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JWU Women's Volleyball Unanimous in GNAC Preseason Poll After Elite Eight Appearance


JWU to take on defending national champ
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps in SoCal next Friday

WINTHROP, Mass. – Following a banner 2017 campaign in which Johnson & Wales University (RI) won 35 straight, claimed its third consecutive Great Northeast Athletic Conference title, hosted and proved victorious at the NCAA Providence Regional, and made it all the way to the Elite Eight in Grand Rapids, Mich., the Wildcats have been selected as the unanimous choice atop the 2018 GNAC Women's Volleyball Preseason Poll.

JWU, which last week checked in at No. 6 in the country in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division III Preseason Poll, collected all 13 first-place votes amongst the GNAC's head coaches, totaling 169 points overall. Simmons College collected all 13 second-place votes for 156 points, while Rivier University collected all 13 third-place votes to accumulate 143 points. For the complete results, please see below. 

JWU will begin the 2018 season on the west coast, traveling to Claremont, Calif. in Greater Los Angeles on Friday, August 31 for tilts with defending Division III national champion and No. 1 nationally-ranked Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, as well as Cal Lutheran, which is receiving votes nationally. The Wildcats will then travel west one city over for a trimatch at La Verne on Saturday, September 1. Later in the month, JWU will be on the road at No. 20 nationally-ranked MIT out of the NEWMAC on Tuesday, Sept. 18. 

The Wildcats produced four All-Americans in 2017, and all four return to Providence this fall, as reigning East Region Player of the Year and junior Kate Walker, junior setter Brylee Frank, junior Maria Coniglio, and senior Katie Leidhold are all back in the fold for head coach Nancy Somera in 2018.

Simmons, which swept Rivier last year both in the regular season and in the GNAC Tournament Semifinals, will get things started Aug. 31-Sept. 1 at the Colonial Classic against Salve Regina, FDU-Florham, Emerson, and host Western Connecticut. 

Rivier will open up the season on Sept. 1-2 at the Kean Invitational, squaring off against Vassar, host Kean, Western New England and Wisconsin-Eau Clair.

Lasell College and Regis (Mass.) rounded out the top-five in the conference preseason poll with 116 and 103 points, respectively. The Lasers, who will be led by new head coach Dana Jones, were victorious head-to-head last season against the Pride in their 4v5 GNAC Tournament Quarterinfal matchup. 

Newest GNAC core member Colby-Sawyer College finished sixth in the rankings with 99 points after advancing to the 2017 North Atlantic Conference (NAC) Championship game. In the regular season last year, the Chargers fell to GNAC schools Rivier and Lasell in non-conference action, pushing both matches to a decisive fifth set. 

Suffolk University, under new head coach Scott Blanchard, finished just behind Colby-Sawyer in the poll with 97 points after falling to second-seeded Simmons in last year's GNAC Quarterfinals, while Saint Joseph's College of Maine was just off that pace with 97 points for the eighth spot. The Monks will be under the guidance of new head coach Jon Roberts this season. 

Making up the remainder of the poll were Emmanuel College with 74 points, Albertus Magnus College with 51 points, Norwich University with 41 points, Saint Joseph (Conn.) with 25 points, and Anna Maria College with 22 points. 

The 2018 GNAC Tournament dates are scheduled for Tuesday, October 30 (quarterfinals), Thursday, November 1 (semifinals) and Saturday, November 3 (championship) at high seeds throughout.

Be sure to catch all of the tournament action live on or watch on one of our four custom digital streaming apps. Broadcasts are produced by host institutions. Fans can also purchase GNAC co-branded and championship apparel through the conference's new partnership with SquadLocker

2018 GNAC Women's Volleyball Preseason Poll
1. Johnson & Wales (13) - 169
2. Simmons - 156
3. Rivier - 143
4. Lasell - 116
5. Regis (Mass.) - 103
6. Colby-Sawyer - 99
7. Suffolk - 97
8. Saint Joseph's (Maine) - 87
9. Emmanuel - 74
10. Albertus Magnus - 51
11. Norwich - 41
12. Saint Joseph (Conn.) - 25
13. Anna Maria - 22

Founded in 1995, the Great Northeast Athletic Conference (GNAC) is an NCAA Division III association made up of 13 member institutions and over 3,000 student-athletes across the New England region. Each year, the GNAC sponsors and administers 20 championships, while balancing academic integrity, athletic opportunities and community involvement.