Rivier Lands No. 1 Spot in Women’s Volleyball Pre-Season Poll

BOSTON, Mass. – Coming off of an impressive run in the 2011 GNAC tournament, Rivier University received 166 total points and 10 first place votes to land in the top spot of the 2012 Great Northeast Athletic Conference Pre-Season Coaches’ Poll. Emerson College placed second in the poll with 144 points and two first place votes after going a perfect 13-0 in regular season action last year. Emmanuel College was just one point behind the Lions in third place with 143 points and one first place vote while Simmons College was not far off the pace with 127 total points to rank fourth in the poll. Norwich University would come in fifth with 109 points while Saint Joseph’s College (ME) rounded out the top six pollsters with 107 points.

The Raiders have plenty to look forward to when thinking about the 2012 campaign. Returning all but three players from last season’s team which earned the 4th GNAC championship in program history, hopes are high despite losing the 2010 Defensive Player of the Year, Emileigh Cenedella and former All-GNAC setter Lauren Saccoccio to graduation. Rivier returns senior captain Kenna Finlayson who will try to build on a record setting junior season at RIV with the hope of back-to-back GNAC Championships. Finlayson, the 2011 GNAC Player of the Year and GNAC Tournament Most Outstanding Player, shattered the Raiders’ single season kill record with 594 kills and will look to once again lead the Raiders on and off the court. The Raiders will rely on a talented junior class to be instrumental in defending the GNAC title.  2011 GNAC All-Tournament Team members Nicole Peacock and Nicole Boucher will shoulder most of the load in the middle while Jessica Amaral will have her sights on a starting role by making the move from defensive specialist to libero in hopes to be the Raiders’ main passer and floor defender.

After losing six starters, five due to graduation and another for an internship in Washington D.C., Emerson could be in a rebuilding year despite its second position in the poll.  The Lions are returning excellent ball control in the libero and defensive specialist positions and plenty of offense in the middle with Kat Rice, the 2011 GNAC Rookie of the Year.  Graduating two setters leaves the offense in the hands of incoming freshman Juliana Tucker, who is expected to do a great job leading the team with her wealth of high school and club experience.  The addition of five more freshmen will help fill the rest of the holes in the offense on the outside and middle but as a very young team, there will be some growing pains, however, Coach Ben Read expects to fight for a spot in the top four of the conference and gel come playoff time to contend for a championship once again.

The Emmanuel women’s volleyball team comes off a 10-3 record in the GNAC and a 21-16 overall mark in 2011.  Sixth-year head coach Denitra Seals welcomes back eight returning players from last year’s roster. The Saints will be led by senior libero Yun-Ting Lee, senior middle hitter Moriah Logan and sophomore setter Alison Donnelly. Lee was named the GNAC Defensive Player of the Year and a Third Team All-Conference selection in 2011, registering a remarkable 675 digs which shattered the Emmanuel single-season record while also ranking 17th in the NCAA among Division III players.  Logan finished the season ranked 2nd for the Saints with 51 total blocks and 4th with 132 kills as a middle hitter.  Donnelly was ranked 2nd on the team with 591 assists, averaging 4.58 assists per set as a setter for the Saints.

After losing former setter Meaghan Flynn to graduation, Simmons is taking a new approach to its offense in 2012. Freshmen Rea Nesta and Brittany Hill will be looked to for height and power on the front line. The Sharks have increased their out of conference strength of schedule and it should make the squad very competitive in October against their GNAC opponents, putting them in a great position to compete for the title.

Ranking fifth in the poll, Norwich volleyball graduated two senior last year in April Byllaardt and Ivana Batur. They were both major impact players during their careers in Northfield, Vt. but the Cadets do retain Gabrielle Miller, who will be taking over the role of setting in 2012. After only one year at NU she ranks second in the school’s history with 434 assists. Norwich welcomes two new incoming freshmen that could fill the roles of the seniors last year.

Johnson & Wales University received 95 total points in seventh place in the poll while Lasell College earned 88 points in eighth. Mount Ida College would register a ninth place showing with 66 points followed by Suffolk University with 51 points in tenth. Rounding out the women’s volleyball poll were the University of Saint Joseph (CT), Albertus Magnus College and Anna Maria College with 42, 29 and 16 points apiece.

The Great Northeast Athletic Conference is an NCAA Division III conference made up of 13 institutions with nine associate members. In 2012-13, the GNAC will sponsor championships in 17 sports for men and women. The GNAC also enjoys outstanding professional partnerships with Children’s Hospital Sports Medicine Division, Doubletree Hotels, Fenway Printers, New Balance, Reading Trophy and Presto Sports.


2012 Great Northeast Athletic Conference Women’s Volleyball   Pre-Season Coaches' Poll



First Place

Total Points


Rivier University




Emerson College




Emmanuel College




Simmons College




Norwich University




Saint Joseph’s College (ME)




Johnson & Wales University




Lasell College




Mount Ida College




Suffolk University




University of Saint Joseph (CT)




Albertus Magnus College




Anna Maria College