Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- The University of Minnesota Duluth (UMD) volleyball team has been picked to finish second in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) preseason coaches poll, which was released on Tuesday morning.
Seven-time defending national champion Concordia-St. Paul is the unanimous league favorite, receiving all 15 possible first-place votes (coaches can't vote for their own team). UMD received the only other first-place vote to finish in the second spot.
Head coach Jim Boos says it's now up to his team to prove the preseason poll wrong, and if they can, it'll be likely the Bulldogs can qualify for a 13th straight NCAA tournament.
"The conference should always be your first and foremost goal," Boos said, "and in this league I think that means a lot because it puts you in a great position. Ultimately, we'd love to have the opportunity to make the NCAA tournament again, which is something you don't want to take for granted. It's difficult to do, year in and year out."
The Bulldogs went (33-3) in 2013 and won both the NSIC postseason tournament and the right to host the NCAA Division II Central Regional tournament, where they were beaten in the final by Concordia-St. Paul.
UMD is dealing with the graduation of the school's all-time kills leader Kate Lange, but the team does return 2013 All-Americans in senior libero Julie Rainey, junior setter Ashley Hinsch, and junior middle blocker Monica Turner.
The Bulldogs' first practice is scheduled for Oct. 18 with the team's first game set for Sept. 4 on the road against Northern Michigan.
Below are the full results of the 2014 NSIC volleyball preseason coaches' poll, with a team's respective first-place votes in parentheses.
2014 NSIC VOLLEYBALL PRESEASON COACHES' POLL
1. Concordia-St. Paul (15)
2. UMD (1)
3. Southwest Minnesota State
4. Northern State
5. Wayne State
7. Sioux Falls
10. Minnesota Crookston
11. Winona State
12. St. Cloud State
13. Minot State
14. Upper Iowa
15. Bemidji State
UMD opens the 2014 NSIC season on Tuesday, Sept. 16 at St. Cloud State University. The Bulldogs will look to knock off NSIC frontrunner Concordia-St. Paul on Saturday, Oct. 11 in Duluth, and again in St. Paul on Tuesday, Nov. 4. Opening serve of the regular season and UMD's non-conference schedule will be Thursday, Sept. 4 at Northern Michigan University at 7:00 p.m. EST. Stay tuned to umdbulldogs.com for a full season preview next week.