The Howard Payne Lady Jackets are projected to finish fifth in the West Division volleyball standings, as the American Southwest Conference preseason coaches and media poll was released Monday afternoon.
Coming off a 9-20 season that included a 6-10 mark against ASC foes, the Lady Jackets received 51 points in the poll. Howard Payne is tabbed to finish behind West Division favorite Mary Hardin-Baylor (28-5, 15-1) with 19 first-place votes and 133 points; Concordia (18-14, 10-6) with 92 points; McMurry (24-10, 11-5) with three first-place votes and 90 points; and Hardin-Simmons (15-17, 9-7) with one first-place vote and 76 points.
Sul Ross (3-24, 1-15) is picked to place sixth with 24 points.
Chosen from Howard Payne for the ASC West Division Watch List were senior middle blocker Zhartaezia Bradley and junior outside hitter Kailey Doering.
In the East Division, three-time reigning ASC champion UT-Dallas (24-11, 13-3) is the favorite with 23 first-place votes and 115 points. East Texas Baptist (13-19, 8-8) is picked second with 91 points followed by LeTourneau (10-22, 4-12) with 61 points, Belhaven (13-17, 7-9) with 53 points, Louisiana College (2-23, 0-16) with 25 points and UT-Tyler (22-8, 12-4).
Of note around the conference, McMurry becomes a full member of NCAA Division III and will be eligible for the ASC and NCAA Championships. Belhaven will be eligible for the regular season title, but will be ineligible for the ASC Championship and NCAA Division III Championship. The Blazers are in their final year as a NCAA provisional member. And UT-Tyler will not count in the conference standings or be eligible for the NCAA and ASC Championships due to reclassifying to NCAA Division II.
The top three teams from each division will advance to the ASC Championship Tournament Nov. 1-3 at the site of the West Division champion. An automatic berth to NCAA Division III Tournament will be on the line.
The Lady Jackets open their season Sept. 4 at Texas Lutheran and begin conference play Sept. 11 at Sul Ross.