CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Defending Big South regular-season champion High Point University has been chosen the favorite in the conference’s annual preseason volleyball poll by the league’s head coaches, it was announced today by the conference office. In addition, Panthers’ senior middle blocker Molly Livingston (Sun Prairie, Wis.) headlines the preseason All-Conference team as the Preseason Player of the Year.
High Point, under the direction of first-year head coach Ryan Meek, received eight first-place votes and 96 points to finish first in 2018. HPU, which went 24-8 last season with a perfect 16-0 record in Big South matches, returns six starters and 12 letterwinners from last year’s squad that received the conference’s first-ever at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Livingston is a three-time All-Conference honoree and was the 2015 Big South Freshman of the Year. She became the first Panther in program history to earn AVCA All-Southeast Region honorable mention honors last season after she led the conference hitting at a .376 clip. Livingston started all 32 matches and averaged 3.84 points per set in 2017, in addition to leading HPU with 0.92 blocks per set. Her attack percentage mark was the highest in High Point’s Division I era by nearly three percentage points. Livingston totaled 40 service aces to rank in the top-100 in the nation in the category, and was the only Big South player with 300 kills (333) and 100 blocks (105) a season ago. She placed in the league’s top 10 in hitting percentage, kills per set, aces per set, blocks per set and points per set, and was tops with a .443 attacking clip in Big South matches in 2017 — the only player above .400.
Livingston collected seven first-place votes and 61 points for the Preseason Player of the Year honor, ahead of teammate Abby Bottomley (45 points). Livingston and Bottomley were joined on the preseason All-Conference team by Campbell teammates Allena Heath and Jessica Stocking, UNC Asheville’s Cara Guthrie and Radford duo Haley Kleespies and Stephanie Neast.
Radford received one first-place vote and 88 points to finish second in the preseason poll. Campbell was third in the voting with 82 points and the remaining first-place vote, ahead of UNC Asheville (65 points). Winthrop captured the fifth spot with 64 points, ahead of sixth-place Presbyterian College (41 points). New Big South member USC Upstate was picked seventh with 37 points, followed by Charleston Southern (29), new member Hampton (27) and Gardner-Webb (21).
The 2018 Big South volleyball season begins Friday, Aug. 24, with 13 matches scheduled. Conference play begins Tuesday, Sept. 18, while the 2018 Big South Volleyball Championship is slated for Nov. 16-18 on the campus of UNC Asheville.
2018 Big South Preseason Poll
|Rk.||Team (1st-Place Votes)||Points|
|1.||High Point (8)||96|
2018 Preseason All-Big South Team
Molly Livingston, High Point, Sr., MB (Preseason Player of the Year)
Abby Bottomley, High Point, Soph., LIB
Allena Heath, Campbell, Jr., OH
Cara Guthrie, UNC Asheville, Sr., OH
Haley Kleespies, Radford, Sr., S
Jessica Stocking, Campbell, Sr., OH
Stephanie Neast, Radford, Jr., RS