COLORADO SPRINGS -- As the start of the first Mountain West Conference women's volleyball season nears, the coaches from the eight institutions have registered their votes for projected order of finish in the new conference.
Brigham Young University, which has won the conference title in its first year with each of its previous three conferences, is the unanimous favorite to claim the inaugural crown. The Cougars enter the season ranked No. 7 in the nation with four starters and eight letterwinners returning. Second-team All-American setter Anna-Lena Smith and WAC Pacific Division Freshman of the Year Nina Puikkonen headline a list of returnees whom all gained all-conference honors. In 1998, BYU reached the NCAA Regional Final for the third consecutive season and finished the year listed No. 6 in the nation with a 31-4 record.
Colorado State, ranked No. 24 in the nation, is projected as the MWC runner-up. The Rams return five starters and nine letterwinners from a squad that posted a 24-8 record in 1998. Led by 1998 WAC Mountain Division Co-Coach of the Year Tom Hilbert, CSU claimed the conference division title and advanced to the NCAA second round. Three of CSU's returning starters claimed first team all-conference honors, including WAC Mountain Division Co-Freshman of the Year Angela Knopf.
Utah, which received votes in the preseason national poll, is picked to finish third in the MWC. The Utes return one half of the starting rotation, including second team all-conference selection Lucie Turkova, from a team that posted a 21-10 record in 1998 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
UNLV, which earned one vote in the preseason national poll, rounds out the upper half of the preseason poll in the fourth position. Under the direction of 1998 WAC Mountain Division Co-Coach of the Year Deitre Collins, the Rebels placed second in their division and finished the season 23-8 overall. UNLV will be led by second team all-conference selections Justine Kamelamela and Angie Sylvas as five starters and 10 letterwinners return.
1999 Mountain West Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll
School (Preseason AVCA National Ranking)
1. BYU (No. 7)
2. Colorado State (No. 24)
3. Utah (Received Votes)
4. UNLV (Received Votes)
6. New Mexico
7. San Diego State
8. Air Force