Volleyball ranked No. 3 in 2017 AVCA Preseason Poll

Volleyball ranked No. 3 in 2017 AVCA Preseason Poll

AVCA Preseason Top-25

St. Louis, Mo., August 16, 2017 – The Washington University in St. Louis volleyball team is ranked No. 3 in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III Top-25 Preseason Poll, as announced Tuesday by the organization.

The Bears have been ranked in the AVCA top-25 poll for 273 consecutive weeks, including 257 weeks within the top-10. WashU's 257 times within the top-10 leads all Division III programs, as Juniata College ranks second with 246 weeks in the top-10.

"Leadership will be one of our biggest strengths heading into 2017," remarked head coach Vanessa Walby who is entering her fourth season with WashU. "We have fantastic captains and returners that will help us with developing our system and incoming freshmen."

Defending national champion Calvin College was listed first on 62 of 63 ballots for the number one ranking followed by Emory University, WashU, University of Northwestern (Minn.) and Southwestern (Texas) University. The 2017 schedule features eight teams ranked within the preseason top-25 poll for the Bears.

WashU finished the 2016 season with a record of 27-11 thanks to a deep run in the NCAA Division III Tournament. The Bears won five matches in postseason play before falling in the National Championship match to Calvin College. The Red & Green have reached a Division III record 15 National Championships, which ties Stanford University for the most across all three NCAA Divisions. The Bears 10 total titles are the most across all three platforms.

Defensive specialist Lauren Fournier returns as the lone senior while juniors Julianne Malek, Lauren Martin and Ifeoma Ufondu also return.

Both Malek and Ufondu were named to the all-University Athletic Association (UAA) Second Team for their efforts in 2016. Ufondu was second on the team in kills with 348, while Malek posted the second best hitting percentage of .313. 

In addition, Malek was one of only six players within the UAA to surpass 100 total blocks. Her total of 117 blocks ranked third within the UAA. She was also one of only three players in the conference to exceed 300 kills and total more than 100 blocks.

Six sophomores return for the Bears in Zoe Baxter, Emily Jayne, Leila King, Abby Selcho, Chloe Stile and Hannah Turner. Baxter and Stile contributed in more than 92-percent of the sets played in 2016. Both rookies led the team in significant categories as Baxter totaled 567 digs and Stile posted 1,291 assists. Stile's finished the season with the sixth most assists in Division III.

"There are many opportunities for some of our players to step into some new roles and begin to help our program move in a positive direction," stated Walby. "There is also a lot of talent in our incoming class and I am looking forward to seeing how they will adjust to our system and work towards finding their role in our program."

The Bears currently have eight freshmen looking to contribute in 2017 including five California-natives: Alison Almgren-Bell, Jessica Almgren-Bell, Rachel Cheng, Amanda Hua and Kirby Knapp, as well as Tennessee-native: Tricia Brown; Illinois-native: Maggie Porwit and Kansas-native: Rachel Rhyner.

WashU opens the season during the Bear Invitational on Friday, Sept. 1 at 6 p.m. against Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and followed by a match at 8 p.m. versus Cornell College. WashU will conclude the invitational on Saturday, Sept. 2 with a match against Hope College at 2:30 p.m. Be sure to stay up to date on all your Bears scores and awards by following @WashUBears on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.