FLORENCE, Ky. – The University of Rio Grande has been tabbed as the No. 3 pick in the East Division and is tied with Indiana University Southeast for fifth place overall in the 2016 River States Conference Volleyball Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
The RedStorm, who finished 26-8 overall and 8-4 in the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference last season, tied IU Southeast with 82 points in balloting of the league’s head coaches.
Rio Grande will open its regular season schedule this weekend in Miami Gardens, Fla. at the STU Classic hosted by St. Thomas University. The RedStorm will face Florida Memorial and Warner (Fla.) on Friday, while tangling with the host Bobcats and Doane (Neb.) on Saturday.
Indiana University Kokomo was the consensus favorite in the poll.
The Cougars claimed the top spot – the first time any IU Kokomo team has ever topped a conference preseason poll – after voting was conducted from the league’s 12 volleyball head coaches. IU Kokomo received the maximum number of 11 first-place votes and 121 points in the voting. Coaches were not permitted to vote for their own teams.
IU Kokomo had a very impressive season in 2015 with a record of 34-5 overall, 11-1 conference and a KIAC Tournament championship. The Cougars made their first appearance in the NAIA National Championship Opening Round and battled yearly national power Madonna (Mich.) before beforing bowing out of nationals.
The River States Conference was formerly known as the Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference but underwent a re-branding effective July 1, 2016.
The volleyball standings will be divided into River States Conference East and West Divisions in 2016, each with six teams. IU Kokomo was picked as the preseason favorite in the West Division, and Point Park (Pa.) University was picked as the favorite in the East Division.
Point Park was the KIAC Tournament runner-up to IU Kokomo last year, which resulted in the third trip to the NAIA national tournament in a five-year span for the Pioneers. Point Park was 17-24 overall, 9-3 KIAC in 2015 and garnered 105 points and remaining first-place vote in the preseason poll.
IU East was picked third overall in the preseason poll with 98 points and is coming off a season of 24-15, 10-2 KIAC. The Red Wolves were picked second in the East Division and had an appearance in the KIAC Tournament semifinals last year.
Asbury (Ky.) University was 21-14 overall, 9-3 KIAC as another 20-win team and took fourth place overall in the preseason poll. The Eagles received 83 points in the league voting and were predicted third in the West Division.
Next up and not far behind are Rio Grande and IU Southeast, with 82 points each. IU Southeast, 18-17 overall, 8-4 KIAC, earned a spot in the KIAC Tournament semifinals a year ago. IU Southeast was picked second in the West Division.
The second six teams in the 12-team conference begin with Cincinnati Christian University picked to finish seventh. The Eagles were 18-15 overall, 7-5 KIAC and garnered 58 points in the voting.
Ohio Christian University (12-19, 4-8) is picked eighth in the poll with 44 points, which is projecting the Trailblazers in a playoff spot. OCU was not eligible for conference or NAIA postseason last year as first-year NAIA members.
Brescia (Ky.) University (9-17, 5-7) is right behind in ninth with 43 points followed by Carlow (Pa.) University (16-18, 4-8) with 39. Midway (Ky.) University and WVU Tech round out the poll with 23 and 14 points, respectively.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director for the University of Rio Grande.