Cleveland, Ohio -- The Mid-American Conference announced the 2012 Preseason Volleyball Poll as voted on by the league’s head coaches. The Ohio Bobcats were picked to finish first in the East Division while the Western Michigan Broncos were selected to finish first in the West Division as well as winning the MAC Regular Season and tournament titles.
Ohio returns nine letterwinners from last season's squad, including All-MAC First Team selection Kelly Lamberti, second-team choice Lexie Hartnett and All-Freshman honoree Chelsea Bilger. That trio, combined with returning starter Faith Robins, two defensive specialists that played every game in 2011, Mollie Geske and Kelly Colyar, and upperclassman Leah Petrovich make the Bobcats a formidable opponent. Ohio also added six newcomers for this upcoming season, including two transfers. Lamberti finished her first season, second in the league in point scoring. The freshman also ranked second in kills, fifth in service aces and led Ohio in double-doubles with 19. Bilger finished second on the Bobcats in kills and third in points. She racked up 12 double-doubles on the season, eight in conference action. Hartnett received All-MAC honors for a second time last season after helping Ohio rank 19th in the nation in blocks per set. The redshirt sophomore ranked third in the MAC in blocks per set and placed second with 117.0 total blocks. Ohio finished their season ranked 22nd nationally with an average of 2.67 bocks per set and also boasted the best defense in the league, holding opponents to an average hitting percentage of .168.
Western Michigan returns all but two players from last year's team which finished with a 24-9 recorded and an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament. Setter Terin Norris returns as a redshirt sophomore for the Broncos, and the reigning MAC Freshman of the Year and First Team All-MAC selection looks to build on a rookie season that saw her become one of the top setters in the Mid-American Conference. Norris brings the element of attack in addition to her setting abilities, with her 135 kills in 2011 the most for a Bronco since 2006. Also returning is two-time First Team All-MAC selection Jessica Brown. Brown is the lone senior on this year's squad. Last season she recorded a .281 hitting percentage with 366 kills on the season. Lena Oliver returns after having a record setting season last year. Oliver has a career total of 1,345 digs, including a single-season program record of 700 in 2012 en route to being named First Team All-MAC and the COBRA Magazine National Defensive Player of the Year. COBRA similarly honored Oliver in 2012, as she was named to an eight-player watch list for Preseason Player of the Year.
Rounding out the East Division poll was Miami, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Kent State and Akron. For the West Division poll, Ball State, Central Michigan, Northern Illinois, Eastern Michigan and Toledo. The 2012 volleyball season begins this Friday as teams begin non-conference season. The 2012 MAC Volleyball Tournament will be November 16-18 at the SPIRE Institute in Geneva, Ohio.
East Division Preseason Poll
1. Ohio (11)
2. Miami (1)
3. Bowling Green
5. Kent State
West Division Preseason Poll
1. Western Michigan (10)
2. Ball State (1)
3. Central Michigan (1)
4. Northern Illinois
5. Eastern Michigan
Regular Season Champion - Western Michigan
Tournament Champion - Western Michigan