Volleyball Slated as Sixth Best Team in MIAA

Volleyball Slated as Sixth Best Team in MIAA
Alma, Mich. - The Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association has announced that the Alma College women's volleyball team is picked to finish sixth in the conference, according to its preseason coaches poll, announced on Thursday (Aug. 24). The Scots went 13-14 last season and 8-8 in the conference in Alex Leja's first season as head coach.
Calvin leads the preseason poll followed by Hope, Adrian and Saint Mary's. The MIAA is arguably one of the best volleyball conferences in Division III. Calvin won the national championship last season while Hope and Saint Mary's also made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament. 
The 2017 Scots will consist of 10 freshmen, four sophomores, four juniors and three seniors. Alma graduated nine seniors from last year's team, including three of the top four leaders in kills, and will look to replace them not individually, but as a group.
"It is always tough to replace a class who was so strong on the court, but even more so were great leaders within the program and students in the classroom," said Leja. "Having only seven upperclassmen this year puts pressure on the younger girls to step up. It is a great opportunity for them to get court time, as we are making changes and building the program with a lot of new faces. Our leadership is growing each day and we have some younger girls that will be big contributors this season."
All-Conference Second-Teamer Dakota Pelach (Gaylord, Mich. / Gaylord) returns in the setter/opposite position for her senior year. Pelach led the team in kills, assists and aces in addition to tallying six triple-doubles last season, tying her for third in all of Division III. 
The program has added a new assistant coach, Juliana Gutknecht, who joins the team after graduating from San Diego Christian College where she was a four-year starter and a team captain her senior year.
"Juliana has been a great addition to the coaching staff. She is very personable and has already built good relationships with the team. She has a great base of volleyball knowledge, and I am looking forward to working with her as the year continues."
Alma begins its season on Friday, September 1 in the Mount Union Invitational against the College of Wooster and SUNY Geneseo. It is one of two road tournaments the team will take part in this season, the other being the Carthage College Tournament on Friday, September 15 and Saturday, September 16. 
The Scots begin conference play on Wednesday, September 6 against Saint Mary's at Art Smith Arena. Alma will host national champion Calvin on Wednesday, September 13.
Below is the 2017 MIAA Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll:
1. Calvin - 64 points (8 first-place votes)
2. Hope - 55 points (1 first-place vote)
3. Adrian - 49 points
4. Saint Mary's - 45 points
5. Albion - 34 points
6. Alma - 32 points
7. Trine - 19 points
8. Olivet - 17 points
9. Kalamazoo - 9 points
Contact: Zach Russo, Assistant Sports Information Director, (989) 463-7436