Winthrop's volleyball team was chosen first in the Big South Conference's annual preseason poll, as voted by the league's coaches and sports information directors.
Winthrop junior middle hitter Shannon Sitzmann was selected preseason player of the year.
Winthrop, under the direction of first-year coach Sally Polhamus, received seven first-place votes and 90 out of a possible 98 points after winning its sixth straight Big South title in 2006. Winthrop went 34-3 last season with a 14-0 conference record.
The Eagles, who enter the season having won their last 43 Big South regular-season matches, were picked ahead of Liberty, which received four first-place votes and 76 points.
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Sitzmann, a 2006 first-team all-Big South performer, finished last season ranked second in the league with 1.23 blocks per game and a .350 hitting percentage. She ranked among the conference leaders with 3.53 kills per game and notched two 20-kill matches.
Also voted to the preseason all-conference team were High Point's Jamie Kaufman, Jill Nyhof of Coastal Carolina, Kallie Corbin from Liberty, Radford's Lindsay Poole and Lauren Ficker and Raquel Miotto of UNC Asheville.
The 2007 season begins Friday with eight matches. The women's volleyball championship is slated for Nov. 15-17 at Liberty.
Big South preseason poll
(First-place votes in parentheses)
1. Winthrop (7) 90
2. Liberty (4) 76
3. UNC Asheville (3) 75
4. Coastal Carolina 54
5. High Point 45
6. Radford 32
7. Charleston Southern 20