Southern Arkansas is picked to finish last in the Great American Conference 2022 Volleyball Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
Oklahoma Baptist claimed six of the 12 first-place votes from the league’s head coaches to enter the season as the favorite. Harding and Southwestern Oklahoma State shared second place.
The Bison won their third-straight GAC regular-season title as part of a 23-4 season. They must replace Malia Leatherland, the two-time Offensive Player of the Year. She set the conference’s all-time record for kills with 1,688. Oklahoma Baptist also graduated All-GAC setter Allie Buell. She ranked second in the league in assists per set. The Bison do return Taneyah Brown. She placed in the top ten in attack percentage, blocks and points per set as well as Audrey Poupard, the conference’s leader in blocks per set, and Avery Hellmuth, the league’s fifth-leading hitter.
Harding received four first-place votes while the Bulldogs claimed one. The Lady Bisons return Sarah Morehead, the conference’s leader in assists per set from 2021. They also return All-GAC selections Kelli McKinnon and Ally Stoner as well as Logan Smith, the Spring 2021 Offensive Player of the Year. The Bulldogs recorded 20 wins for the second time in the last four seasons. They graduated both GAC Setter of the Year Allie Hoang and Newcomer of the Year Markenzie Benoit.
Arkansas Tech, the 2021 GAC champions picked up the final first-place vote and placed fourth in the poll. While they lose First-Team All-GAC selection and GAC Female Athlete of the Year Tymber Riley, Brianna Merkel, a member of the All-Tournament Team, comes back for her senior season. She ranked in the top 10 in both assists and aces per set. At the 2021 GAC Championships, she averaged 10.91 assists and 4.08 digs per set.
Henderson State edged East Central for the fifth position. The Reddies’ Violeta Mendoza Quintana landed on the All-GAC First Team last season after she ranked third in points per set, fifth in kills and 10th in aces. They must replace GAC Defensive Player of the Year Makenzie Thoman; she ranked second in the conference in digs per set. Last season, the Tigers qualified for an eight-team GAC Championships for the first time since 2013. Alejandra Delgado led the GAC in digs per set.
Southern Nazarene took seventh, followed by Southeastern Oklahoma State, Northwestern Oklahoma State and Ouachita. Savage Storm setter Ruthie Forson placed on the All-GAC Second Team. The Rangers’ Addison Wimmer claimed the league’s Freshman of the Year honor a season ago. She ranked in the top five in both kills and points per set. Jon Bingesser replaces Fred Aubuchon as Ranger head coach.
Arkansas-Monticello checked in at 11th, one point ahead of Southern Arkansas. Both feature first-year head coaches as Katrina English takes over for the Blossoms and former Muler Alli O’Banion returns to lead her alma mater.
The regular season opens in three weeks when Oklahoma Baptist and Southwestern Oklahoma State hit the courts that Thursday night. The rest of the league debuts on Friday, August 26. The GAC Championships take place from Thursday, November 10 through Saturday the 12th.