VolleyMob’s NCAA Division I Women’s Preseason Poll #16-20

  0 Derek Johnson | August 15th, 2017 | ACC, Big 12, Big Ten, College - Women's Indoor, Division I Mid-Major, News, Pac 12, Rankings, SEC, WCC

At the end of the season, we released a Way-Too-Early 2017 NCAA Women’s Division I Rankings. As the season is now nearly upon us, it’s time for our final preseason top-25, featuring contributions from eight different VolleyMob writers. Over the course of five days, we are releasing five teams at a time. Today (day two), we release teams ranked 16-20.

Note: As eight different VolleyMob contributors voted on the poll, a standard scoring system of 25 points for being ranked number one, 24 for being number two and so forth was utilized. Number of first-place votes are shown in parenthesis next to the team while total voter points are dashed next to it.

Top 25 Releases:


  • 2016: Sweet 16, #14 in final AVCA Poll, 24-11 (11-9, 6th in Big Ten)
  • Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 11/4 + Libero
  • Incoming Freshmen (UA All-Americans)/Transfers: 3 (0)/0
  • Key Losses: MB Abby Cole (2016 AVCA Second-Team All-American)
  • Key Returners: S MacKenzi Welsh (2016 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Top Newcomers: OH/RS Ellie Brooks (Redshirted in 2016) and MB Savannah Guy (Redshirted in 2016)
  • Other Notes: None
  • Bottom Line: Michigan had a solid year that ended one set away from the Elite Eight. They lose Abby Cole in the middle (team-leader in kills), outside hitter Kelly Murphy (third in kills) and defensive specialist Tiffany Clark (1.82 digs per set) to transfer but bring back more than enough. Senior middle blocker Claire Kieffer-Wright was second on the Wolverines with 324 kills and a .297 hitting percentage in 2016 as she eases the transition in the middle. In fact, the offense should even improve as five of the top seven in kills return for former freshman phenom and now sophomore setter MacKenzi Welsh to dish it out to. Defensively, three of the top four in blocks from last year join libero Jenna Lerg (560 digs, 4.27 per set in 2016) to form a solid defense as Michigan should contend to host in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament once again.


  • 2016: Sweet 16, #13 in final AVCA Poll, 26-6 (17-3, 2nd in ACC)
  • Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 9/3 + Libero
  • Incoming Freshmen (UA All-Americans)/Transfers: 5 (2)/0
  • Key Losses: OH Katie Horton (Three-time All-ACC)
  • Key Returners: OH Milica Kubura (2016 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Top Newcomers: MB Taryn Knuth (2017 HS UA First-Team AA) and S Adrian Ell (2017 HS UA Third-Team AA)
  • Other Notes: None
  • Bottom Line: Florida State rode an upset over in-state rival Florida to the Sweet 16, but now in 2017 they will reset a bit with the loss of three starters. Katie Horton, the first Seminole to reach the 1,000 kill/dig club, graduated with two All-ACC Second-Team middles – Mara Green and Melanie Keil. Freshman Taryn Knuth should lessen the blow in the middle, as Milica Kubura, the team-leader in kills, will need to do even more as a senior along with redshirt junior Christian Ambrose, who averaged 2.35 kills per set. The Seminoles ran a 6-2 last year as primary setter Brianne Burkert returns with highly-touted freshman Adrian Ell and redshirt sophomore Annie Tietjens. North Carolina looks to be the class of the ACC, but the rest appears relatively wide open. Even with plenty of fresh faces, Florida State should be a favorite for another top-two finish, and if some of the newcomers make an early impact they could challenge the Tar Heels for ACC supremacy.

18. MISSOURI TIGERS – 52 points

  • 2016: Sweet 16, #16 in final AVCA Poll, 27-6 (16-2, T-1st in Big Ten)
  • Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 9/4
  • Incoming Freshmen (UA All-Americans)/Transfers: 3 (1)/0
  • Key Losses: OH Carly Kan (2016 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Key Returners: OH Melanie Crow (2016 AVCA Third-Team All-American) and MB Alyssa Munlyn (2016 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Top Newcomers: MB Kayla Caffey (Redshirted in 2016; 2016 HS UA All-America HM) and OH Leketor Member-Meneh (2017 HS UA Third-Team AA)
  • Other Notes: None
  • Bottom Line: Missouri won the SEC along with Florida in 2016 as the Tigers pushed through to the Sweet 16. Now they lose Carly Kan, who had been a staple for four seasons at Missouri, in addition to middle blocker Emily Thater (second on Missouri in blocks) and libero Alexa Ethridge (461 digs in 2016). Still, they have a strong core back with Melanie Crow and Alyssa Munlyn. Setter Courtney Eckenrode is sixth all-time at Missouri in career assists as she is back for one last season while opposite Kira Larson, who was AVCA All-America Honorable Mention in 2015, will also be a senior. Missouri actually has five seniors in total on the roster. If those five can help groom four freshmen, including a redshirt freshman in Kayla Caffey, Missouri could contend for another SEC title – especially if sought-after freshman Member-Meneh can replace Kan.


  • 2016: Second Round, #19 in final AVCA Poll, 25-9 (13-7, 5th in Big Ten)
  • Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 10/4 + Libero
  • Incoming Freshmen (UA All-Americans)/Transfers: 5 (2)/0
  • Key Losses: OH Chloe Reinig (2014 AVCA All-America HM, 2015 AVCA All-North Region HM)
  • Key Returners: MB Alyssa Garvelink (2016 AVCA Second-Team All-American) and OH Autumn Bailey (2016 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Top Newcomers: OH Maddie Haggerty (UCF transfer who sat out 2016 after she had transferred to UCF from Nebraska; 2014 HS UA Second-Team AA), DS/L Jamye Cox (2017 HS UA First-Team AA) and OH Meredith Norris (2017 HS UA First-Team AA)
  • Other Notes: None
  • Bottom Line: Michigan State is another team that earned a top-10 tournament rank before being upset in the second round. Now, the Spartans might be slept on, but even with losing two starters in Reinig and Allyssah Fitterer, Michigan State has seven seniors, with three as fifth-year seniors. Autumn Bailey is one of those five-year players as well as Brooke Kranda, a 6’6″ outside hitter/right side who started 24 matches in 2016 and will look for a breakout season. The other starters back are middle blocker Alyssa Garvelink and setter Rachel Minarick (2016 Big Ten Honorable Mention). Libero Abby Monson returns but could be tested by freshman Jamye Cox. Speaking of newcomers, Meredith Norris adds another option on the pin while Maddie Haggerty is ready to play after sitting out after she began at Nebraska and jetted to UCF prior to East Lansing. If the core improves and the newcomers blend it quickly, the Spartans could become a dark horse in the loaded Big Ten.


  • 2016: Second Round, #17 in final AVCA Poll, 23-6 (15-1, 1st in Big West)
  • Returning Letterwinners/Starters (at least half of matches): 12/4 + Libero
  • Incoming Freshmen (UA All-Americans)/Transfers: 4 (0)/1
  • Key Losses: RS Nikki Taylor (two-time AVCA Second-Team All-American) 
  • Key Returners: MB Emily Maglio (2016 AVCA All-America HM)
  • Top Newcomers: S Faith Ma’afala (Redshirted in 2016 as a transfer; 1,903 assists in two seasons at Southern Utah)
  • Other Notes: 42 year coach Dave Shoji retired after battling illness
  • Bottom Line: After making the Elite Eight in 2015, Hawaii couldn’t match its postseason run but still strung together another fabulous season. The 2017 losses are notable with Nikki Taylor and 2016 All-Big West First-Team middle blocker Annie Mitchem graduating. None stand out more than four-time National Champ Dave Shoji‘s retirement. Roby Ah Mow-Santos will have a great first team under her watch though as Emily Maglio, who hit an astounding .400 in 2016, is joined by two sophomores who made All-Big West First-Team as freshmen in setter Norene Iosia and libero Savannah Kahakai. Outside hitter McKenna Granato also returns after finishing second in kills as nine of the top 11 in kills return for a formidable offense around Iosia. They have solid depth too, as Hawaii looks to be the clear-cut favorite to win the Big West again in 2017.

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