By Alan Grosbach, Manager of Communications and Sports Information
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Defending national champion Texas at Brownsville opens the 2014 season as the No. 1 team in the Tachikara-NAIA Volleyball Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll, the national office announced Tuesday. The Ocelots were the unanimous selection for the seventh-consecutive poll, garnering 20 first-place votes and 560 points.
Last year, Texas at Brownsville claimed its second banner in the last three seasons with a 3-0 (27-25, 27-25, 25-22) sweep of then-No. 3 Biola (Calif.). The Ocelots, who finished 2013 with a perfect 37-0 record, are led by returning first team All-America middle blocker Vania Joksic. The senior native of Gornji Milanovac, Serbia, ranked second on the squad last season in kills (305) and blocks (108), while leading the team with a .498 attack percentage. Texas at Brownsville tries become the first team since 2010 to be the preseason No. 1 and win the national championship in the same season. The Ocelots begin their quest to repeat on Friday against Hastings (Neb.).
No. 2 Concordia (Calif.), No. 3 Wayland Baptist (Texas) and No. 4 Madonna (Mich.) each slide up one spot from the 2013 postseason edition with 542, 516 and 480 points, respectively. The Eagles, who reached the semifinals of the 2013 national championship before falling to Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) rival Biola, have now been ranked among the top three in 37-straight polls.
Arguably the biggest surprise of the 2013 season was Wayland Baptist. The Pioneers, who started the year unranked, went 6-1 in the postseason before eventually bowing out in the semifinals to Texas at Brownsville. Wayland Baptist returns a strong nucleus that includes first team All-American Shahala Hawkins and all-conference performers Chelsey Driskill, Ashlynn Westerman and Mercades Torres.
No. 5 Northwestern (Iowa) rounds out the top five with 479 points. The Red Raiders were selected the preseason favorite to win the Great Plains Athletic Conference (GPAC), earning eight of the 11 possible first-place votes by the league’s coaches.
No. 10 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) and No. 18 College of Idaho highlight the positive movement within the poll, as each program jumped six places. The Blue Raiders are coming off a 36-6 record in 2013, including a perfect 18-0 mark in the Mid-South Conference, while College of Idaho hopes to build on an 18-10 campaign that included a trip to the National Championship Opening Round.
Four newcomers join the Top 25 in No. 15 Viterbo (Wis.), No. 23 Eastern Oregon, No. 24 (tied) Davenport (Mich.) and No. 24 (tied) Missouri Baptist. All four programs were ranked last season.
Thirteen of the 23 conferences are represented throughout the Top 25, led by the GSAC’s four teams – Concordia, No. 8 Biola, No. 19 The Master’s (Calif.) and No. 22 Vanguard (Calif.). The GPAC and the American Midwest Conference land a trio of schools in the poll.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences and Independents. The first regular-season Top 25 will be announced Sept. 9
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Notes: (All information as of 2000) Texas at Brownsville earns its 25th all-time No. 1 ranking, which is the third most in NAIA history … Former member Fresno Pacific (Calif.) has the most No. 1 appearances with 70, followed by former member National American (S.D.) 33 … In 2013, there were 36 different teams to be ranked, with 15 of those holding a spot in all 13 polls … Concordia (Calif.), which ranks fifth all-time with 14 No. 1 mentions, holds the longest active streak in the Top 25 at 99-straight polls … Biola (Calif.) is second with 98-consecutive mentions, followed by Columbia (Mo.) (86), Texas at Brownsville (61) and Embry-Riddle (Fla.) (51) … There has only been one program that has been able to maintain the No. 1 ranking for an entire season with Fresno Pacific accomplishing the feat in 2004, 2008 and 2009.
2014 Tachikara-NAIA Volleyball Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll (Aug. 19)
|RANK||LAST WEEK^||SCHOOL (1ST PLACE VOTES)||2013 Record||TOTAL POINTS|
|1||1||Texas at Brownsville (20)||37-0||560|
|3||4||Wayland Baptist (Texas)||36-7||516|
|6||8||Grand View (Iowa)||34-14||446|
|10||16||Lindsey Wilson (Ky.)||36-6||381|
|16||14||MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.)||27-4||308|
|17||18||Rocky Mountain (Mont.)||25-9||280|
|18||24||College of Idaho||18-10||256|
|19||6||The Master’s (Calif.)||23-9||254|
Others receiving votes: Bellevue (Neb.) 121; Hastings (Neb.) 77; Trinity Christian (Ill.) 65; Westmont (Calif.) 61; Baker (Kan.) 52; Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) 50; Southern Oregon 37; Cal State San Marcos 24; Cornerstone (Mich.) 15; Evangel (Mo.) 8; Asbury (Ky.) 4; Concordia (Ore.) 3; College of the Ozarks (Mo.) 3.
^ Ranking in 2013 Postseason Top 25 Poll (Dec. 11, 2013)