MILLIGAN COLLEGE, Tenn. (Aug. 2, 2017) – The Appalachian Athletic Conference announced its preseason coaches’ poll, and Milligan College has been selected to finish as the AAC runner-up for the 2017 season.
Milligan received all 13 second-place votes and 156 total voting points.
Union received all 13 first-place votes and was the AAC’s top pick again this season with 169 total voting points. Last year the Bulldogs won both the AAC regular season and AAC tournament.
Montreat followed behind Milligan in third place in the preseason poll with 116 voting points.
“I’m super excited that last year’s team has built a foundation for success,” said Doneva Bays, the reigning AAC Coach of the Year. “Our goal is always to finish in the top three, and I believe we are building the reputation of finishing where we expect to be. This year with our returning kids and new additions, I feel like it’s a reality for us to win the conference.”
Last season Milligan went 31-8 (19-3 AAC) to finish runner-up in league standing. The 31 wins marked the most wins in a season by the Milligan volleyball program since the 1997 season when the team went 34-11. The 2002 team won 28 matches and the 2010 team won 29 matches, but no team had won 30 in the last 20 years.
This season Milligan will look to key returners such as Kellee Geren and Marissa Langford. Geren, a rising sophomore, was the AAC setter of the year as a true freshman in 2016 and was also named to the AAC All-Conference first team and AAC All-Freshman team. Langford, who was an All-Freshman in 2014, has been on the All-AAC first team each of the last three seasons.
“I’m thrilled that we will have our setter of the year in Kellee back to lead our offense as well as Marissa as an outside hitter,” Bays said. “We look for Marissa to have her best year in her senior campaign, and we anticipate Alyssa Rupert to make an easy transition into the libero spot. All the girls have worked really hard in the preseason and I feel really good about the core of our group.”
One new challenge all league teams will face this season is the introduction of divisions. The league will be divided into six teams playing in the North Division and seven teams in the South Division. The teams making up the North Division are: Bluefield, Bryan, Milligan, Montreat, Tennessee Wesleyan, and Union. In the South Division, the teams are: Allen, Brenau, Columbia, Point, Reinhardt, St. Andrews, and Truett McConnell.
“I definitely think this season will be more interesting going into the conference tournament since the AAC has added divisional play,” Bays said. “There’s no automatic bid for regular season to the national tournament so it will put more emphasis on the conference tournament.”
The top four teams in each division will advance to the 2017 AAC Tournament, which is set for Nov. 9-11 at the MeadowView Marriott Conference Resort & Convention Center. The two teams who make the tournament championship will earn automatic bids to the national tournament.