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College: Non-Power 5 Conference Previews (Part 3)

Part Three features the Horizon League through Missouri Valley Conference.

Missouri State is the heavy favorite to finish on top of the Missouri Valley Conference standings. (Courtesy of Missouri State Athletics)

So far, PrepVolleyball.com has covered the Power 5 Conferences.

You can find those preview and predictions by clicking on the respective links below:

Big 12 

Big Ten

Pac-12 

SEC 

ACC 

This week we continue with the rest of the Division 1 conferences. We started with the America East through Big East conferences and then moved to the Big Sky through Conference USA.

Part Three below features the Horizon League through Missouri Valley Conference.

Horizon League

Predicted Order of Finish

1. Cleveland State

2. Northern Kentucky

3. Wisconsin-Green Bay

4. Milwaukee

5. Oakland

6. Wright State

7. IUPUI

8. Illinois-Chicago

9. Youngstown State

Note – The top four teams from last season – Cleveland State, Green Bay, Northern Kentucky and Oakland – are all dealing with the same thing. That is the need to replace the kill leader from 2016. It could shake things up a bit, but we still have Cleveland State finishing on top. The Vikings return senior middle Aleix Middlebrooks and senior setter Gina Kilner. The team we have climbing is Northern Kentucky, which also lost its setter but has Shelby Olsen back at that position, as well as Haley Libs on the outside. Green Bay, which finished runner up last year, is bolstered by the return of setter Maddie Yoss and middle Lydia Deweese. Oakland will stick around, helped along by outside Darien Bandel and setter Jordan Lentz.

Ivy League

Predicted Order of Finish

1. Princeton

2. Yale

3. Harvard

4. Columbia

5. Penn

6. Cornell

7. Brown

8. Dartmouth

Note – Going 13-1 last season, Princeton is the defending champion and will look to repeat with returning middle Maggie O’Connell and setter Jessie Harris guiding the way. Princeton does lose last year’s kill leader, just like Yale does. But Yale is anchored by setters Franny Arnautou and Kelsey Crawford, both back, as are outsides Kelley Wirth and Tristin Kott. Harvard brings back last season’s kill leader and sophomore outside Grace Roberts-Burbank, who is joined by middle Christina Cornelius. A team on the rise could be Penn, which adds incoming freshman Parker Jones to the roster.  

Metro Atlantic Athletic

Predicted Order of Finish

1. Fairfield

2. Quinnipiac

3. Niagara

4. Marist

5. Siena

6. Rider

7. Manhattan College

8. Canisius

9. Iona

10. Saint Peters

NoteFairfield went 18-0 and claimed the conference tournament in 2016. With MAAC Player of the Year Skylar Day back, the Stags are the heavy favorites to once again own the conference. Day paced the MAAC with 4.28 kills per set a season ago, and is joined by fellow senior outside Megan Theiller, who average 4.19 kills per set. Quinnipiac enjoyed a resurgence last year, completing an 18-win turnaround from the previous mark. The Bobcats will look to keep that going and challenge Fairfield with the help of returning middle Elizabeth Kloos, who was named to the Pre-Season conference team. Rylee Hunt is the two-time Libero of the Year and is part of a Niagara squad that seeks to improve on last year’s 10-8 mark. Hunt put up 531 digs and is joined by outside hitters Nicole Matheis and Caroline Leitch. Marist, with Ashton Korona and Megan Fergus returning, won’t be far behind in the conference chase.

Mid-American

Predicted Order of Finish

East

1. Miami

2. Ohio

3. Kent State        

4. Bowling Green

5. Buffalo

6. Akron

West

1. Northern Illinois

2. Ball State

3. Toledo

4. Western Michigan

5. Central Michigan

6. Eastern Michigan

Note Miami is the favorite for the East title and the overall tournament championship. The Redhawks are anchored by senior right side Katie Tomasic and libero Maeve McDonald, as well as junior outside Stela Kukoc. Ohio features senior outside Jaime Kosiorek, a former Senior Ace who we wrote about in our Look Back at the Class of 2014 Senior Aces, as well as senior middle Ali Lake. In the West, the chase for first is wide open. Northern Illinois, Ball State, Western Michigan and Toledo can all make arguments for why they’ll win the crown. The Huskies are undergoing a few changes, losing the top-two kill leaders from a year ago but returning setters Samantha Boever and Chandler Kinley, as well as middle Meg Wolowicz. Ball State looks to get it done with the help of returning sophomore setter Amber Seaman and junior outside Brooklyn Goodsel. Senior outside Saige Thomas and senior middle Rachel Vidourek are among the key returning pieces for Toledo, which will also rely on junior setter/right side Carly Townsend. Junior setter Mary Murphy and senior middle Sydney LeMay return for Western Michigan, as does senior middle Olivia Kofie.

Mid-Eastern Athletic

Predicted Order of Finish

Northern

1. Howard

2. Maryland Eastern Shore

3. Hampton

4. Morgan State

5. Norfolk State

6. Delaware State

7. Coppin State

Southern

1. Bethune-Cookman

2. Florida A&M

3. North Carolina A&T State

4. North Carolina Central

5. Savannah State

6. South Carolina State

NoteHoward and Pre-Season Player of the Year Khaila Donaldson are the favorites in the Northern division. Donaldson was good for 436 kills in 2016 and is helped out by returning setter Tamia Dockery, who led the conference in assists a season ago. With senior middle Rakaya Neely and outside Alana Handy back, Bethune-Cookman is our pick to surprise Florida A&M for the title. Florida A&M, meanwhile, placed three players on the Pre-Season All-Conference team – outsides Nicole Abreu and Maria Yvette Garcia and libero Valentina Carrasco.

Missouri Valley

Predicted Order of Finish

1. Missouri State

2. Northern Iowa

3. Southern Illinois

4. Illinois State

5. Loyola-Chicago

6. Drake

7. Valparaiso

8. Indiana State

9. Bradley

10. Evansville

NoteWichita State is out of the conference, making the pick this season an easy one with defending champion Missouri State. The Bears return six players from last year’s starting lineup, including two-time MVC Player of the Year and outside Lily Johnson. Johnson enters her senior season 200 kills shy of the school record and will team with returning setter Daniele Messa. Northern Iowa seems to be the strongest challenger to Missouri State. Outside Bri Weber, setter Heather Hook and libero Kendyl Sorge are all back for the Panthers. Illinois State is another team to keep an eye on, as the Redbirds return five starts, including Libero of the Year Courtney Pence. Meanwhile, senior outside Andrea Estrada will be part of a Southern Illinois looking to stay in the conference race.

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