BENNINGTON, Vt. – When the 2013 New England Collegiate Conference (NECC) men’s volleyball preseason coaches poll was released Tuesday, the Southern Vermont College squad was picked to finish third, the same spot as the Mountaineers found themselves at the conclusion of the 2012 regular season.
The preseason poll actually looked strikingly similar to the final standings of a year ago with the only exception being that Endicott College and Elms College have been selected in a tie for first, despite Endicott (4) gaining more first-place votes than the Blazers (3). The Gulls finished the 2012 campaign at the top of the standings; however Elms, which finished second, ultimately took home the conference tournament championship trophy. The poll is based on votes from all coaches around the NECC.
Southern Vermont will return nine players after graduating two: NECC Defensive Player of the Year Nick Haggerty and Connor Murray. Among the players coming back to play for third-year head coach Josh Stokes are junior outside hitter Anthony Barahona (Las Vegas, Nev.) who finished the 2012 season fourth in the NECC with 243 kills and 2012 NECC Rookie of the Year Joey Dighton (Riverside, Calif.) who recorded a .306 hitting percentage, good enough for third in the NECC. He also had 62 blocks putting him second on the SVC all-time single-season block list.
Also making their way back to Stokes’ crew are sophomore setter Herson Canta (Los Angeles, Calif.), fourth in the NECC in 2012 with 5.21 assists per set, and sophomore libero/defensive specialist Florentino Escovedo (Fresno, Calif.) who is expected to fill in for the departed Haggerty.
Three new players join the Mountaineers, two hailing from Stokes’ native California and the third from nearby Massachusetts.
“I’m glad to see we’re still ranked in the top four of the conference,” said Stokes. “However, the ultimate goal is still the championship.”
The Mountaineers finished 2012 with a 12-19 overall record after losing to Elms 3-1 in the NECC semifinal round. That total was seven more wins than any team in program history. Their 8-4 NECC regular season record consisted of losses to Elms and Daniel Webster College and a season sweep by Endicott, yet was six more conference wins than SVC had seen previously.
Defense will likely remain an important aspect of the SVC repertoire as the Mountaineers finished 2012 first in Division III with 13.08 digs per game.
SVC begins the season this weekend with a tri-match at Emerson College, also facing Polytechnic Institute of NYU on Saturday prior to the match against the Lions in Boston, Mass. The Mountaineers begin their NECC schedule February 9th when they visit Lesley University for a 2 p.m. match.
Men's Volleyball Coaches Poll
T-1. Endicott (4)
T-1. Elms (3)
3. Southern Vermont
4. Daniel Webster
First-place votes noted in parentheses