Volleyball Picked to Finish Ninth in Conference USA
CHICAGO – The DePaul Blue Demon volleyball team was selected to finish ninth in the Conference USA Volleyball Coaches Preseason Poll. The Blue Demons welcome back four starters this season after finishing the 2003 season in 11th place.
Returning this season to lead DePaul are seniors Amie West, Amy Holmes and Janet Goreham. West finished 2003 averaging 11.76 assists per game which was the seventh best in the league. Holmes, an outside hitter, averaged 3.29 digs per game for the ninth best average in the conference. While, Goreham rounded out the top-10 knocking down at .297 hitting percentage.
Louisville is the preseason favorite to win the 2004 C-USA Championship. The Cardinals return three starters, including preseason All-Conference honorees Lena Ustymenko and Bing Sun, from a club that claimed a share of the 2003 C-USA regular season title, while also earning its third league tournament title in school history. Cincinnati’s Julie Dupont was named the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year after leading the league in kills with 5.43 per game last season.
Ustymenko and Sun led the Cardinals to a 25-6 overall record and a 12-1 league mark, while also helping U of L to its sixth-straight NCAA Tournament appearance last season. Ustymenko returns as the leading scorer, ranking fifth in the conference with 4.94 points per game, while Sun finished fourth on the team in kills (3.18 pg) in 2003.
Cincinnati is picked to finish second in Conference USA as the Bearcats aim for an unprecedented 10th straight 20-win season and a sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. DuPont, who was named the 2003 C-USA Player of the Year, is one of five starters returning for the Bearcats. She led the league in points (6.26 pg) and kills (5.43), while also ranking seventh in the conference with 3.43 digs per game last season.
Houston, which returns all six starters from its 2003 squad, is third in the preseason poll. Last year, the Cougars posted a 12-20 overall record and a 6-7 league mark, but came on strong in the postseason by advancing to the semifinals of the C-USA Tournament. Tulane (25-7 overall; 9-4 conference) follows in fourth place after claiming its second consecutive 20-plus win season. Deva Fowler, who was the conference’s leading blocker (1.49 pg) last season, earns preseason All-Conference honors. She is the Green Wave’s top returnee after also ranking first on the team in points (5.03 pg) and hitting percentage (.310) in 2003.
The Marquette Golden Eagles, with the return of five starters, including 2004 Preseason All-Conference honoree Theresa Coughlin, are slated to finish fifth. Coughlin led the team and ranked fifth in C-USA with 4.17 kills per game. Joining Coughlin on the preseason All-Conference team is Memphis’ Heather Watts. The Tigers are picked sixth in the poll after becoming only the second team in C-USA history to post 30 wins in a season with a 30-6 mark in 2003. Watts set a single-season school record with 1,792 assists, while also ranking second in the league with 13.27 assists per game.
TCU was chosen to finish seventh for the second year in a row. In her second year at the Horned Frogs' helm, head coach Prentice Lewis guided TCU to its best year ever in 2003, tallying a program-high 20 wins and its first-ever second round appearance at a conference championship. USF follows in eighth place, while DePaul garners ninth-place honors in the C-USA preseason poll. Under first-year head coach Claire Lessinger, who spent the last five years as the assistant coach at USF, the Bulls will look to improve from last year’s 12-20 overall record. The Blue Demons welcome back four starters and will be led by senior Amie West, who finished seventh in the conference with 11.76 assists per game.
Southern Miss and Saint Louis are slated to finish 10th and 11th, respectively. Both teams will begin the year under new coaches. USM, after concluding the 2003 season with a school-record 27 wins and the best winning percentage of all-time (.818), welcomes new head coach, Ricci Luyties. As an assistant coach at the University of Colorado, Luyties guided the Buffs to two NCAA Tournaments in the last three seasons. SLU’s Anne Kordes was named the ninth head coach of the Saint Louis volleyball program. A 1998 graduate of Louisville, she spent the last five years as the top assistant at Illinois, where the Fighting Illini qualified for the NCAA Tournament three times and posted a 90-61 record (.596).
With 14 All-Conference performers returning this fall, Conference USA Volleyball looks for another outstanding season of play. Last year, the league had two teams advance to the NCAA Tournament, while also boasting a total of six schools that compiled 20 or more victories in a season. Memphis (30-6), Cincinnati (27-6), Southern Miss (27-6), Tulane (25-7), Louisville (25-6) and TCU (20-16) all claimed 20 or more victories in 2004. Five C-USA schools have won 20 or more games in five of the last seven seasons.
2004 CONFERENCE USA PRESEASON POLL
* Preseason Player of the Year