Tiger Volleyball Picked to Finish Third in C-USA Preseason Poll
Aug. 8, 2005
MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The University of Memphis volleyball squad has been selected by the Conference USA coaches to finish third in the 2005 preseason poll. The Tigers, who went 27-10 in 2004, return eight letterwinners and six starters for this season. League newcomer Rice was tabbed as the preseason favorite. Marshall's Kelly-Anne Billingy received the C-USA Preseason Player of the Year honors. Billingy earned All-American honorable mention and 2004 MAC Freshman of the Year accolades last year.
Memphis finished fourth in 2004 after being tabbed for a sixth-place finish in the preseason poll. The Tigers return a solid core of players from a year ago, headlined by senior outside hitter Nancy Nellans. Nellans paced the squad in kills in C-USA play and reached the 1,000-kill milestone as a junior. The South Bend, Ind., native is just 12 digs shy of becoming just the 17th Tiger to record 1,000 kills and digs in a career.
Nellans is joined by junior middle blocker Melissa Nance and sophomore outside hitter Ashley Liford. Nance and Liford downed 306 and 305 kills, respectively in 2005. Liford wrapped up her rookie campaign with the fifth-most kills ever to be recorded by a Tiger freshman. Also returning are middle blockers senior Fehi Tuivai and sophomore Shelby Burton. Tuivai led the team with 98 total blocks, while Burton led the team and ranked third in Conference USA with a .336 hitting percentage. That clip is the highest ever posted by a Memphis freshman. In addition, Burton slammed 154 kills--14th on the Tiger's freshman kills list.
Preseason No. 1 Rice returns six letterwinners, including four starters. The Owls posted a 25-5 mark last year and made the program's first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Rice went 11-0 at home in 2004 and will host the 2005 Conference USA Tournament, Nov. 17-20.
Marshall was picked to finish second after a 22-11 finish in 2004--the Thundering Herd's third straight 20-plus win campaign. Marshall returns all six starters and every player on scholarship from 2004. Billingy set numerous records for Marshall in her freshman season. Her 694 kills crushed the former record of 502. It was also the third-highest total in the nation last year. She also set a new mark for kills in a single match with 34. The Trincity, Trinidad native led the team and the MAC with 65 service aces.
SMU and Houston tied for fourth. The Mustangs retain three starters, while five Cougar regulars return, including Jaci Gonzalez, 2004 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year.
Tulane, who underwent a coaching change in the off-season, is sixth in the poll. The Green Wave went 17-12 last year, with a 6-7 mark in league action.
Newcomers Tulsa, UCF and UTEP take the seventh, eighth and ninth spots in the poll. The Golden Hurricane went 17-10 last year. The Golden Knights return three starters from a year ago. Memphis handed UCF a 3-1 loss at the BYU-Mizuno Classic in Provo, Utah last season. The Miners return five regulars.
Southern Miss, East Carolina and UAB wrap up the final three spots of the poll. USM returns six letterwinners. UAB welcomes seven newcomers and returns four starters after a 1-24 finish in 2004.
The 2005 C-USA Preseason Poll is as follows:
2005 CONFERENCE USA PRESEASON POLL 1. Rice (25-5, 12-1 WAC in 2005) 2. Marshall (22-11, 11-5 MAC) 3. Memphis (27-10, 9-4 C-USA) T4. Houston (11-21, 5-8 C-USA) T4. SMU (14-14, 5-8 WAC) 6. Tulane (17-12, 6-7 C-USA) 7. Tulsa (17-10, 5-8 WAC) 8. UCF (8-15, 5-5 Atlantic Sun) 9. UTEP (10-15, 2-11 WAC) 10. Southern Miss (7-20, 2-11 C-USA) 11. East Carolina (11-18, 5-8 C-USA) 12. UAB (1-24, 0-13 C-USA)