By Brian Roe, Sports Writer
The volleyball team heads into the 2004 season ranked No. 28 in the nation, according to the CSTV/AVCA Division II Coaches Top 25 Preseason Poll. ACU has never been ranked in the nation’s top 25, but it’s believed the No. 28 rank is the highest in school history.
The Wildcats reap the pre-season poll benefits because of a successful 2003 campaign when the team reached the postseason and posted a record of 25-11 during the regular season.
Brek Horn, the reigning Lone Star Conference South Division Coach of the Year, enters her sixth season as head coach with an overall record of 114-57. Her .667 winning percentage is the best in school history.
Horn, who has led the Wildcats to postseason play in four of the last five years, said she’s happy people are beginning to recognize the ACU volleyball program.
“It’s a nice compliment, but it doesn’t mean anything until we prove we really are worth the national ranking by winning games and beating good teams,” Horn said.
Junior outside hitter Michelle Bernhardt was chosen as the LSC South Division Preseason Player of the Year. Last year, Bernhardt recorded 623 kills and 402 digs to help ACU finish second with a 7-3 record in the LSC South Division.
“I told Michelle about being named Preseason Player of the Year, and she said it doesn’t really mean anything,” Horn said. “Michelle isn’t worried about herself; she’s worried about the team and winning a conference championship.”
ACU returns six starters, including Bernhardt, junior setter Lindsey Martin, junior middle blocker Amanda Slate and senior libero Kellen Morrow. Horn said the returning players’ development and maturation is critical to the team’s success.
“It’s crucial that the returning players step up,” she said. “They have the experience, and if they are not maturing, then how can we expect the new kids to? They have to step up-there’s just no other option.”
The Wildcats begin this season in Canyon Aug. 27-28 at the First General Service West Texas A&M Lady Buff Classic. ACU will compete against Western New Mexico, New Mexico Highlands, Adams State and Metro State in the tournament.
“Western New Mexico is the only one that is not a regional match,” Horn said. “We wanted to play them first to try and get the first-match jitters out of the way. Metro State is a nationally ranked team, so that will be a big match. I’m curious to see how they will challenge us.”
Horn said her goal this year is to win the LSC championship and advance to the regional tournament.
“On paper we look good, but the games aren’t played on paper, they are played on the court,” Horn said.