Alma, Mich. - Following its first trip to the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association semifinals since 2014, the Alma College women's volleyball team is slated to finish third in the conference this year according to the preseason coaches' poll released Thursday (August 22).
"We are excited to be recognized as a top contender in this conference," said Head Coach Madison Smith, "but we are definitely not satisfied and are working to continue to move higher."
The Scots finished the 2018 season with a .704 winning percentage, their best since 2008 while securing their first postseason tournament win in nearly a decade. They graduated just three seniors from last year's team and return both of their First-Team All-Conference members: junior setter Haley Novak (Midland, Mich. / Bullock Creek) and sophomore outside hitter Sara Majerle (Rockford, Mich. / Rockford).
"It has been exciting to see the returners come back with more fire and intensity than they left with in the spring. Even in this short time, our rookies have already assimilated into our culture and play style seamlessly."
Also among the returners are senior outside hitter Georgia Miller (Georgetown, Ky. / Scott County), sophomore opposite Haley Ullrich (Elk River, Minn. / Elk River), and junior libero Bailey Cantrell (Holt, Mich. / Mason), all of which played at least 23 of Alma's 27 matches last year. The Scots welcome eight newcomers to the group in 2019, seven freshmen and one sophomore.
"I have been very impressed by some of the rookies at camp, not only skill-wise but when a rookie can step into a gym full of people they have never played with and take a leadership role and embody the culture we instill in Alma volleyball, I find that very impressive."
"As cheesy as it sounds, the chemistry of this team is what continues to push them to new heights. Both mentally and physically they share a common goal which allows them to trust one another as they push each other every day."
Alma plays 29 games this season, but only five are at home. Since the MIAA moved to a single-round conference play during the regular season in 2018, more non-conference games need to be scheduled. As such, Alma plays 19 teams from six other conferences as well as one Division II team and one NAIA team, and will have 14 neutral site games. This is also the first year the MIAA is partnering with the North Coast Athletic Conference for the MIAA-NCAC Volleyball Crossover Challenge.
Alma will play seven games on the road, plus one scrimmage before its first home match: a non-conference game against Kalamazoo on Tuesday, Sept. 10. It will travel to Greencastle, Ind. and DePauw University for an invitational tournament with Whitman College (WA), Aurora University (IL) and Elmhurst College (IL) on Friday, Sept. 13 before returning home to face No. 21 Hope College in the start of conference play on Tuesday, Sept. 24. Alma's last three home games are on Tuesday, Oct. 8 against Albion, Wednesday, Oct. 16 against Adrian, and Friday, Nov. 1 against NCAA Division III National Runners-up No. 2 Calvin.
1. Calvin - 64 points (8 1st-place votes)
2. Hope - 57 points (1 1st-place vote)
3. Alma - 50 points
4. Albion - 41 points
5. Trine - 33 points
6. Saint Mary's - 25 points
7. Adrian - 24 points
8. Olivet - 21 points
9. Kalamazoo - 9 points