OGDEN, Utah – One year after one of the finest seasons in program history, the Northern Arizona volleyball team received two first-place votes in the Big Sky preseason poll released today by the conference. The Lumberjacks totaled 59 points and was voted fifth in the poll conducted by the league's head coaches. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.
The Lumberjacks, led by first-year head coach Ken Murphy, had one of the most successful seasons in program history in 2012, ending the year with a 24-7 overall record. The 24 wins was the second-highest single-season total in program history while the .774 winning percentage was the best the Lumberjacks have ever recorded. They placed third in the conference during the regular season with a 15-5 Big Sky mark and earned their first postseason victory since 1999 by defeating Montana State to advance to the conference quarterfinals.
NAU welcomes five newcomers to the 2013 roster to join a talented returning nucleus led by last season's Big Sky Outstanding Freshman in sophomore Payton Bock. Bock, an All-Big Sky first team honoree in her first season, leads three returning starters, each of whom were named all-conference. Sophomore Janae Vander Ploeg and junior Sydney Kemper were honorable mention selections a year ago.
Portland State was picked as the preseason favorite receiving seven of the 11 first place votes for a total of 95 points. The Vikings were last season's regular-season champions. Idaho State received two first-place votes and was picked second with 83 points. Defending conference champion Northern Colorado followed in third with 75 points and North Dakota was directly ahead of the Lumberjacks in fourth with 74 points. Sacramento State, Montana State, Southern Utah, Weber State and Montana round out the poll.
The top-six teams at the end of the regular season will advance to the 2013 Big Sky Championship tournament from Nov. 29-30, hosted by Portland State in Portland, Ore.
2013 Big Sky Preseason Poll (First-Place Votes in Parentheses)
1. Portland State – 95 (7)
2. Idaho State – 83 (2)
3. Northern Colorado – 75
4. North Dakota – 74
5. Northern Arizona – 59 (2)
6. Eastern Washington – 56
7. Sacramento State – 49
8. Montana State – 37
9. Southern Utah – 28
10. Weber State – 26
11. Montana – 23