The Valparaiso University volleyball team, winner of three straight Mid-Continent Conference titles, was picked second a preseason poll of the league's seven head coaches.
The Crusaders have gone 40-2 over the last three seasons in Mid-Con play, including a perfect 14-0 record in 2004. This year, Valpo will be looking for a fourth straight championship and NCAA Tournament berth, but will return only one starter off a team that went 27-8 in 2005. Senior Jessie Fox (Granger, Ind./Penn), a two-time All-Conference selection, will lead the talented but young group in 2006.
Oral Roberts, the only Mid-Con team to defeat Valpo last season and the team the Crusaders have beaten in each of the last three league championship matches, was the unanimous pick to win the conference. Western Illinois came in third, earning one first place vote, and IUPUI finished fourth.
The Crusaders earned 30 points in the poll, which awarded six points for a first place vote on a scale that earned teams one point for a sixth place pick. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.
Valpo opens the 2006 season at the Chicagoland Classic hosted by UIC, August 25-26. The Crusaders will meet the hosts on the 25th at 7:00 p.m. before taking on DePaul and Loyola (Chicago) on the 26th.
2006 Mid-Continent Conference Preseason Poll
First place votes in parentheses
1. Oral Roberts - 36 (6)
2. Valparaiso - 30
3. Western Illinois - 27 (1)
4. IUPUI - 20
5. Oakland - 15
6. UMKC - 11
7. Centenary - 8