RUSSELLVILLE, ARK. (ECU) - The East Central University volleyball team has been picked to finish eighth in the 2014 Great American Conference Preseason Poll, as voted on by the league's head coaches.
The Lady Tigers, who advanced to the 2013 GAC Semifinals, finished tied for fourth a season ago with an 8-6 league record and a 12-19 overall mark.
ECU earned 45 points in the poll, three points behind the two teams who tied for sixth. Arkansas Tech was picked as the preseason favorite, with 93 points and five first-place votes. Harding was a close second with 89 points and four first-place votes.
Southern Nazarene, who will be eligible for the postseason for the first time, was picked third with 86 points and one first-place vote. Ouachita Baptist picked up the final first-place vote and a total of 66 points for fourth.
Southwestern finished fifth (61 points), Southeastern and Southern Arkansas tied for sixth (48 points), Northwestern was ninth (36 points), Arkansas-Monticello 10th (23 points) and Henderson State rounded out the field (10 points).
The Lady Tigers return eight players from last year's roster after also losing eight, but the look on the floor will be much different as only one starter returners. Junior Hayley Gerken is the lone starter to return after finishing second on the team in kills (267) and first in hitting percentage (.222) in 2013.
The 2014 season will start Sept. 5-6 at the Rockhurst Tournament in Kansas City, Mo. ECU will face Pittsburg State, William Jewell, Missouri Western and Northwest Missouri State in the two-day tournament.