HIGH POINT, N.C. – For the first time in the program’s history, the High Point University volleyball team enters the season as the preseason Big South favorites. Likewise, junior Haley Barnes is the first Panther to be named Preseason Player of the Year.
“Being picked first is a nice testament to the direction of the program,” first-year head coach Tom Mendoza said. “But right now we are more focused on installing a framework of continued success than we are on the poll.”
A year after posting an 11-3 mark in Big South play, the Purple & White enter the 2016 season with four starters and ten letter winners returning. HPU (76 points) garnered five of the nine first-place votes while second-place Liberty (68) picked up two. Third-place Radford (58) and No. 7 Charleston Southern (27) nabbed the remaining two votes.
Meanwhile, Campbell (53), Winthrop (48) and UNC Asheville (41) represent the middle of the pack. After the Buccaneers slide in at seventh, the polls rounds out with Gardner-Webb (21) and Presbyterian (13).
For the 2016 season, the Big South Championship has moved to a six-team tournament with the top two teams receiving a bye. That bodes well for the Panthers, which were ranked in the top two in eight of the nine ballots.
Sophomore Molly Livingston – the 2015 Big South Freshman of the Year – joins Barnes on the all-conference team as one of only two underclassmen on the list. With the two Wisconsin natives being all-league selections, HPU and Liberty are the only two teams with multiple honorees.
“HPU is attracting high-level student-athletes and it’s great to see quality people such as Haley and Molly be recognized for their hard work,” Mendoza said. “They are both better teammates than they are players, so I’m sure they aren’t satisfied and are eager to start training with their team next week.”
Haley Barnes | Junior | Outside Hitter | Neenah, Wis.
Earned First Team All-Big South honors in 2015 after garnering a spot on the All-Freshman team in 2014 … is a two-time team captain … is the conference’s top returner with 3.34 kills per set in 2015 … placed second in the conference in points per set last year (3.82) … along with leading HPU in kills, she was second on the team in digs (2.94/set) … led the team with 30 aces.
Molly Livingston | Sophomore | Middle Blocker | Sun Prairie, Wis.
Was the 2015 Big South Freshman of the Year … garnered a spot on the Big South All-Freshman team … placed fifth in the league in hitting percentage (.356) … led the squad with 79 blocks and was fourth in kills with 1.98 kills per set … upped her totals to average 2.27 kills per set and 0.93 blocks per set during Big South action … was second on the team with 27 aces.
Player School Cl. Pos. Haley Barnes High Point Jr. OH Emma Weakland Winthrop Sr. Opp. Molly Livingston High Point Soph. MB Madison Vaughn UNC Asheville Sr. MB Maddi Palmer Radford Jr. OH Anna Wiley Liberty Jr. S Margaret Latchford Liberty Soph. L
PRESEASON COACHES’ POLL
Rank Team Points (1st)
1. High Point 76 (5)
2. Liberty 68 (2)
3. Radford 58 (1)
4. Campbell 53
5. Winthrop 48
6. UNC Asheville 41
7. Charleston So. 27 (1)
8. Gardner-Webb 21
9. Presbyterian 13