Utah State volleyball was picked to finish third in the 2014 Mountain West Conference Preseason Poll, as voted on by the league's 11 coaches and announced Tuesday by the conference office. Junior opposite side hitter Elle Brainard was also named to the Preseason all-Mountain West Team.
"We are looking forward to starting our second season in the Mountain West. We learned a lot last season," USU head coach Grayson DuBose said. "Preseason polls are a wonderful way to draw attention to our conference before we head into action. The team has been working hard to live up to that ranking, and I can promise we will compete hard each night."
The Aggies received 81 points and were behind five-time defending champion Colorado State, which was picked to repeat, garnering 97 points to go along with seven first-place votes. This season marks the fourth time in the past five seasons CSU has been tabbed as the league’s favorite. New Mexico was second with 91 points and the remaining four first-place votes.
San Diego State was fourth with 73 points, followed by Wyoming in fifth (55 points) with Boise State close behind in sixth (54 points). UNLV was seventh with 50 points, followed by Fresno State (40), Air Force (31), San José State (21) and Nevada (11) to round out the 11-team preseason poll.
Joining Brainard on the all-Mountain West Preseason Team were opposite side hitter Adrianna Culbert, middle blocker Kelsey Snider and setter Deedra Foss of Colorado State, opposite side hitter Chantale Riddle of New Mexico, middle blocker Erin Kirby of Wyoming and libero Allison Davies of UNLV. Riddle was tabbed as the Preseason Player of the Year.
"In honoring Elle, they have honored our whole team. We have always felt any recognition for our team is a great thing," DuBose said.
Brainard earned all-Mountain West honors in 2013 to become the first USU volleyball player to earn all-conference accolades in the Aggies’ new league. She switched position to opposite side hitter after playing middle blocker in 2012 and finished the 2013 season ranked 10th in the Mountain West in kills with 3.00 kills per set, totalling 339, with an attack percentage of .228 (339-131-911). Brainard had double-digit attacks in 21 matches, including posting 15 or more kills in seven matches, highlighted by a career-best performance with 21 kills as part of career-high 22.5 points against UNLV on Oct. 26. She also logged a .500 or better attack percentage in four matches, highlighted by a season-high .556 against San José State on Nov. 14. Brainard added 99 total blocks (0.88 bps) with three solo and 96 block assists, posting three or more blocks in eight matches, including a season-best eight against Boise State on Sept. 18.
The 2014 Mountain West season opens Friday, Aug. 29, with 10 of the 11 league teams in action. Conference play begins Thursday, Sept. 25, with 10 teams in action, and all five matches will be available on the Mountain West Network.
Utah State volleyball fans will get their first look at the 2014 edition of Aggie volleyball and their brand new venue when USU hosts its annual Blue-White Scrimmage on Tuesday, Aug. 19 at 7 p.m., at the newly-opened Kirby Court at Wayne Estes Center.
Season tickets for the inaugural Utah State volleyball season are now on sale. Fans can get reserved chair back season tickets for $50, while general admission season tickets are $40. Additionally, fans can purchase a Women's Sports Pass for $75, which is good for general admission to all volleyball, women's basketball and gymnastics home events. If fans purchase their volleyball season tickets by Sept. 1, they can get a free Utah State volleyball seat cushion.
Utah State volleyball season and single-match tickets are available by contacting the USU Ticket Office at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum or by calling 1-888-USTATE-1 or (435) 797-0305. Season tickets can also be purchased online.