Story by AMC Sports Information Director Scott Barker
ST. LOUIS, Mo. – 2016 American Midwest Conference Regular-Season Champions, Park University, will start the season at No. 1 in the AMC Women's Volleyball Coaches' Preseason Poll, the conference announced on Wednesday. The Pirates received six of the 12 possible first-place votes en route to 124 total points.
The Pirates edged out 2016 AMC Conference Tournament Champion Columbia College, who tallied 123 total points and received four first-place votes.
No. 1 – Park University Pirates (six first-place votes, 124 total points)
- Finished 2016 with a 36-4 (12-0 AMC) record.
- Preseason ranked No. 3 in the NAIA Women's Volleyball Preseason Coaches' Top 25 Poll
- Lost in the NAIA Women's Volleyball National Championship Semifinals.
- The Pirates bring back a trip of players that played a key part in last year's success.
- Salma Shahtout – Shahtout was named to the second-team All-AMC a year ago, as she led Park with 124 blocks. The 124 blocks ranked her second in the AMC, just one block behind the leader. The middle blocker recorded a hitting percentage of .398.
- Aneisha Ford – Ford was a 2016 All-AMC Honorable Mention selection, as the middle blocker had 106 total blocks with ranked her fifth in the conference.
- Danna Gomes – Gomes will play a key part in Park's season, as she was a 2016 First-Team All-AMC, Honorable Mention All-Region, CoSIDA Academic All-District athlete last year. The setter was third on the team and fourth in the conference in aces with 49. Gomes was second in the conference with 1,497 assists. That total led the Pirates.
- Park will welcome Maren Mair, transfer from Johnson County Community College who was a NJCAA All-American last season and 2016 Heat of America Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year, Celina Monteiro. The two players are expected to play a big part in the Pirates season.
- Wendy Romero will be a key loss for the Pirates, as the 2016 Tachikara-NAIA Volleyball National Player of the Year helped Park win the 2014 National Championship and helped the Pirates advance to the NAIA National Championship Semifinals in 2016. In 2014, Romero, was named National Championship Most Valuable Player. Romero led the NAIA last year with 684 total kills, ranked second nationally in kills per set (5.2) and No. 6 in total service aces (78).
- The Pirates will also have to replace 2016 AMC Libero of the Year, Daniela Duarte.
- Park's season starts on Friday, Aug. 25, as they will be a part of the Missouri Valley Invitational. The Pirates will play University of the Cumberlands (Ky.) and Avila University (Mo.) on Friday.
No. 2 – Columbia College Cougars (four first-place votes, 123 total points)
- The Cougars finished 2016 with a 30-12 (10-2 AMC) record.
- Preseason ranked No. 8 in the NAIA Women's Volleyball Preseason Coaches' Top 25 Poll
- Columbia knocked off Park, 3-0, to claim the 2016 AMC Volleyball Conference Championship.
- The Cougars saw their 2016 season end in the NAIA National Championship Quarterfinals.
- Columbia returns three key players from a year ago:
- Peiyi Liu will try to add on to her already impressive career. In 2016, Liu finished first on the team in sets played (149), kills (622), aces (280) and attacking percentage (.394). She also finished second on the team in digs (388) and averaged a team-high 4.72 points per game. Liu was named to the First-Team All-AMC, AVCA All-Region, First-Team NAIA All-American and was recognized as the CoSIDA Academic All-America of the year.
- 2016 AMC Newcomer of the Year, Zori Curry, returns after leading the AMC with 125 total blocks and blocks per set (1.0). Curry was named Second-Team All-Conference.
- Caroline Clifford, 2016 Honorable Mention All-AMC returns to the Cougars lineup after finishing third on the team with 344 total kills and in service aces with 26.
- The Cougars will have to find a new setter, as the team loses 2016 AMC Setter of the Year, Sashiko Heredia. Heredia was a 2016 NAIA All-American Honorable Mention selection, as well as being named to the First-Team All-AMC. Heredia led the conference with 1,599 total assists, which was the fourth highest total in the NAIA. Heredia was named to the All-Region team in 2016.
- Yamilet Velazquez and Pamela Jaime join the team after winning the 2016 NJCAA Volleyball National Championship with Miami Dade College. Velazquez averaged 3.92 assists per set last season and 1.74 digs per set. Jamie averaged 1.29 kills per set for the Sharks and hit .250.
- The Cougars start their season on Friday, Aug. 25 as they take on College of Coastal Georgia and Oklahoma City University at the 2017 Bill Marshall Volleyball Classic in Grand Island, Neb.
No. 3 – Missouri Baptist University Spartans (two first-place votes, 119 total points)
- The Spartans finished 2016 with a record of 29-11 (11-1 AMC) and was the regular-season runner-up.
- Preseason ranked No. 12 in the NAIA Women's Volleyball Preseason Coaches' Top 25 Poll
- Missouri Baptist's season came to an end in the Round of 16 at the NAIA National Championship.
- The team is returning a number of players from last year's team.
- Kristina Medanovic ranked seventh in the NAIA in hitting percentage (.379), which was second in the NAIA. Medanovic racked up the awards last season, as she earned AMC First-Team All-Conference honors, as well as Tachikara-NAIA Third-Team All-American and AVCA All-Region Team.
- Caterina Cigarini is expected to play a big role this year, as the middle blocker appeared in 39 matches last season. She finished the season ranked 13th in the NAIA in hitting percentage (.355). She was also a Tachikara-NAIA All-American Honorable Mention honoree, as well as being named to the AMC First-Team All-Conference team. In addition, Cigarini was named AMC Freshman of the Year, AVCA All-Region Team and AVCA Midwest Region Freshman of the Year.
- The Spartans will have big shoes to fill as they will lose outside hitter, Mallory Dillon. Dillon finished the season ranked No. 5 in the NAIA in total kills (593) and No. 7 in kills per set. She was second and third in the AMC in these two categories respectively. Dillon owns the MBU school record for career kills (1,689) and service aces (161). Her single-season total of 593 kills sits her third in school history.
- MBU is bringing in three transfer students. Rachel Poole from Southeast Missouri State, Maggie Sorensen from Christian Brothers University and Rachel Luebbers from Jefferson Community College. All three players are expected to have an immediate impact on the team.
- The Spartans will get their season underway on Wednesday, August 23rd, as they travel to Miami, Fla. to take on Florida National University. MBU will play six matches from Aug. 23-26 in Miami.
No. 4 – Lindenwood-Belleville University Lynx (97 total points)
- The Lynx finished 2016 with an 18-12 (9-3) record.
- Lindenwood-Belleville's season came to an end in the Quarterfinals of the AMC Conference Tournament.
- The Lynx welcome back Victoria Johnson and Kourtney Knox.
- Johnson was fifth on the team with 122 total kills and in service aces with 18.
- Knox was second on the team with 449 assists. The setter was third on the team with 23 service aces.
- The team loses Stephanie Cathcart. Cathcart was a AVCA All-Region member and was a First-Team All-AMC selection. Cathcart led the team in kills (406), kills per game (3.66), attacking percentage (.295) and service aces with 61.
- Incoming Freshman Kayla Bailey (middle blocker) and Lauren English (middle blocker) are key newcomers to the Lynx squad.
- Lindenwood-Belleville gets its season underway on Aug. 22, as they host Missouri Valley College.
No. 5 – William Woods University Owls (92 total points)
- The Owls finished the season with a 21-14 (8-4 AMC) record.
- William Woods (No. 5-seed) knocked off No. 4-seed Lindenwood-Belleville in the quarterfinals of the AMC tournament before bowing out to top-seeded Park University in the semifinals.
- The Owls are returning Brittney Engelbrecht, who was a NAIA All-American Honorable Mention, All-Region Team and First-Team All-AMC. Engelbrecht led the Owls with 1,237 assists. That was the fourth highest total in the AMC.
- Jessica Jensen is another key returnee for WWU. Jensen led the Owls with 628 digs, which ranked her second in the conference. Jensen was an All-Region Honorable Mention as well as being named to the First-Team All-AMC list.
- The Owls lose outside hitter Victoria Day, who was a Second-Team All-AMC selection. Day led the team with 373 kills.
- Rayleen Rivera transfer to WWU after spending the last two years at Pasadena City College. Rivera, an All-South Coast First-Team member, averaged 3.52 kills pet set and 2.44 digs per contest. Rivera holds the Pasadena City College single-game record with 30 kills.
- Joining Rivera as top newcomers are Freshmen Remie Johnson from Deer Valley High School and Kate Doerhoff from Howell North High School.
- The Owls open their season on Wednesday, Aug. 23 in Canton, Mo. as they take on Culver-Stockton College.
No. 6 – Williams Baptist College Eagles (79 total points)
- The Eagles finished 2016 with a record of 14-16 (7-5 AMC).
- Williams Baptist fell to eventual conference tournament champion Columbia in the quarterfinal round of the conference tournament.
- The Eagles return Senior Shelby Wallace who was a Second-Team All-Conference section a year ago. Wallace was second on the team with 211 total kills and in hitting percentage (.245). Wallace played in all 30 matches for the Eagles.
- Sophomore Shelby Henson is another key returner for WBC. Henson was named to the Honorable Mention All-AMC list last season. Henson was fourth on the team with 16 service aces and was second with 273 digs.
- Jessica Baugh, a 2016 Honorable Mention All-AMC selection, will be a key loss for the Eagles. She led the team with 392 digs and 4.04 digs per game.
- Madison Laubach, who as a Honorable Mention All-AMC team member, is another key member that the Eagles will have to fill. Laubach led the team with 243 kills, averaged a team-high 2.51 kills per game and led the team with a 2.63 points per game average.
- The Eagles add Broward College transfer, Mekenzie Breuklander. Breuklander was a Second-Team All-Southern Conference last season. She posted 110 kills, 17 service aces, 173 digs and 12 blocks in just 14 matches for the Seahawks.
- Williams Baptist will get its 2017 campaign started on Friday, August 25, as they travel to Dearborn, Mich. To take on Judson University and Spring Arbor University. The Eagles will play two more matches the following day. All four matches are part of the University of Michigan-Dearborn Early Bird Challenge.
No. 7 – Freed-Hardeman University Lions (75 total points)
- Finished 2016 with a 11-15 (6-6 AMC) record.
- Lindsey Gordon will be a key player in 2017 for the Lions. In 2016 she had a team-high 593 assists with an 8.12 assist per game average. She ranked seventh in the AMC in assists and sixth in the conference in assists per game.
- Alex Britt led the Lions in service aces with 27 and blocks with 63. Britt is expected to play a key role in the Lions success this season.
- Another key returner is Sara Deton. Denton compiled 194 digs last season and averaged 2.37 digs per game.
- The Lions lose Daymari Brito who led the team in kills with 247 and a 3.01 kill per game average. Brito also led FHU with 214 digs.
- The Lions are expecting big things from their newcomers, including Bojana Antunovic (Ranger Junior College), Claire Walker (Hazel Green High School), Maria Mask (Wilson High School) and Shea Dean (South Side High School).
- The Lions season gets underway on Friday, August 18th as they take part in the Faulkner University Invitational in Montgomery, Ala.
No. 8 – Lyon College Scots (64 total points)
- Finished 2016 with a 15-17 (5-7 AMC) record
- Returning two key players from 2016:
- Madisson Williams – 2016 All-AMC Honorable Mention selection. She played in 32 matches, recording 508 digs, 39 service aces and 56 assists.
- Kendra Kelley – All-AMC Honorable Mention in 2016, playing in 32 matches, with 200 kills, 15 assists, 27 service aces, 41 blocks and 142 digs.
- The Scots are losing two key players:
- Katarina Frickelton – Three-time Second-Team All-Conference Selection.
- Brittney Beckham – played in 32 matches, with 33 kills, 542 assists, 181 digs.
- Samantha Scalf – played in 28 matches, with 176 kills, 28 service aces and 60 digs.
- The Scots are counting on production from newcomers Chelzie-Kristin Ulu (Valley City State University), Iva Popovic (Indiana Hills Community College) and Katherine Jeane (Greenbrier High School).
- Lyon's season gets underway on Aug. 25th as the Scots will travel to Bartlesville, Okla. to take place in the Oklahoma Wesleyan Invitational.
No. 9 – Stephens College Stars (48 total points)
- Stephens finished 2016 with an overall record of 9-24 and 4-8 in the AMC.
- Danielle Craven, 2016 AMC All-Conference Honorable Mention, is a key returner along with Halan Mann. Both players will serve as a key for the Stars success.
- The Stars lose two players who were AMC All-Conference Honorable Mention – Taylor Edwards and Kerri Kircher.
- The Stars 2017 season gets underway on Aug. 25 as they host McPherson College.
No. 10 – Hannibal-LaGrange University Trojans (38 total points)
- The Trojans ended the 2016 season with a record of 6-27 overall and 2-9 in the AMC.
- Shelby Maupin returns to the Trojans lineup as she was third on the team with 174 kills and she added a team-high 64 blocks.
- Hannibal-LaGrange loses Second-Team All-Conference player, Khristina Schellentrager.
- The Trojans look to get production from incoming Freshmen Janine Crooks and Jacy Allen.
- Hannibal-LaGrange travels to Davenport, Iowa on Aug. 24th to take on St. Ambrose University for the season opener.
No. 11 – Central Baptist College Mustangs (34 total points)
- Finished 4-21 (2-10 AMC) last season
- The Mustangs are returning only four players from a year ago:
- The 2017 Mustangs team will be almost a completely new lineup from last season.
- Central Baptist gets their season underway on Aug. 22 as they travel to Paragould, Ark. to play a doubleheader with Crowley's Ridge College and Philander Smith College.
No. 12 – Harris-Stowe State University Hornets (28 total points)
- The Hornets ended the 2016 season with a record of 6-18 (2-10 AMC).
- Miaya Peacock returns for the Hornets after leading the team with 291 kills and a .356 attacking percentage. Peacock also led the team with 215 digs.
- Shamekia McDowell is a key loss for the Hornets as she was third on the team with 120 kills and led the team with 31 blocks.
- The Hornets, under the direction of first-year head coach Rachel Williams, gets their season underway on Aug. 23 as they travel to take on Benedictine College.
No. 13 – St. Louis College of Pharmacy Eutectics (15 total points)
- The Eutectics finished the season with a 1-20 record and did not pick up a conference win.
- St. Louis College of Pharmacy returns a pair of key players from a year ago.
- Kate Toler recorded nine kills, 11 assists, nine service aces and 198 digs for STLCOP.
- Julia Huynh led the team with 351 digs, 34 assists and seven service aces.
- The Eutectics lose key player Ashley Walter who had 86 kills and 47 digs.
- St. Louis College of Pharmacy gets the 2017 campaign started on Sept. 8 with a doubleheader against Tabor College and John Brown University at the Evangel University Tournament in Springfield Mo.
2017 AMC Women's Volleyball Postseason Conference Tournament
- Dates: Quarterfinals – Nov. 7, Semifinals – Nov. 10 and Championship – Nov. 11
- The Quarterfinals will be hosted by the higher seed, with the Semifinals and Championship hosted by Park University.
- The Top-8 teams from the conference standings make up the traditional single elimination bracket.
- The winner of the Conference Tournament earns the AMC's automatic berth to the NAIA Women's Volleyball National Championship Opening Round.
2017 AMC Women's Volleyball Preseason Coaches' Poll
School (1st-place Votes)
Missouri Baptist (2)
St. Louis Pharmacy