A group of coaches, sports information directors and select media ticketed Midwestern State to finish seventh in the nine-team Lone Star Conference Tuesday with the release of the league's annual preseason poll.
The Mustangs sagged to a 7-23 mark in 2012 including a 5-15 mark to finish ninth in Lone Star Conference play.
MSU returns five letter winners off of the squad including second-team all-conference middle blocker Caitlin Wallace. The senior from Amarillo ranked among league leaders with a .245 attack percentage while putting down 2.50 kills per set.
Other returners including senior outside hitter Beatriz Villalba (1.60 k/s), senior middle blocker Michelle Blount (1.48 k/s, 0.69 b/s), junior defensive specialist Casey Fletcher (4.04 d/s) and senior outside hitter Brandi Flores (1.37 k/s).
The Mustangs bulked up with four transfers with Division I experience including senior setter Marija Jovanovic (Florida A&M), junior middle blocker Kaitlyn Molloy (Montana), sophomore outside hitter Nicole Marzik (Fairfield) and redshirt freshman defensive specialist Madelyn Johnson (New Mexico State).
West Texas A&M remains the favorite but by the narrowest of gaps. The Lady Buffs (33-5, 17-3 in 2012) rolled to their seventh consecutive LSC Postseason Tournament title and 12th NCAA II South Central Region championship while rolling to an Elite Eight showing last season.
WT received 12 first-place votes to edge defending regular season champ Angelo State by a 211-208 margin. The 'Belles claimed 10 first-place votes.
Texas Woman's garnered three first-place votes and 161 total points to take third.
Tarleton State (155 points), Texas A&M-Commerce (113), Texas A&M-Kingsville (101), MSU (81), Cameron (62) and Eastern New Mexico (33) round out the poll.
Angelo State's Maddie Huth and Shelby Wilt were tabbed preseason offensive and defensive players of the year, respectively, while Texas A&M-Commerce's Jordan Neal was named Setter of the Year.
Midwestern State opens the 2013 campaign by playing host to the MSU/Hampton Inn-situational on Sep. 6-7 at D.L. Ligon Coliseum. The Mustangs take on McMurry and Northwestern Oklahoma State at 2 and 6 p.m. on Friday, Sep. 6 the close tournament play against Southwestern Oklahoma State and Southern Nazarene at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. on Saturday.
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Maddie Huth, Angelo State
Preseason Defensive Player of the Year
Shelby Wilt, Angelo State
Preseason Setter of the Year
Jordan Neal, Texas A&M-Commerce
Predicted Order of Finish