East Central University was picked fifth as the Great American Conference released its 2012 Preseason Volleyball Poll Wednesday from the league office in Russellville, Ark.
Coach Dave Thorn’s Lady Tigers received 37 points after posting a 14-18 overall record and 8-8 regular season conference mark in 2011. ECU did reach the semifinals of the GAC Tournament last season before falling to eventual champion Arkansas Tech.
ATU’s Golden Suns received 64 points and eight of the nine first-place votes after going 35-4 last year. Harding, which nabbed the other first-place vote, was voted second in the poll with 54 points, followed by Southeastern Oklahoma State (43), Southern Arkansas (42), ECU, Ouachita Baptist (34), Southwestern Oklahoma State (21), Arkansas-Monticello (17) and Henderson State (12).
Southern Nazarene and Northwestern Oklahoma State, provisional NCAA Division II and GAC members, are not eligible for the title, but will compete with a full conference regular-season schedule.
The Lady Tigers return two all-conference performers in All-GAC Second Team and junior outside hitter Noelle Cope along with All-GAC honorable mention and senior middle blocker Tatiana Booth.
The Golden Suns return 2011 All-GAC First Team selections Sara Motsinger and Amber Cerillos. Motsinger ranked second in the conference in hitting percentage (.305) while Cerillos topped the league in assists and service aces.
The voting for the preseason poll was handled by the league head coaches.
The GAC Championship Tournament will be held Nov. 15-17 on the campus of the regular-season champion.