Mustang volleyball team picked 3rd in NSIC preseason poll

The Southwest Minnesota State University volleyball team, winner of the 2012 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament, was picked to finish third in 2013 in the NSIC Coaches’ Poll released on Thursday.

Six-time defending NCAA champions and 2012 NSIC regular season champion Concordia-St. Paul earned 15 of a possible 16 first-place votes (coaches cannot vote for their own team), while being named the preseason favorite for the 10th season in a row. The Golden Bears earned 225 points.

The University of Minnesota-Duluth, boasting defending NSIC Player of the Year and 2013 preseason Player of the Year Kate Lange, was picked to finish second with 209 points and the remaining first-place vote.

SMSU received 195 points, as Wayne State (183) and Augustana (156) composed the top five.

SMSU’s lone senior for the 2013 campaign, libero Rachel Westby, was named the “Player to Watch” in the conference. Westby was a second team All-NSIC honoree as a junior in 2012, finishing 10th in the conference in digs per game and leading SMSU with 440 digs. Westby was honorable mention All-NSIC in 2011 and has played in 94 career matches. Her 1,273 career digs rank eighth all-time for SMSU, as do her 1,332 service attempts.

SMSU reports for fall camp on Aug. 18 and opens the regular season at the Grand Valley State (Mich.) Classic on Sept. 6-7. SMSU has the first of 11 home games on Sept. 21 against Wayne State.

The annual preseason rankings were released by the NSIC office in Burnsville.