By Jim Henry
Globe Sports Editor
Defending conference co-champions Washburn and Central Missouri along with newcomer Nebraska-Kearney headline the MIAA volleyball coaches preseason poll, released Wednesday by the conference office.
Washburn received seven of the 13 first-place votes and earned 137 points. Central Missouri was second with four No. 1 votes and 131 points, and Nebraska-Kearney was third with the other two first-place votes and 129 points.
Washburn and Central Missouri shared the 2011 MIAA championship. The Jennies beat Washburn 3-1 in the regional tournament before losing to eventual national champion Concordia-St. Paul in the Elite Eight.
Nebraska-Kearney finished 32-2 last season, losing 3-2 at home to Colorado School of Mines in the first round of the regional tournament. Colorado Mines also beat the Lopers 3-1 during the season. The Lopers were ninth in the final national poll and won or shared eight Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference titles before coming to the MIAA.
Missouri Southern was last among 13 schools in the poll — Northeastern State and Lincoln do not play volleyball. The Lions had 26 points, one less than Central Oklahoma and two behind Southwest Baptist.
The Lions, under second-year coach Trish Knight, have two full-time starters (Sydney Potts and Katie Politte) and one part-time starter (Katie Collins) back from last year’s team that was 10th in the league.
“Polls are polls, and we’ll see what happens,” Knight said. “After last year, I would not expect us to be any higher. There is no where to go but up, and that’s fine with me.”
Pittsburg State is in the middle of the poll at No. 6 with 76 points. Coach Ibraheem Suberu’s Gorillas return seven players who saw significant action from last year’s 9-22 club.
Both Missouri Southern and Pittsburg State begin their seasons Aug. 31-Sept. 1 in the Pittsburg State Invitational.
MIAA volleyball poll
The MIAA volleyball coaches preseason poll, with first-place votes in parentheses and total points (coaches did not vote for their team):
1. Washburn (7) 137
2. Central Missouri (4) 131
3. Nebraska-Kearney (2) 129
4. Emporia State 108
5. Truman State 102
6. Pittsburg State 76
7. Northwest Missouri 66
8. Fort Hays State 63
9. Missouri Western 62
10. Lindenwood 59
11. Southwest Baptist 28
12. Central Oklahoma 27
13. Missouri Southern 26