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Portland State Volleyball Picked to Win the Big Sky Conference in 2009

OGDEN, Utah - Portland State has been chosen to win the 2009 Big Sky Conference title according to a vote by the league’s head coaches. The poll was released on Tuesday by the league and coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams. NAU was picked to finish seventh of the nine teams in the conference.

The Vikings received seven first-place votes for a total of 63 points. Last year, Portland State went 20-9 overall and 11-5 during the Big Sky regular season to finish in second place. The Vikings, led by second-year head coach Michael Seeman, won their first-ever championship title in a home-court showdown against No. 1-seeded Eastern Washington. Portland State continued to make history by appearing in its first NCAA Tournament.

Six starters return to the team in 2009, including last year’s tournament Most Valuable Player, and second team all-conference selection, Nique Fradella. Marija Vojnovic, Erica Jepsen, Lindsey Steele and Jennifer Oney will also be back for the Vikings. Vojnovic, an outside hitter, was the only first team all-conference selection last year. There are five returning seniors in all, which is the best for a Portland State squad since the 1993 team had six.

The Eagles are picked to finish in second place with two first-place votes and 58 total points. Eastern Washington claimed the regular season title, and the hosting rights to the 2009 tournament, with an 18-11 overall and 12-4 Big Sky mark. The Eagles were originally predicted to take fourth place in 2008. At the midseason mark, Eastern Washington was in fifth place before winning 12-of-13 matches from Oct. 10-Nov. 28 to take sole possesion of first. Head Coach Miles Kydd was named the Big Sky Coach of the Year in his first season at the helm of the program.

Eastern Washington returns the 2008 Most Valuable Player and first team all-conference selection Hayley Hills, along with five other starters. Ashley Hamilton and Chenoa Coviare are among those returning. Coviare, a junior middle blocker, earned second team all-conference honors last year. Hamilton, a setter, was named to the honorable mention team.

The coaches gave Northern Colorado its highest prediction in the preseason poll with third place and 47 total points. Northern Colorado has been a full-fledged Big Sky member for just three years. Since the transition to Division I in 2006, Head Coach Lyndsey Benson has led the Bears to the postseason tournament every year. Northern Colorado brings back five of its six starters from last year’s team that went 17-10 overall and 10-6 in Big Sky play to earn the No. 3 seed to the championship.

Montana was chosen to take fourth place with 39 total points. The Grizzlies are coming off their most successful conference campaign (10-6) since 1994. The Wildcats barely edged out Sacramento State for fifth place with 35 points, while the Hornets had 34 points.

Northern Arizona garnered 22 points for seventh place and Idaho State tallied 18 points for eighth place. Montana State rounded out the voting with eight points and a ninth place finish.

The 2009 Big Sky season gets under way on August 28 and the conference season starts on September 17. The Big Sky Volleyball Championship is slated for November 27-28 on the Eastern Washington University campus in Cheney, Wash.

NAU will begin the season at on the road at the Boise State Bronco Invitational Aug. 28-29. First up is a match against host Boise State at 6:00 p.m. (PST) on Friday, Aug. 28. After traveling to Pepperdine and USC the following weekend, NAU will play home matches during the Fiesta Bowl Tournament on Sept. 11-12.

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