Bulletin Staff Report

Coming off their first winning season since 2001, the Howard Payne Lady Jackets were projected to finish fifth in the West division of the American Southwest Conference volleyball standings, according to the preseason poll which was released Monday.

The Lady Jackets (16-13, 8-10 in ASC in 2008) are entering their fourth season under head coach Ken Carver, and Howard Payne lost just two members of last season’s squad. Among the returnees are all-conference performers Tamika Heline — the ASC West Freshman of the Year — and Amanda Gutierrez. Megan Pick, Sydney Bryant and Kristin Hammond are also key contributors returning.

HPU received 45 points in the poll, which trailed division favorite Texas Lutheran’s (20-8, 17-1) 90 points, Hardin-Simmons’ (20-12, 15-3) 87 points, McMurry’s (19-8, 13-5) 71 points and Schreiner’s (12-14, 9-9) 50 points.

Rounding out the ASC West predictions were sixth-place Concordia (10-18, 6-12) with 32 points, and seventh-place Sul Ross (2-25, 0-18) with 17 points.

Preseason players of the year in the ASC West are HSU senior middle blocker Kaela Parnell on offense, along with McMurry junior libero Sarah Anding on defense.

Defending ASC champion UT-Dallas (24-8, 14-3) is the pick to win the East Division.

UT-Dallas junior setter Niki Calverley and junior libero Erin Maenius from Mary Hardin-Baylor were selected as the ASC East preseason offensive and defensive players of the year, respectively.

Howard Payne opens its season at the Eastern Mennonite University tournament in Harrisonburg, Va. on Sept. 4-5. The Lady Jackets’ home opener is Sept. 15 against McMurry.