Mlemchukwu and junior hitter Sherelle Walker. The duo combined for 546 kills and 169 blocks in 2013.
The Retrievers open their 2014 slate at the UMES Invitational on Aug. 29-30. UMBC takes on South Dakota State (10 a.m.) and Fairleigh Dickinson (2 p.m.) on Friday, Aug. 29.
2014 America East Preseason Poll
1. UMBC (33)
2. New Hampshire (30)
3. Stony Brook (28)
4. Albany (21)
5. Binghamton (17)
6. Hartford (12)
7. UMass Lowell (6)