MANSFIELD, Mass. – Eastern Nazarene College nabbed seven of the eight first-place votes to top the 2019 New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) Women's Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll, collecting 49 total points. Third-year head coach Derek Schmitt will lead a squad that returns seven starters from the 2018 season, in which the Lions went 8-1 in regular season play and reached the NECC Championship match. Among the returners is 2018 NECC Rookie of the Year and first team All-Conference selection, Ruth Aguilar (Tegucigalpa, Honduras), who was second in the league with 3.52 kills per set in conference play. Fellow first team All-Conference selection, Courtney McCarthy (Merrimack, N.H.) will also return to the court for the Lions. McCarthy was second in the league in overall kills per set with 3.38.
Landing in second with 47 points is Elms College. Sheila Gisbrecht will return for her twelfth season at the helm for the Blazers. First team All-NECC selection, Dakota Stewart (Victoria, Texas) will also return for Elms. The setter led the league in assists per set, with 8.21, and helped the Blazers secure a share of the regular season title a season ago.
Finishing in third with 39 total points, including the remaining first place vote, is New England College. Second-year head coach Kirsten Morrison is back for the Pilgrims after leading NEC to a 7-2 regular season record in their first year in the NECC. First team All-Conference selection Tihani Ehia (Kaneohe, Hawaii) will return for the Pilgrims. Ehia was fifth in the league in kills per set (2.82) and second in the league in overall kills (324).
Becker College was voted into the fourth slot, with a total of 28 points. The Hawks, led by head coach Hugo Ortega, will look to their four returning starters to make their mark in conference play, led by senior Sofia Cullina (Deep River, Conn.) who is Becker's all-time leader in digs. Cullina tallied 372 digs in 2018, good for fourth in the league.
Coming in behind Becker is Mitchell College with 21 points. Head coach Drew Schaeffer returns for his second season with the Mariners. The Mariners will look to 2018 all-conference performer Cameron Childs (Gainesville, Fla.) to make an impact on the court. Childs' 5.87 assists per set was third in the league last season.
Bay Path University (17), Dean College (17) and Lesley University (12) round out the 2019 NECC Women's Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll.
2019 NECC Women's Volleyball Preseason Coaches Poll
Eastern Nazarene College- 49 (7)
Elms College- 47
New England College- 39 (1)
Becker College- 28
Mitchell College- 21
T6. Bay Path University- 17
T6. Dean College- 17
8. Lesley University- 12