Don't get me wrong, I think quite highly of Elizabeth Koberstein. It's hard not to when she finished 10th in the country in assists per set one year ago. I just had Creighton's Kelli Browning and her multiple skills pegged in my predictions as a more attractive choice for the Big East coaches for preseason player of the year. In any case, I was only half wrong, as Koberstein and Browning share the lone individual preseason award from the conference.
As for the coaches votes on order of finish in the league, Creighton easily was the pick to win with seven of the eight possible first place votes. There are only eight possible votes because coaches can't vote for their own teams and Providence chooses to play volleyball in the America East Conference. Marquette picked up the other two first place votes. One is almost assuredly from Creighton head coach Kirsten Bernal Booth, but the other one, that one I can't figure. Marquette exited the 2012 NCAA tournament at the hands of Creighton and the Bluejays start the season ranked #25 in the AVCA poll, so I have no idea what that second coach was thinking.
Xavier finished third in the polling, with Seton Hall and St. John's rounding out the top five. I had SJU & SHU flipped in my predictions, but I was pretty much just tossing darts on those two. They both finished under .500 in league play a year ago, but were still better than everyone else. Butler finished sixth in the voting, right about where I expected them as well.
Moving on to the preseason all-conference team, the Big East elected to keep the same format as in the past and picked 12 players regardless of position. Both men's and women's soccer changed things from in the past which caused some variation in my predictions, so hopefully that means my predictions for volleyball were more accurate. Let's see what we've got!
2013 BIG EAST Women's Volleyball Preseason All-BIG EAST Team
Erica Stahl, MB, Jr., Butler
*Kelli Browning, MB, Jr., Creighton
*Melanie Jereb, OH, So., Creighton
Leah McNary, OH, Jr., Creighton
*Vesela Zapryanova, OH, Sr. DePaul
*Danielle White, MB, Jr., Georgetown
Lindsey Gosh, OH, Jr., Marquette
*Elizabeth Koberstein, S, Sr., Marquette
Karin Palgutova, OH, Jr., St. John's
*Shelby Manthorpe, S, Jr., Seton Hall
*Sarah Brown, OH, Sr., Xavier
*Alex Smith, MB, Sr., Xavier
The asterisks are marking the unanimous selections, and WOW, that's a lot of them. A full three-quarters of the all-conference team showed up on all eight of the ballots, since coaches can't vote for their own players. Even more impressive, two new schools, Creighton and Xavier, have two players who were unanimous choices. That's a pretty solid indictment of the state of Big East volleyball if I've ever seen one.
The big news for Marquette fans is that Lindsey Gosh is on the team. The junior outside hitter had the most dangerous serve in the Big East a year ago, registering 0.41 aces per set, which also had Gosh ranked 24th in the country. I have to figure that Gosh's ability to play at the net (2.77 kills/set in 2012) and on the back line (2.16 digs/set) factored into the Big East coaches giving her the nod.
As for my predictions, I missed on Stahl and Gosh. I had Xavier's Aubree Smith, an Atlantic 10 Second Team selection in 2012, and Seton Hall's Alyssa Warren, who was the Big East's Libero Of The Year last year. Smith earned her spot with that A-10 honor, and as I expected, I got bitten by including three setters on my predictions. I gave Warren the nod both for being the best defender in the Big East and for an all-conference second team slot as well. You'll notice that the Big East coaches didn't include a libero at all in the preseason team, but that's partly because there was no positional requirement.
Marquette opens the season on Friday against Bowling Green in BGSU's Hampton Inn Invitational. Creighton will also be participating in the event, although the Golden Eagles and Bluejays are the only two teams involved that won't play each other.