JMU roundup: Dukes slotted fifth in CAA volleyball poll

Daily Staff Report – sports@nvdaily.com

RICHMOND — Coming off its third straight Colonial Athletic Association semifinals appearance, the James Madison volleyball team was picked to finish fifth in the 2013 season in a vote of the league’s head coaches announced on Wednesday.

JMU was picked fifth, receiving 28 points in the poll. CAA newcomer College of Charleston was a unanimous pick for the CAA’s top spot, receiving 49 points, including seven first-place votes. Northeastern picked up 36 points to finish in second followed by Delaware (34 points) in third and defending league champion Hofstra (33 points, one first-place vote) in fourth. After JMU, the poll was rounded out by Towson (19 points), William and Mary (15 points) and UNCW (10 points).

The Dukes return five players that appeared in at least 25 matches last season, including senior libero Katie Daorai. Last year, Daorai led the team with 425 digs in 2012 and heads into her senior season ranked fourth in school history with 1,167 digs. Also back for the Dukes are CAA All-Rookie team selection sophomore outside hitter Meghan Niski and junior middle blocker Lizzy Briones. Briones ranked third on the team with 2.61 kills per set and led the team with 94 blocks. Niski ranked fourth on the squad with 2.32 kills per set.

JMU also returns junior outside hitter Martha Stewart and sophomore defensive specialist/outside hitter MacKenzie Kleespies. Both players appeared in at least 27 matches last season, combining to start 21. Two players, redshirt junior setter Kristi Richardson and redshirt junior middle blocker Kelly Maguire, return after missing most or all of 2012 with injuries.

College of Charleston, which is coming of its seventh NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 11 years, returns three players who were selected to the All-SoCon team. The Cougars have won either the regular season or conference tournament in the Southern Conference in each of the past 12 seasons.

JMU volleyball opens its season on Aug. 30 at the Cavalier Classic in Charlottesville. The Dukes play Montana, Virginia and Marshall in the two-day tournament.