|Vandals picked third|
OGDEN, Utah –The Idaho volleyball team was picked to finish third in the Big Sky Conference in a vote by the league’s head coaches, the league announced Tuesday.
The Vandals received two first-place votes and 95 points in the poll, behind the 108 points and four first-place votes received by co-favorites Idaho State and Northern Arizona.
The Vandals won Big Sky Conference championships in each of their previous four seasons in the league, 1992-95, and finished 19-11 and tied for third in the WAC in 2013. Idaho rejoined the Big Sky on July 1.
“It will be more competitive in the Big Sky, it’s a good move for us,” Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. “From top to bottom I think there’s going to be more competition. It’s going to be a learning process as we go through this. They don’t know a lot about us and we don’t know a lot about them.”
The Vandals return five out of seven starters and 10 out of 12 letter-winners from last season, and have added a talented freshman class and two returning redshirts to provide some healthy competition this fall.
“We’re further ahead right now than we have been in a lot of years,” said Buchanan, who enters her 15th season as Idaho’s coach. “Even the freshman class that we’ve had come in, they’re already stepping in and contributing. It’s a pretty competitive environment. If we can pass, that will allow us to run our middles, and our middles are doing some great things right now. We’re going to have some of the biggest middles in the league, so if we can play fast we’re going to create a lot of opportunities.”
The Vandals are followed in the poll by North Dakota, which received the final two first-place votes and 92 total points. Northern Colorado (86), Portland State (84), Eastern Washington (60), Sacramento State (49), Montana (35), Montana State (33), Weber State (26) and Southern Utah (16) round out the poll.
Idaho brings its streak of 11 consecutive seasons with a .500 or better conference record into the Big Sky. That streak began in 2003 when the Vandals played in the Big West Conference. Idaho opens the 2014 season on Aug. 29 at Florida’s Active Ankle Challenge, and begins Big Sky play Sept. 25 at Northern Colorado.