Through two seasons competing in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, the Charger volleyball team has enjoyed an enormous amount of success. Coaches in the conference foresee more of the same to come in 2019.
Hillsdale was an overwhelming choice to finish first in the G-MAC once again, in the 2019 preseason poll, released Tuesday morning. The two-time defending champion Chargers picked up 10 of a possible 13 first-place votes in the poll, with runner-up Findlay getting the other three. What's notable is that two coaches in the conference don't believe the Chargers, winners of 40 consecutive conference regular season and tournament matches, will not finish on top this year.
Two high-powered players, Paige VanderWall and Kara Vyletel, have graduated, but coach Chris Gravel's cupboard is hardly bare. Libero Taylor Wiese, middle hitter Allyssa Van Wienen and setter Lindsey Mertz all return as arguably, the top players at their positions in the G-MAC. Wiese was a team captain last year and led the G-MAC in digs per set in 2018. Van Wienen, a junior, has already been named All-Conference twice and Mertz expertly directs the offense, with two First-Team All-Conference trophies in her career already.
The Chargers will face a daunting series of opponents in their first two weekend tournaments, once again opening the season against seven-time national champion Concordia-St. Paul in Florida. Central Missouri and Palm Beach Atlantic, two other early-season opponents, also figure to land in the AVCA's top 10 in the Division II preseason poll. Hillsdale will host an early-season tournament for the second time in three years from Sept. 12-14, opening that Thursday night against old GLIAC rival Ashland.
The conference schedule poses its own challenges for Hillsdale. The Chargers were given just five home matches in the 2019 G-MAC slate, and the team will face four of the other top six teams in this year's preseason poll on the road. Walsh and Malone are the only teams in the top half of the preseason poll who will visit Hillsdale during the regular season. One schedule change this year has each team playing the other just once in the regular season.
The complete coach's poll can be found in the grid below.
2019 Great Midwest Preseason Volleyball Coach's Poll
|PLACE||TEAM (1st PLACE VOTES)||POLL POINTS|