The American Southwest Conference on Monday released the 2017 ASC volleyball preseason poll and the Howard Payne Lady Jackets were picked to finish fifth in the ASC West Division, after a vote of the league’s head coaches and sports information directors.
Howard Payne, which finished 11-16 overall and 5-9 in league play last season, received 60 points in the poll, which trailed favorite Mary Hardin-Baylor (136 points, 18 first-place votes), Hardin-Simmons (110 points), McMurry (103 points, two first-place votes) and Concordia (70 points),
The Lady Jackets made it to the conference tournament last season for the first time in 15 years under the direction of third year head coach Colleen Westfall. HPU returns ASC West Division standouts Zhartaezia Bradley, a senior middle blocker, and Cheyanne Lovelady, a senior setter, both of which are recognized on the ASC preseason players to watch list.
Howard Payne will open the 2017 season at the Austin College tournament in Sherman on Sept. 1-2. After playing in the Emory University Classic in Atlanta, Georgia on Sept. 8-9, the Lady Jackets will have their home opener at 5 p.m. Sept. 12 versus Sul Ross State.
In the ASC East Division, UT-Dallas (144 points, all 24 first-place votes) is the favorite trailed by UT-Tyler (117 points), East Texas Baptist (96 points), Belhaven (60 points), LeTourneau (54 points) and Louisiana College (31 points).
Louisiana College will enter their first season of varsity play in 2017. The Ladyats will be eligible for the regular season and ASC Championship Tournament titles.
Belhaven and McMurry will be eligible for the regular season title, but will be ineligible for the ASC Championship Tournament and NCAA Division III Championship Tournament due to NCAA reclassifying rules.
The ASC Championship is scheduled for Nov. 2-4 and will be hosted at the site of the East Division No. 1 seed. An automatic berth to NCAA Division III Championship will be on the line.