After winning its 11th-straight league title and competing in the NCAC Tournament for the 21st year in a row in 2016, the North Coast Athletic Conference volleyball coaches have once again selected the Wittenberg Tigers as the preseason favorites for the 2017 NCAC volleyball season.
The Tigers, who lead the NCAC with 22 volleyball titles, earned eight of the nine first-place votes cast by league coaches for 80 total points. DePauw, which has finished as the NCAC Tournament runners-up three years in a row, garnered the final first-place vote and finished second in the poll with 72 total points, while Ohio Wesleyan rounded out the top-three in the poll in third with 60 points. Kenyon checked in at fourth with 53 points, followed by Denison (45), Hiram (34), Oberlin (25), Wooster (24) and Allegheny (12).
Despite having just one senior on the 2017 squad, the Wittenberg Tigers once again enter the campaign with a loaded roster this fall, highlighted by the return of senior outside hitter Maddie Fischer (Minerva, OH/Minerva) and sophomore middle blocker Aubrey Cox (Tipp City, OH/Tippecanoe). Fischer had a breakout junior campaign with a team-leading 332 kills, leading to a first-team All-NCAC selection, while Cox emerged on the scene last year as one of the most decorated rookies in NCAC history. The postseason honors started to pile up for Cox after she finished the 2016 season with 174 kills, 78 blocks and 30 digs, highlighted by being named the 2016 American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Freshman of the Year. Also returning to the lineup for the Tigers this year include junior libero Madison Manger (Loveland, OH/Ursuline Academy) and junior setter Karen Wildemann (Columbus, IN/North). Wildemann, an All-NCAC honorable-mention selection in 2016, ranked sixth in the league last season with 798 set assists, while Manger was one of the top defensive players in the conference with 444 digs. Now in his 14th year at the helm, Wittenberg's Paco Labrador enters the 2017 season with the second-highest winning percentage among all head coaches in the country across all three NCAA divisions at .863 (428-68), which includes an incredible mark of 154-2 in regular season matches against NCAC foes.
The 2017 NCAC Volleyball season is set to kick off with non-conference action on Friday, September 1st, while the first league matches are scheduled for Saturday, September 23rd. Following the completion of the regular season, the top eight teams in the league will compete in a single-elimination tournament at the site of the top seed to determine the conference's automatic qualifier into the NCAA Tournament.
Founded in 1983, the North Coast Athletic Conference is made up of ten academically selective colleges and universities - Allegheny College, DePauw University, Denison University, Hiram College, Kenyon College, Oberlin College, Ohio Wesleyan University, Wabash College, Wittenberg University and the College of Wooster, along with affiliate member, Earlham College (field hockey). The NCAC sponsors 23 championship sports, 11 for men and 12 for women.
2017 North Coast Athletic Conference Volleyball Preseason Coaches' Poll