WICHITA FALLS, TX (KAUZ) - With less than three weeks away from the 2017 season opener, Midwestern State was picked ninth in the Lone Star Conference Preseason Poll voted on by the league's 11 head coaches, sports information directors and media representatives, the league office announced Tuesday afternoon.
Angelo State, the reigning LSC champion and 2017 NCAA II Elite Eight participant, was tabbed as the conference's preseason favorite with 340 points and 21 of the 32 first-place votes. Tarleton State garnered 326 points and nine first-place nods for second in the poll while Texas A&M-Kingsville came in third with 267 points and one first-place vote.
Texas A&M-Commerce was chosen fourth with 236 points, just ahead of West Texas A&M with 233 points and one first-place vote for fifth. Rounding out the poll was Eastern New Mexico (204), Western New Mexico (153), Texas Woman's (120), Midwestern State (106), UT Permian Basin (74) and Cameron (53).
Head coach Natalie Burton leads the Mustangs into her third season at the helm of the MSU program after qualifying for the LSC Tournament for the first time since 2013 last season. The Mustangs will sport a veteran squad with five seniors and nine upperclassmen in 2017 as MSU returns four starters from a season ago.
Highlighting the Mustangs returners this season are seniors Aerielle Edwards and Kristan Aduddell, who both captured all-LSC accolades in 2016. Edwards paced the Mustangs with 334 kills and 3.48 kills per set from her outside hitter role to earn second team honors while Aduddell dished out 931 assists for 9.70 per set to earn honorable mention acclaim.
Midwestern State also brings back a pair of starters to add leadership for the squad in 2017 in senior outside hitter Meghan Bettis (2.54 kills/set, 2.54 digs/set) and senior middle blocker Addison Semer (1.45 kills/set, 0.66 blocks/set).
The Mustangs also welcome back several returners in senior defensive specialist Leah Lychock, junior setter Ellie Gunderson, junior defensive specialist Khailia Griffin, sophomore outside hitter Erin Richburg and sophomore setter Sarah Glawe.
The Maroon and Gold will also add quite a bit of depth this season with eight newcomers. Junior defensive specialist Kristin Silva (Forney, Texas / University of the Southwest), junior outside hitter Rockelle Gholson(Anaheim, Calif. / Cypress College) and sophomore middle blocker/right side hitter Sarah Eakin (Wichita Falls, Texas / Florida Atlantic) all arrive with collegiate experience.
In addition, the Mustangs welcome five true freshmen to the roster in hitters Addy Cook (Bowie, Texas / Bowie HS), Tiara Wilson (Dallas, Texas / Skyline HS) and Kylah Broadnax (Fort Worth, Texas / Chisholm Trail HS) as well as a pair of blockers in Raven Presley (Richardson, Texas / Richardson HS) and Natalie Fruend (San Marcos, Calif. / Mission Hills HS).
The program is currently in the midst of a 12-day trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina, becoming the first MSU athletic team in school history to embark on an overseas trip.
The Mustangs open up their 2017 campaign Friday, Sept. 1 with the two-day Tarleton State Invitational in Stephenville, Texas. MSU squares off against No. 23 Rockhurst (Mo.) in its season opener Friday at 12:30 p.m. at the Tarleton State Rec Center.
2017 Lone Star Conference Preseason Poll
1. Angelo State - 340 pts (21 1st-place)
2. Tarleton State - 326 (9)
3. Texas A&M-Kingsville - 267 (1)
4. Texas A&M-Commerce - 236
5. West Texas A&M - 233 (1)
6. Eastern New Mexico - 204
7. Western New Mexico - 153
8. Texas Woman's - 120
9. MSU MUSTANGS - 106
10. UT-Permian Basin - 74
11. Cameron - 53