Juniata Rings in 2008 atop CBS College Sports Network/AVCA Poll


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LEXINGTON, Ky..- For the third consecutive season, Juniata College has begun a fresh campaign as the nation's top vote-getter, according the CBS College Sports Network/AVCA Preseason Coaches Top 25 Poll, released by the AVCA headquarters Tuesday afternoon.

Taskmaster Larry Bock's Eagles, one year removed from a 37-5 record, an appearance in the NCAA Tournament Semifinal and a final national ranking of No. 3, return a loaded roster in 2008, headlined by AVCA Division III National Player of the Year Amber Thomas. Juniata's talent doesn't stop there, as three other AVCA All-Americans rejoin the Eagle line-up for another go-around, including setter Beth Kozak (Second-Team), libero Megan Sollenberger (Third-Team) and middle blocker Erin Albert (Honorable Mention).

Biting at Juniata's heels is defending national champion and perennial power Washington University in St. Louis, who returns four starters and 12 letterwinners to a program that ended the 2007 season with a 37-5 overall record.

Veteran mentor Rich Luenemann's Bears will be powered by AVCA First-Team All-American Nikki Morrison on the right side, while setter Audra Janak, an AVCA Third-Team All-American selection returns to guide the offense. In addition, AVCA Honorable Mention honoree Erin Albers will pack a punch for Wash-U from the middle blocker position.

Coming in at No. 3 in the preseason poll is Emory University, who will be aided by four returning starters and nine letterwinners. The Eagles are fresh off a 33-7 campaign, where they earned their 12th straight berth in the NCAA Tournament, and ended the season ranked No. 5 in the final CBS College Sports Network/AVCA Division III Coaches Top 25 Poll.

Head coach Jenny McDowell will look to senior setter Madison Robelen, an AVCA Second-Team All-America pick, to quarterback the Emory attack corps, which will be anchored by a trio of all-conference hitters - Dani Huffman, Alysse Meyer and Maggie Baird.

Earning the No. 4 spot on the poll is another familiar face in the NCAA Division III volleyball world. Signal-caller Paco Labrador and Wittenberg University is coming off a record-breaking season in 2007, which saw the Tigers rack up a 38-1 record and secure a place in the NCAA Tournament Semifinal.

Wittenberg returns two starters and its libero from that campaign, in addition to 16 letterwinners. The Tigers will be powered by senior right side Jackie Williams, who earned AVCA First-Team All-American laurels a year ago, as well as all-conference performer Jessica Kimble in the middle blocker position.

Rounding out the top-five in the preseason poll is the University of La Verne, who is fresh off a 27-7 campaign, a berth in the NCAA Tournament, and ended the season ranked No. 8 in the final CBS College Sports Network/AVCA Division III Coaches Top 25 Poll.

Floor general Don Flora's Leopards will see four starters and 11 letterwinners return to the sideline this fall, including senior outside hitter Brianna Gonzales, an AVCA First-Team All-America selection in 2007. Also providing La Verne firepower will be 2006 AVCA Honorable Mention All-American, outside hitter Crista Jones and all-conference athlete Karli Fowlkes, a middle blocker.

The first CSTV/AVCA Division III Coaches Top 25 Poll of the regular season will be released Tuesday, September 9.

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