The Utah Valley University women's volleyball team was selected to finish fifth in the 2016 Western Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches Poll, while junior middle blocker Madison Dennison was named to the preseason all-conference team. The conference awards were announced on Wednesday by the league office and were voted upon by the conference's eight head coaches.
"The preseason poll is a reflection of what has happened in the past. We go into each year with certain goals and we feel like we can improve and be better than where we were picked. To do that, we've got to be able to do what we need to do on the court," head coach Sam Atoa said. "We're encouraged with how things are looking right now and hopefully we can contend for a WAC title."
Defending WAC Champion New Mexico State was picked to repeat in the conference this season as it received six first-place votes and 48 points in all. CSU Bakersfield (38 points) and Seattle U (34) each earned one first-place vote apiece en route to being projected to finish in second and third place, respectively, while UMKC was picked to take fourth with 31 points. UVU was fifth with 27 points, UT Rio Grande Valley was sixth (24), Grand Canyon seventh (15) and Chicago State eighth (seven).
Dennison received preseason all-conference honors after leading UVU in hitting percentage a year ago with a .345 clip and finishing second on the team in blocks with a 1.10 per set average. Her .345 attack percentage was also good enough to rank her third in the entire WAC in 2015, while her 1.10 blocks per set average was good enough for fourth. The junior middle blocker also finished fourth on the team in kills in 2015 with a 1.93 kills per set average.
"I'm really proud of Madison. There aren't very many that work harder than she does and I'm excited that she is getting recognized for that hard work," Atoa said. "Madison is one of our leaders and someone that we will look to lean on to help carry the load for us in the middle. We feel like we are in good hands with what she is going to do for us."
NM State placed the most players on the preseason All-WAC team with four, while UMKC had three, and CSU Bakersfield and UT Rio Grande Valley had two apiece. NMSU junior middle hitter Sasha-Lee Thomas was selected as the WAC Preseason Player of the Year.
The Wolverines, who finished 14-14 overall a season ago and tied for third in the WAC with a 9-5 league record, will host their annual Green and White exhibition scrimmage on Wednesday, Aug. 24, at 6 p.m., in the UCCU Center. UVU will then officially begin its 2016 schedule at neighboring rival BYU on Friday, Aug. 26, as part of the BYU Invitational. The season will then culminate with the 2016 WAC Tournament that will run Nov. 17-19, at NM State's Pan American Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.