The 2004 Buean Vista volleyball team was picked by Iowa Conference coaches last week to finish tied for fourth in the conference race.
The Beavers, who had a surprising run in the IIAC tourney last year and logged a 14-20 overall mark, finished with 40 points in the coaches vote. That was tied with Dubuque University, which also garnered 40 points.
Defending IIAC Wartburg was the coaches' pick to win the conference, finishing with 58 points. Simpson College was a close second with 57 points while Central College was third with 56 points. Following BVU and Dubuque, respectively, were Loras (34 points), Cornell (27 points), Luther (21 points) and Coe College (19 points).
BVU, meanwhile, returns six starters from the 2003 team. They will be joined by nine freshmen who will be looked upon for depth as the Beavers look to improve on their 2003 3-5 conference mark and sixth-place finish.
Sixth year BVU coach Amy Sanders is optimistic about the coming season.
"We have a good corps of returning players who have gained valuable experience the last couple of seasons and we hope that experience will translate into more wins and a better finish in the conference standings," Sanders said. "Our challenge this season is to be ready to play every night and hopefully, be competitive every night."
Lost to graduation last spring were middle hitter Jess Grigg, outside hitter Jodi Lukoski, and defensive specialists Becky Spangler, Sara Mraz and Samantha Taggart.
Last season, Grigg finished with 1.08 blocks per game, fifth in the conference. Lukoski finished with 1.93 kills per game and 3.41 digs per game and 16 blocks. Spangler added 2.22 digs per game, Mraz 2.28 digs per game and Taggart had a .250 hitting percentage.
Key returnees are senior middle hitter Alison Olberding, senior outside hitter Jess Griggs, senior setter/middle hitter Jennifer Schnoes, junior setter Laura Reuter, junior middle hitter Lindsey Langel, junior outside hitter Brooke Bousum, sophomore Kim Holmes and sophomore outside hitter Ashley Wilde.
In 2003, Olberding averaged 2.99 kills per game, seventh in the IIAC. She averaged .30 ace serves per game, which was tied for 14th in the league.
Last season, Griggs averaged 4.07 digs per game, which was fifth in the conference. She averaged 2.82 kills per game, tenth in the IIAC.
Schnoes finished with .76 blocks per game, tied for 13th in the league. Reuter, a second-team All-Conference pick at setter, averaged 11.01 set assists per game, second in the IIAC. She also averaged 3.32 digs per game, tied for 15th in the league.
Holmes played in 33 matches and finished with 2.41 digs per game, fourth on the team. Wilde played in 27 matches in 2003 and averaged 3.07 kills per game, fifth in the conference.
The Beavers incoming freshmen this season are setter Sindy McClain, middle hitter Bailey Volz, middle hitter Susan Smydra, outside hitter Sarah Wyatt, outside hitter Jodi Peschon, and setter Kelly Phipps. Other freshmen include Malore Price, Ashley McCool and Mindy Williams.
Three Iowa Conference volleyball teams were ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) preseason poll released last Wednesday.
Central is ranked 13th, Wartburg 15th and Simpson is 19th.
BVU opens its season this Saturday with a non-conference match at Monmouth College.
All nine IIAC teams will see their first action of the year by Saturday, Sept. 4. Conference play begins with three matches on Sept. 7 and concludes with the nine-team conference tournament Nov. 5 and 6 at the University of Dubuque.