West Babylon, N.Y. -. After capturing their first-ever East Coast Conference Volleyball Championship a year ago, Molloy begins the 2018 season as the favorite to earn the league's title after earning the top spot in the loop's preseason coaches' poll. Tiffany Verni (Patchogue, N.Y.), a senior outside hitter from NYIT, has also earned the coaches' vote as the ECC Preseason Player of the Year.
Molloy came out of nowhere in 2017 to win a share of the ECC Regular Season Championship and the program's first-ever NCAA Championship appearance in addition to the aforementioned ECC Championship. The Lions finished with a 26-6 record on the year for their first winning season since 1998.
No one would be surprised by a deep postseason run from this year's version of the Lions, as they start the year atop the ECC Preseason Poll with five first place votes and 56 points. Reigning American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division II National Coach of the Year, Kevin DesLauriers, has 12 student-athletes back on the roster from last year's championship squad including All-Conference selections Kacey Affrunti, Carly Banks, and Sophia Smith.
After Molloy, the coaches see a group of strong competitors in the running for a spot in the ECC Championship. The next three teams all earned a first place vote and the teams ranked No. 2 through No. 5 are separated by just five points in the poll. LIU Post and NYIT are up next in the poll with a tie for the No. 2 spot after earning 47 points and one first place vote each.
LIU Post was the Regular Season Co-Champion with Molloy last season. The Pioneers finished with a 28-6 record an earned a spot in the NCAA Championship for the fifth time in the past six seasons. LIU Post also returns a significant portion of their roster for new head coach, Stephanie Sheehan. The Pioneers have 10 returnees who saw significant action in 2017, including All-Conference honoree, Lea Brady, and the reigning ECC Player of the Year and All-Region selection, Rachel Londot.
NYIT comes in a tie at No. 2 with their Northern Boulevard rival. The Bears advanced to the final of the ECC Championship for the fourth time in five seasons and also advanced to the NCAA Championship for the sixth time in the past seven years. NYIT will have a new look this year with the graduation of AVCA Honorable Mention All-Americans, Karolina Moderova and Allison Fowler, but will be led by the league's Preseason Player of the Year in Verni.
Verni earned her second straight All-Conference First Team selection in 2017 after pacing the conference with 525 kills and 4.07 kills per set. Those numbers were among the best in all of Division II as well, with her kill total 11th and kills per set number 22nd in the country. Verni, who ranked among the league leaders with a .238 hitting percentage and 40 service aces, also earned a spot on the AVCA and Division II Conference Commissioner's Association (D2CCA) All-East Region teams for her standout performance.
Bridgeport comes in at No. 4 in the poll with 45 points and the final first place vote. The Purple Knights continued a streak of 15 straight ECC Championship appearances a season ago. Daemen finished just three points behind Bridgeport to earn the No. 5 spot in the poll. The Wildcats just missed out on an ECC Championship berth a season ago after advancing to the ECC and NCAA East Region Finals the previous season.
Queens, Mercy, and Roberts Wesleyan round out the poll in the No. 6 through No. 8 spots, respectively.
2018 ECC Volleyball Preseason Poll
|1. Molloy (5)||56||26-6 (12-2 ECC)|
|T2. LIU Post (1)||47||28-6 (12-2 ECC)|
|T2. NYIT (1)||47||25-9 (10-4 ECC)|
|4. Bridgeport (1)||45||12-16 (8-6 ECC)|
|5. Daemen||42||11-16 (7-7 ECC)|
|6. Queens||20||7-17 (4-10 ECC)|
|7. Mercy||16||7-25 (1-13 ECC)|
|8. Roberts Wesleyan||15||2-30 (2-12 ECC)|
( ) - first place votes