FORT MYERS, Fla. - The reigning Atlantic Sun Conference regular season champion FGCU volleyball team enters the 2013 campaign as the preseason league favorite to claim the A-Sun title according to the preseason coaches’ poll, released Wednesday by the league office. Junior Whitney Masters was also named the A-Sun Preseason Libero of the Year, marking only the second time an FGCU student-athlete has won the award.
In a vote conducted by the A-Sun conference’s 10 head coaches, the Eagles received four first place votes, making them the predicted preseason favorite to bring home a second consecutive conference regular season title and the A-Sun Tournament championship title. FGCU finished 16-2 in A-Sun play last season and swept three-time defending champion Lipscomb twice, including in the final weekend of play, to claim the 2012 regular season title.
Four different teams received a first place vote with ETSU (85) occupying the second spot followed by Lipscomb at third (83). USC Upstate, predicted to finish eighth (36), also received a first place vote. FGCU took the top spot by five points (95), marking the first time in five seasons a team other than Lipscomb has been voted to finish first.
“I know I speak for both our coaches and players when I say that we are honored to be recognized as the top team in the ASUN,” said FGCU head coach and 2012 A-Sun Coach of the Year Dave Nichols, “But we also understand that the league gets deeper and stronger every year, and that we need to earn every point all season long.”
The Eagles, who have boasted a player on the preseason team in each of the last six seasons, were one of three schools to place multiple players on the preseason All-Conference team. Juniors Masters (Muncie, Ind./Wapahani HS) and Jill Hopper (Muncie, Ind./Yorktown HS) were joined by Lipscomb’s Jewell Dobson, Caitlin Dotson, and Lauren Ford, ETSU’s Meredith Hardy, and the lone unanimous selection ETSU’s Megan Devine.
Masters, the Eagles’ defensive specialist, played in all 32 matches and 116 sets for FGCU in 2012 and finished eighth in the A-Sun in digs with 3.63 per set. She led the team in total digs with 421. Masters also tallied double-digit digs in 23 matches and 20 or more digs in five matches, including a match high of 27.
Joining Masters in preseason accolades, Hopper returns after earning unanimous All-Atlantic Sun First Team honors in 2012. She led the team in kills (2.94), points (370) and service aces (.36), and was ranked second in the A-Sun in service aces and sixth in kills in A-Sun matches. Hopper recorded 10 double-doubles in 2012, and was ranked among the top 60 players in the nation in aces per set.
“I am thrilled that Jill and Whitney have earned first team pre-season recognition,” said Nichols, “But they are well aware that the real job lies in front of them. This team is a hardworking and motivated group, and they are all committed to being as good as they can be.”
The 2013 edition of the Eagles returns 10 players, including five starters. FGCU also welcomes five newcomers to the program, including transfers Elenora Kazarian (Tibilisi, Georgia/College of Central Florida) and Vanessa Benke (Toledo, Brazil/College of Central Florida).
The Green and Blue will kick off the 2013 season on the road at the IUPUI Tournament (Aug. 30-31), where they take on VCU, Illinois State, and host IUPUI. The Eagles open their home slate on Sept. 10 at 7 p.m. against in state rival USF, before hosting the 2013 Hilton Garden Inn/Homewood Suites Airport Volleyball Classic at Alico Arena Aug. 13-14.
Season tickets for FGCU volleyball are now available, and can be purchased in person at the Alico Arena ticket office or by phone at 239-590-7145. Tickets can also be purchased online at FGCUathletics.com/tickets. The FGCU ticket office is open from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and one hour prior to ticketed events. An adult ticket for all 14 games is $35, while a youth (3-18 years) ticket is $17. Single game tickets can also be bought at $6 for adults and $3 for youth. Groups of 10+ can get in for $3 a person. FGCU students and faculty/staff get in free with their Eagle ID.
2013-14 Volleyball Preseason Honors and Awards
Preseason Player of the Year: Megan Devine*, ETSU
Preseason Libero of the Year: Whitney Masters, FGCU
Preseason Fan-Voted Player of the Year: Kayla McAvoy, USC Upstate
Preseason Fan-Voted Libero of the Year: Katie Muey, ETSU
2013-14 Preseason All-Atlantic Sun First Team
OH, Megan Devine*, ETSU
MB, Jewell Dobson, Lipscomb
S, Caitlin Dotson, Lipscomb
OH, Lauren Ford, Lipscomb
MB, Meredith Hardy, ETSU
OH, Jill Hopper, FGCU
L, Whitney Masters, FGCU
*Indicates unanimous selection
2013-14 Preseason Volleyball Coaches Poll
Place, Team (First Place Votes), Points
1. Florida Gulf Coast (4), 90
2. East Tennessee State (3), 85
3. Lipscomb (2), 83
4. North Florida, 58
5. Jacksonville, 50
6. Northern Kentucky, 48
7. Mercer, 41
8. USC Upstate (1), 36
Kennesaw State, 36
10. Stetson, 23