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College: Suns, Lions earn preseason picks

VOLLEYBALL

Suns grab No. 2 preseason spot

RUSSELLVILLE — The Arkansas Tech Golden Suns women’s volleyball team enters the 2013 campaign with a No. 2 finish in the Great American Conference preseason poll, voted on by the coaches and announced by the league office today.

In the preseason poll, Arkansas Tech was picked to finish second among the 11 teams that will compete for the 2013 GAC volleyball championship. The Golden Suns received four first place votes, while first-picked Harding earned seven. Rounding out the top five are Southwestern Oklahoma placing third, Southern Nazarene and Southern Arkansas, who are ranked fourth and fifth, respectively.

In her tenth season at the helm of the Arkansas Tech women’s volleyball program, head coach Kristy Bayer introduced seven newcomers to their team of 11 letter winners that finished 27-10 overall and 11-3 in conference, while capturing a runner-up finish in the GAC regular season and championship tournament in 2012.

The talented group of returners features All-GAC First Team members Amber Cerrillos and Sara Motsinger, as well as All-GAC Tournament Team member Morgan McKellar. Other top returners include sophomores Kaci Jackson and Katie Huff.

Before their first game, the Golden Suns are having a Green and Gold Scrimmage on Saturday, August 31 at 10 a.m. Arkansas Tech will kick off the 2013 season at the La Quinta Kickoff Classic in Springfield, Mo. on Sept. 6.

Lady Lions begin practice

It may take a little while for the new to wear off for the UAFS volleyball team.

UAFS began preseason practice Wednesday at the Stubblefield Center with a roster that’s significantly deeper with 20 players, including several new players.

“Our first practice really went well, considering we have a lot of new faces,” UAFS coach Jane Sargent said. “We were very pleased with the girls. They are getting used to the pace of practice and the pace of the college game.”

Only seven players return from this past season’s team that won 28 matches and Heartland Conference regular-season and tournament championships and qualified for the NCAA Division II National Tournament.

Of the 13 new players, all but five are freshmen. Sargent said she was very pleased with how the five seniors have taken ownership of this team and become leaders for the incoming players.

For the third season in a row, the Lady Lions are the preseason favorites to win the conference and are the only conference team to receive votes in the AVCA Division II Coaches Top 25 Preseason Poll that was released on Tuesday.

UAFS will host its annual intrasquad scrimmage at 6 p.m. on Aug. 21 at the Stubblefield Center, which is open to the public. The Lady Lions will begin the regular-season on Sept. 6-7 when they compete in the Angelo State Tournament at San Angelo, Texas.

Coaches pick Blossoms ninth

MONTICELLO — The University of Arkansas at Monticello volleyball team has been predicted to finish ninth in the 2013 Great American Conference coaches poll that was released on Thursday.

The Blossoms earned 31 poll points for ninth.

UAM finished seventh in the GAC standings last year with an overall record of 11-24 and a 4-10 mark in GAC matches. Led by second-year head coach Peter Cruz, the Blossoms return four starters and seven letter winners from last year, and welcome 12 newcomers to the program for the 2013 campaign.

The Blossoms open the 2013 season on the weekend of September 6-7 with a trip to Pensacola, Fla. to compete in the West Florida Invitational Tournament.

CROSS COUNTRY

GAC preseason picks Suns fifth

RUSSELLVILLE — The Arkansas Tech Golden Suns cross country team landed in fifth in the Great American Conference preseason cross country poll, voted on by the coaches and announced by the conference office on Tuesday.

The Golden Suns accumulated 31 points along with Ouachita Baptist to start the season. Harding was voted first in the conference with 61 points followed closely by last year’s GAC champions East Central with 60 points.

Tech will bring back four returning runners from last season in senior Kaitlin Bounds, senior Amanda Bradbury, senior Cheryl Fleming, and senior Cheryl Nolan.

Arkansas Tech will host two events this year including the Tech Invitational on September 14th and the GAC Championships on October 26th.

BASKETBALL

Lions to face TCU, UALR

Since UAFS joined the ranks of NCAA Division II in 2009, men’s basketball coach Josh Newman has never been shy when it comes to playing NCAA Division I teams, whether in scrimmages or exhibition games.

This season is no different. The Lions will play exhibition games against Texas Christian University and the University of Arkansas-Little Rock.

That makes 13 Division I opponents in a span of five seasons, including St. Louis, Nebraska, Missouri, Tulsa, Missouri State, UMass, Georgia Southern, Troy State, Valparaiso, Central Arkansas and Tennessee-Martin.

UAFS, which begins its third season as an active Division II member, will play TCU on Nov. 1 at Daniel-Meyer Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas. Game time has yet to be determined.

UAFS will play UALR on Dec. 3 at the Jack Stephens Center in Little Rock. Game time has yet to be determined. The Trojans are coached by former McLennan Community College coach Steve Shields. Newman was an assistant coach on Shields’ staff at McLennan during the 1999-2000 season.

UAFS, which is the defending Heartland Conference champion, will host its annual Moonlight Madness on Oct. 15 at the Stubblefield Center to usher in the start of preseason practice. The Lions will open the regular season against Central Baptist College at 4 p.m. on Nov. 9 at the Stubblefield Center.

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