ROCK HILL, S.C. — The Lady Railsplitters have been picked fifth in the South Atlantic Conference Volleyball preseason coaches’ poll, while sophomore outside hitter Kiera Holland (Columbia, South Carolina) has been named to the preseason All-SAC first team, it was announced by the league office on Wednesday.
Lincoln Memorial had some high points – a six-match winning streak and another four-match winning streak – and some low points in 2014, but that rollercoaster ride ultimately resulted in a 12-10 regular season league record and a sixth-place SAC finish.
The Lady Railsplitters dropped five of their last seven regular season outings before suffering a 3-0 season-ending setback to Anderson in the quarterfinals of the SAC Championship. LMU concluded the year with a 16-15 overall record.
The Lady Railsplitters were picked to finish fifth in the 2015 SAC race, receiving 91 total points in the preseason coaches’ poll, which is voted on by each of the league’s 12 head coaches.
“For this year, I don’t think it’s as much about our preseason ranking being a motivation as it is about how poorly we finished last year,” LMU head volleyball coach Jenny Michael said. “That’s been the driving force since the 2015 calendar year started. We weren’t happy with how we finished and we’ve been working hard to improve on that.”
Nine-time defending SAC regular season champion and three-time defending NCAA Division II Southeast Regional champion Wingate was the near unanimous selection to maintain their stranglehold on the championship hardware, receiving 10 first-place votes and 131 points to take the top spot in the poll.
Lenoir-Rhyne finished behind Wingate with 111 points, while Tusculum garnered the No. 3 spot with 100 points. Carson-Newman, who fell just one game short of Wingate in last year’s regular season race, was voted fourth with 96 points and a first-place vote. Anderson completed the upper half of the poll in sixth with 78 points.
No. 7 Newberry (69), No. 8 Catawba (65) and Queens (65), No. 10 Mars Hill (61), No. 11 Brevard (32) and No. 12 Coker (25) rounded out the preseason poll. Catawba, who missed the SAC Championship last season and finished 10th in the league, elicited the final first-place vote.
“The easiest thing to say about our conference is that we don’t have any nights off,” said Michael. “Everybody is stronger and everybody is battling. Having Wingate in the conference, we all know what we have to aspire to and the elite level we have to play at to win a championship.”
In coordination with the preseason coaches’ poll release, the league office also announced the 16 preseason All-SAC selections, with sophomore Kiera Holland earning a spot on the first team.
Holland received both All-Freshman team and All-SAC second team merits last season, as she paced the Lady Railsplitters with 2.97 kills per set and 347 total kills. The Columbia native ranked eighth in the league in kills, kills per set and total attempts (990). Holland – a 5-9 outside hitter – also provided strong defense, amassing 2.61 digs per set and 305 total digs to rank among the top 25 in the conference in both of those categories.
Holland posted double-digit digs in 20 of her 31 matches, headlined by a career-high 22 kills in a five-set win over King. She notched a double-double in 14 of those appearances. She had 19 kills and 19 digs in a five-set loss to Tusculum, accounted for 12 kills and 20 digs against Anderson, and pitched in 11 kills and a career-best 22 digs versus Brevard.
The Lady Railsplitters travel to Savannah, Georgia on Sept. 4 to open the season in the Pirate Volleyball Classic. Lincoln Memorial will take on USC Aiken, Erskine and Armstrong Atlantic in the opening weekend before returning to Mary Mars Gymasium to host Brevard in the SAC opener on Sept. 11.