Blugold Volleyball Picked to Finish Second in WIAC; Earns Four First Place Votes

Blugold Volleyball Picked to Finish Second in WIAC; Earns Four First Place Votes

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MADISON, Wis. ( - University of Wisconsin-Whitewater has been picked to secure the 2013 Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) women's volleyball championship, according to the league's head coaches and sports information directors.

The Warhawks, who earned 10 first-place votes in the survey and are ranked No. 13 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) NCAA Division III preseason poll, have collected a league-high 14 first-place conference trophies and made 21 consecutive NCAA Division III Championship appearances.

This year's squad features five returning starters (plus the libero). Junior Kim Frei, ranked sixth in the NCAA Division III with 11.0 assists per set in 2012, while junior Kesley Nobilio was 22nd with 5.82 digs per set and senior Leanna Lillge 26th with 3.92 kills per set. Lillge is 144 kills from reaching 1,000 in her career and her 1,565 attempts a season ago established a school single-season record. The Warhawks are scheduled to play 18 matches on a newly resurfaced floor in Kris Russell Volleyball Arena in 2013, including 11 of their first 15 contests.

UW-Eau Claire earned four first-place tallies and is projected to place second in the nine-team league derby. The Blugolds have won at least 22 matches eight consecutive years and return 12 letterwinners from a year ago, including seniors Lauren Sutherland and Kelly Schuh. Sutherland was fourth in the WIAC with 4.59 digs per set. UW-Eau Claire will play its Oct. 4 match against UW-Platteville in Zorn Arena (rather than McPhee) for the first time since the early 90s (only a few matches have been played in Zorn Arena throughout history). The Blugolds have made eight straight NCAA Division III Championship showings.

UW-Stevens Point, ranked No. 25 by the AVCA, secured the remaining four first-place votes and is slotted for third in the WIAC race. Abbey Sutherland begins her first season in charge of the Pointers after spending the previous nine years at the University of Southern Mississippi, including the last three as head coach. She inherits a program that returns 11 letterwinners and has captured back-to-back WIAC crowns, while amassing 55 victories during that span - its best two-year stretch since 1985-86. UW-Stevens Point led the NCAA Division III with 2.79 blocks per set a season ago and returns senior Allison Davis, who ranked fifth nationally at 1.31 blocks per set, while junior Alexis Hartman placed fourth in the league with 1,230 assists.

UW-River Falls welcomes back nine letterwinners from the 2012 squad that led the conference with a .219 hitting percentage. Senior Jean Theis was second in the WIAC with a .291 hitting percentage and needs 138 kills to reach 1,000 in her career. The Falcons will play 14 matches away from home to begin the 2013 campaign and have only four home contests all season. Head Coach Patti Ford is five victories from reaching 500 in her career and becoming the fifth person in conference history to reach the mark.

UW-Oshkosh returns 10 letterwinners, including five who played in 100-plus sets last year. The Titans topped the league in digs in 2012 with 2,619 and placed second with 293 blocks. Sophomore Katelyn Malcheski was third on the team with 268 kills and 44 blocks. The Titans haven't had a losing season since 1998 and have won at least 32 matches five times in the last eight years. Head Coach Brian Schaefer owns a .758 winning percentage, which ranks third in WIAC history among coaches with at least 100 victories.

UW-Platteville senior Stephanie Kirchner is seeking to become to first Pioneer to earn All-WIAC recognition all four years. She topped the conference, and ranked 20th in the NCAA Division III, with a .361 hitting percentage a season ago. The Pioneers will play 10 home matches in 2013 after accumulating an 11-3 record at Williams Fieldhouse in 2012. Head Coach Deb Schulman is two victories away from achieving 600 in her career and becoming the fourth WIAC coach to reach the milestone.

UW-Stout is coming off a 2012 campaign that featured: the most wins (15) since 2006; the highest league finish (fifth) since 2004; and the program's 500th overall victory. The Blue Devils ranked 30th in the NCAA Division III with 2.14 blocks per set. The 2013 roster has zero seniors, but juniors Emily Crew, Morgan Denny and Karley Wiensch have started since their freshmen years. Denny led the squad with 101 blocks in 2012.

UW-La Crosse welcomes back seven of its top-eight leaders in kills from the 2012 squad, including junior Crystal Ziegler, who topped the team with 262 kills and 809 attempts. Senior Kayla Ashland has played in 89 of 90 career matches at UW-La Crosse, recording 602 kills. The Eagles will play 12 of their first 13 matches on the road, including the first 10, and will have just five matches in Mitchell Hall this season.

UW-Superior returns nine letterwinners from last year's squad that accumulated the most victories (19) since 2007 when they won 21 matches. Junior Keely Deadrick topped the WIAC with 0.52 service aces per set a season ago to lead a unit that ranked second in the league with 1.72 service aces per set. Head Coach Lynne Deadrick is the longest tenured coach in program history and the school's all-time wins leader.

2013 Preseason Predictions--Voted on by WIAC Head Coaches and Sports Information Directors

2012 Record
1. UW-Whitewater (10) 26-12 overall, 6-2 WIAC
2. UW-Eau Claire (4) 26-12, 6-2
3. UW-Stevens Point (4) 29-8, 7-1
4. UW-River Falls 22-12, 5-3
5. UW-Oshkosh 20-19, 3-5
6. UW-Platteville 21-12, 2-6
7. UW-Stout 15-14, 3-5
8. UW-La Crosse 13-18, 2-6
9. UW-Superior 19-14, 2-6
( )-First-place votes

Team Snippets

UW-Eau Claire
Head Coach: Kim Wudi; 7th season at UWEC; 150-66
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 12/5
Starters Returning/Lost: 3/4
Returning All-WIAC: None

UW-La Crosse
Head Coach: Lily Hallock; 2nd season at UWL; 13-18
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 13/5
Starters Returning/Lost: 3/3
Returning All-WIAC: Kayla Ashland, Sr., MH (2010-Honorable, 2011-Honorable); Crystal Ziegler, Jr., OH (2012-Honorable)

Head Coach: Brian Schaefer; 10th season at UWO; 251-80
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 10/5
Starters Returning/Lost: 3/3
Returning All-WIAC: Jordyn Bratel, Sr., OH (2011-First); Katelyn Malcheski, So., OH (2012-Honorable)

Head Coach: Deb Schulman; 26th season at UWP; 598-324
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 11/5
Starters Returning/Lost: 4/3
Returning All-WIAC: Stephanie Kirchner, Sr., MH (2010-Honorable, 2011-First, 2012-First)

UW-River Falls
Head Coach: Patti Ford; 22nd season at UWRF; 495-277
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 9/14
Starters Returning/Lost: 2/5
Returning All-WIAC: Jean Theis, Sr., MH (2011-Honorable, 2012-Honorable)

UW-Stevens Point
Head Coach: Abbey Sutherland; 4th season (1st at UWSP); 44-47 (overall) / 0-0 (at UWSP)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 10/6
Starters Returning/Lost: 4/3
Returning All-WIAC: Allison Davis, Sr., MH (2012-Honorable); Alexis Hartman, Jr., Setter (2011-First, 2012-First); Hannah Picel, So., Def. Spec. (2012-All-Defensive)

Head Coach: Jill Jolliff; 21st season at UWST; 348-304
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 7/3
Starters Returning/Lost: 4/2
Returning All-WIAC: Morgan Denny, Jr., MH (2012-Honorable)

Head Coach: Lynne Deadrick; 11th season at UWS; 146-189
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 9/3
Starters Returning/Lost: 4/3
Returning All-WIAC: Keely Deadrick, Jr., Setter (2012-Honorable)

Head Coach: Stacy Boudreau; 12th season (9th at UWW); 322-99 (overall) / 252-62 (at UWW)
Letterwinners Returning/Lost: 12/8
Starters Returning/Lost: 6/1
Returning All-WIAC: Kelsey Nobilio, Jr., Libero (2012-All-Defensive, 2012-First); Leanna Lillge, Sr., OH (2012-First); Kristen Ruchti, Sr., MB (2012-First); Kim Frei, Jr., Setter (2012-Honorable)