Coaches in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference picked Colorado School of Mines to repeat as champion.
The Orediggers received nine first-place votes out of a possible 15 and 214 points total in the preseason poll released Wednesday. Colorado Mesa University, with Bayfield’s Maddi Foutz now with the program after she transferred away from Colorado State University, came into the poll second with four first-place votes and 209 points. Dixie State University, in its final year in Division II and only its second year in the RMAC, received three first-place votes and 204 points to come in third, well ahead of fourth-place Regis and fifth-place Metro State University-Denver.
Fort Lewis College, which reached the RMAC tournament as the eighth seed in the eight-team tournament last year, received 120 points for eighth place in the preseason poll. The Skyhawks came in behind University of Colorado at Colorado Springs (142) and in front of Adams State (99).
Last season, Mines went 24-5 overall and 16-2 in RMAC play, while Dixie State was 22-6 and 16-2 in the RMAC. Colorado Mesa went 24-6 and 15-3 in the RMAC, the same conference record as Metro State.
FLC went 9-14 overall and 9-9 in conference and edged Adams State via tiebreaker to reach the RMAC tournament. Adams State went 12-14 and 9-9 in the RMAC. The postseason bid was FLC’s first since 2013 and ended in the first round with a 3-1 road loss to Mines.
Last season, only five teams in the conference finished with an overall winning record. Half of the conference failed to win 40 percent of its games.
In lieu of naming preseason All-RMAC players, the conference has switched to naming preseason “players to watch.” Foutz was left off of that list for the Colorado Mesa Mavericks, which also feature former Bayfield standout Jade Pascale.
FLC, which added Bayfield alumna Courtney Bayles away from Adams State, saw Tye Wedhorn, a sophomore middle blocker out of Glenwood Springs, named to that list. Last season, Wedhorn had 160 kills to go with a .356 hitting percentage, a percentage that ranked fifth in the RMAC. She also had 62 blocks to rank ninth in the conference. She was a All-RMAC Second Team selection last season.
Also highlighted by the RMAC coaches was FLC freshman Payton Harmann out of Arizona. The 5-foot-10 setter played four years of varsity volleyball at Sunrise Mountain High School and twice was a first-team selection on the all-region team.
FLC will open the season Sept. 6 at the Angelo State University Invitational in Texas against Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Northwestern Oklahoma State University. The Skyhawks will host a tournament Sept. 12-14 with Western New Mexico University, Texas A&M International University, Washburn University and West Texas A&M.
Conference play will begin Sept. 20 at Metro State.