Volleyball

The Great American Conference announced the results of its 2021 spring volleyball preseason poll.

Harding placed first in the Eastern Division while Oklahoma Baptist claimed the top spot in the Western Division.

In November, the GAC announced its spring volleyball regular season would consist of a 10-game division schedule. As such, the league’s head coaches only ranked their division opponents.

Harding received five first-place votes, while Oklahoma Baptist took home four. The 12 head coaches also chose an overall champion. In that poll, Harding garnered seven of the 12 votes, followed by three for Oklahoma Baptist and two for Northwestern Oklahoma State.

In 2019, Oklahoma Baptist went 28-6 and captured its first GAC

regular-season and tournament titles. They return All-Region honoree and GAC Player of the Year Malia Leatherland. She led the league in kills and points per set. Diana Carranza, an Honorable Mention All-GAC selection comes back after ranking fourth in the conference in both aces and digs per set.

Harding won 20 matches for the seventh time in eight years They bring back four sophomores that achieved All-GAC honors as freshmen. Logan Smith earned a place on the First Team after she ranked third in points per set and fourth in kills per set. Libby Hinton landed on the Second Team as she ranked third in blocks and sixth in attack percentage. Setter Sarah

Morehead, who finished third in the conference in assists per set, and middle blocker Kelli McKinnon made the Honorable Mention team.

Southwestern Oklahoma State edged Northwestern Oklahoma State and Southern Nazarene for the second position in the Western Division. The Bulldogs bring back a pair of 2019 All-GAC selections in Maicee Morgan and Allie Hoang. Morgan took home the GAC Freshman of the Year honor after she ranked

third in kills and fourth in points per set. Last season, Hoang finished as one of two players in the league to average at least 10.0 assists per set and she finished second in aces per set.

Henderson State took second to Harding in the Eastern Division voting, followed by Arkansas Tech. Over the past two seasons, the Reddies have won a league-high 49 contests. They must replace their All-GAC duo of Courtney Bolf and Adrianna Hartmann. The Golden Suns bring back two All-GAC performers in Mackenzie Eford and Brianna Merkel.

Both the Rangers and Crimson Storm must replace two First-Team honorees in Kiauna Clark and Jennifer Eubanks, for Northwestern Oklahoma State and Kylie Smith and Bailee Turang, for Southern Nazarene. Lasts season, the Rangers set a program record for wins of their NCAA era with 23. They feature a pair of 2019 All-GAC selections in outside hitter Kaydee Honeycutt and libero Sydnee Miller. Miller ranked third in the GAC in digs per set. Southern Nazarene brings back Kayla Thomas, a Second-Team All-GAC performer, who ranked second in the GAC in attack percentage.

Ouachita took fourth followed by Arkansas-Monticello in the Eastern Division voting. The Tigers feature Lexie Castillow. She made the All-GAC Second Team after leading the conference in digs per set. In her first season with the Blossoms, Katie Pearson finished as one of five players in the conference to average at least 9.0 assists per set.

Southeastern Oklahoma State and East Central rounded out the Western Division poll while Southern Arkansas filled out the Eastern Division.

Cheri Lindsay begins her tenure as Tiger head coach after two seasons as an assistant at Seattle University.

The 10-week, 10-match divisional schedule opens on Tuesday January 26 and runs through Tuesday March 30.

The opening slate of league contests features Arkansas-Monticello visiting Harding, Ouachita hosting Arkansas Tech, East Central facing Northwestern Oklahoma State Southern Arkansas traveling to Henderson State, defending champion Oklahoma Baptist welcoming in Southeastern Oklahoma State and SWOSU venturing Southern Nazarene.

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