By Mike Comodeca
The Horizon League coaches once again voted the Cleveland State Vikings women’s volleyball team the 2017 preseason favorite to win the conference championship for the second year in a row.
Four teams received first place votes from the coaches with Cleveland State receiving four, Green Bay three and UIC grabbing one vote.
The preseason rankings have CSU one, followed by Green Bay, Oakland, Milwaukee, Northern Kentucky, Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI), Wright State, and Youngstown State bringing up the rear.
The Vikings swept the conference and regular season championships over the last two years while making the NCAA tournament.
However, they were unable to make it out of the first round in those two previous seasons.
While losing some key pieces such as Aaliyah Slappy and Grace Kauth, CSU is still in a position to succeed.
The two women combined had 608 kills, 185 blocks and 741 points, which will be missed. In addition, both young ladies won multiple awards for their work on and off the court.
Three of those top players are Gina Kilner, Alexis Middlebrooks and Sara Skeens. They are all looking to build on last season’s positive play.
First, Gina Kilner was named setter of the year in the Horizon League and made the All-Horizon League First Team.
Next, senior Alexis Middlebrooks, who was First Team All-Horizon League, Horizon Tournament Most Valuable Player and is team captain.
Lastly, Sara Skeens won Co-Freshman of the Year and a spot on the conference All-Freshman team. Skeens appeared in most games as the primary outside hitter, which is remarkable for a freshman.
There will be six newcomers to the CSU team this season. There will be two middle-hitters, two outside-hitters and two defensive-specialists that will need to be integrated into the team.
Although, with phenomenal coaching and excellent recruiting ability, getting those player’s to work as a team should be a non-issue.
Under the guidance of head coach Chuck Voss, who is entering his 18th season and his staff, look to win 25 games for the third season in a row.
In addition, Voss’ team is in prime position to capture both conference and tournament championships.
This year, the team is hoping that their glass slipper can stay on a little longer while dancing through the NCAA Tournament.