BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. -- Wheeling Jesuit is the unanimous favorite of the Mountain East Conference coaches to win the first-ever MEC volleyball title.
WJU collected all 12 first-place votes from the coaches. The Cardinals enter the season ranked 18th in the country in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) poll.
Wheeling Jesuit went 38-3 last season en route to a second consecutive NCAA Atlantic Region title and national quarterfinal appearance. The Cardinals return All-America candidate Jenna Pew who tallied 423 kills (3.09 kills per set) while also adding 550 assists and leading the team with 146 total blocks. WJU also brings back Madison Strall who led the Cards with 868 assists to go with 127 kills, 344 digs and 41 total blocks.
Fairmont State was a near unanimous pick to finish runner-up behind WJU. The Falcons, who return their starting lineup intact from a team that went 24-9 last year, were picked to finish second on all but two ballots. FSU is paced by senior Bri Swann who averaged 3.21 kills per set in 2012.
Charleston finished 16-16 last year and returns Victoria Severo and her 243 kills and 82 blocks from a season ago. The Golden Eagles were picked to finish third by a single point over Shepherd. The Rams return three of their top four leaders in kills from last year in Meg Kenny (209), Melani Lewis (198) and Kayla Walker (138).
West Virginia Wesleyan, led by Erin Bond, were slotted to finish in fifth. Bond led the team in both kills and blocks in 2012. The Bobcats were trailed by a West Liberty squad that returns four starters, including Michaela Hawkins and Chelsea Byrge, from a team that went 14-15 last year.
Concord and West Virginia State finished tied for seventh with 67 points, followed by Urbana (56), Notre Dame College (51), Glenville State (29) and UVa-Wise (23).
The regular season gets underway on Sept. 5, and conference action begins on Sept. 24