CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The UMBC volleyball team has been selected to finish third in the America East, receiving one first place vote, the conference office announced in its preseason poll on Thursday afternoon. Albany, last year's regular season champion and winners of eight of the last nine tournaments, was tabbed as the favorite for the 2013 season.
"I think this is a good reflection of where we are as a team right now," said head coach Ian Blanchard, who will be entering his ninth season in charge of the Retrievers this fall. "We have the attention of the coaches around the league and by making it to the postseason the past few years we've proven that we're a contender."
Albany received three first place votes and a total of 37 points, just edging out last year's champion Binghamton (36 pts.), who received two first-place votes, and UMBC (35 pts.). New Hampshire, who placed fourth last season, garnered the final first-place vote and took fourth in the preseason poll with 29 points. Stony Brook (25 pts.), Hartford (17 pts.), Providence (11 pts.), and league newcomer UMass Lowell (6 pts.) rounded out the poll.
"The poll shows that there is plenty of parity in the conference," Blanchard said. "But in the end none of this matters until we start playing."
Looking to earn a spot in its sixth straight conference tournament, UMBC returns three all-conference selections from a year ago, including America East Co-Setter of the Year Mallory McIntyre (Winnipeg, Manitoba/St. Mary's Academy). As a junior, McIntyre led the league in assists, averaging 9.78 helpers per set while utilizing All-Conference and All-Rookie honorees Sherelle Walker (New Freedom, Pa./Susquehannock) and Krystal Mlemchukwu (Baltimore, Md./Western Tech). As freshmen, the pair ranked third and fourth, respectively, in the league in hitting percentage.
Also returning for the Retrievers are seniors Ali Goc (Oshawa, Ontario/R.S. McLaughlin) and Hallie Carter (Huntington Beach, Calif./Edison). The two veterans have combined to play in every match for the Retrievers since coming to Baltimore as freshmen in 2010, missing only one set during that span.
UMBC posted its best-ever season in the America East last year going 8-4 in league play, tying for second-place in the regular season standings with Binghamton. In the conference tournament, the Bearcats outlasted the Black and Gold in five sets before going on to win the league championship.
The Retrievers open their 2013 schedule on Friday, Aug. 30 at the GW/Nike Invitational where they take on Ole Miss. Opening weekend concludes the following day with matches against tournament-host George Washington and in-state rival Maryland.