The Utah Valley University volleyball team was picked to finish third in the Western Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches Poll on Wednesday, while three Wolverines earned Preseason All-WAC accolades.
The defending regular season champion New Mexico State Aggies were selected to win the league, while the 2016 WAC Tournament champion UTRGV Vaqueros were picked to take second. The Aggies received 48 total points and six of the eight first-place votes to earn the top spot. Despite UVU receiving the other two first-place votes and 37 points in all, UTRGV managed to edge out the Wolverines for second place in the poll with 39 points. UMKC was selected fourth with 31 points, while CSU Bakersfield and Seattle U tied for fifth place with 24 points. Grand Canyon and Chicago State rounded out the poll with 14 and seven points, respectively.
"It really doesn't matter where the coaches perceive us to be at; what's most important is where we finish," said head coach Sam Atoa. "We earned some respect from where we finished last year, but regardless of what people think, we need to go out and reach our goals. We're excited about the challenge and for the girls to get out there and do it again."
Dennison earns Preseason All-WAC honors after being named to the league's first team a year ago after leading the league in blocks with a total of 174 and an average of 1.45 blocks per set. The middle blocker also paced the Wolverines in hitting with a .280 clip and tallied 294 total kills for a 2.45 per set average.
Starley was tabbed Preseason All-WAC following a stellar junior campaign, which she capped by earning WAC All-Tournament Team honors. The setter not only paced the Wolverines in assists but also ranked second in the league with 986 total assists for an average of 8.96 per set. Starley also paced the team in double-doubles with eight on the year and added 108 kills, 91 blocks, 217 digs and 24 service aces.
Thompson was named Preseason All-WAC after being named second-team all-conference last season. The outside hitter paced the team in kills in 2016 with a total of 327 and an average of 3.06 per set. She also recorded 73 blocks and 110 digs.
UVU's three players on the Preseason All-WAC team marks the second most behind NM State's five.
"This is great recognition for our three girls and for their accomplishments," Atoa said. "We'll cross our fingers that we can stay healthy, and if we can then I think we can expect good things from them, as well as from the entire team."
Utah Valley tied for second in WAC play a year ago with a 10-4 league record and finished the season as the runner-up at the 2016 WAC Tournament.
Following the annual Green and White Scrimmage on Tuesday, Aug. 22, UVU officially opens its 2017 slate against Pepperdine at the SJSU/USF Invitational in San José, California. After also facing Fresno State and Nevada at the opening-weekend tournament, UVU heads to Cedar City to take on in-state foe Southern Utah on Aug. 29, before welcoming No. 8 Kansas to town on Thursday, Aug. 31, for its 2017 home opener.
James Warnick is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information about Wolverine athletics, visit GoUVU.com.