ANDERSON, S.C. – Anderson University volleyball standouts Shannon Gillespie, Hailey Pittman and Alix Hooker have earned Preseason All-South Atlantic Conference accolades, while the team has been predicted to finish fourth in the conference in a vote by the league’s coaches as released Monday morning by the conference office.
Gillespie, a 5-foot-10 outside hitter, and Pittman, a 5-foot-11 middle blocker, earned first-team accolades, while Hooker, a 5-foot-6 libero, garnered second-team honors.
Gillespie, who has seen action in every match during her three-year career with the Black and Gold, earns the honor after being named First-Team All-SAC following her junior campaign and collecting a second-team all-conference nod after her sophomore season.
The Fishers, Ind., native was named to the 2013 NCAA Southeast Region All-Tournament Team, as the Trojans captured their first-ever NCAA Tournament victory, while also earning Daktronics All-Southeast Region Team honors. Last season, Gillespie led the league and ranked 15th in the nation with her 4.05 kills per set average and was 21st nationally with 4.45 points per set, while leading the conference with 578 total points. She led the SAC with a school-record 526 kills on the season, while adding 449 digs, which was eighth in the SAC. Gillespie enters her senior season ranked seventh in school history with 1,193 career kills.
Pittman gains the all-conference distinction following a junior season that saw the Altamonte Springs, Fla. native collect Daktronics All-Southeast Region accolades after being named to the 2013 NCAA Southeast Region All-Tournament Team. She led the team and ranked fifth in the South Atlantic Conference with a .330 hitting percentage, which ranks third in the school record books for a single season. Pittman notched a team season-best .647 attack percentage in the four-set home win over Coker last October, collecting 12 kills in 17 attempts with just one error. She finished last season second on the team and second in the conference with 426 total kills, while her 3.28 kills per set average ranked seventh in the league. Defensively, she was second on the team with 75 total blocks and her 61 block assists during the campaign ranks 11th in the school record books.
Hooker earns the first preseason nod of her career after playing in every set a season ago. The Plant City, Fla. native led the team with a school record 670 digs during 2013, which was second in the conference. Her 5.15 digs per set was second in the SAC, ranked 39th in the nation and ranks second in the school record books for a single season. The energetic libero reached the 20-plus dig plateau on 14 occasions, while posting 30 or more digs in six matches. Hooker came up with a season-high 37 digs in the five set win past Tusculum in early October and also recorded four service aces in the road win at Carson-Newman.
“We are honored to have three players on the preseason all-conference team,” said Anderson head coach Craig Mosqueda. “I thought Alix proved last year that she belongs in that group and hopefully we can get one of our freshmen on the all-freshman team at the end of the year.”
On the heels of one of the most successful campaigns in school history and earning the first NCAA Tournament win in school history, the Trojans have been tabbed to finish fourth in the league. AU, which garnered 90 points in the poll, was picked to finish just ahead of Lenoir-Rhyne, which collected one first-place vote, and just behind Lincoln Memorial, while Wingate and Tusculum were tabbed to finish first and second, with 121 points and 99 points, respectively. The Trojans finished in a four-way tie for third a season ago after being picked to finish 10th, while posting a 19-15 overall record.
The Trojans return 10 letterwinners this season, with all of the returnees logging significant playing time last season.
“After our body of work last year during the season I was hoping we would be ranked higher than 10th like last year,” added Mosqueda. “We are honored to move up in the rankings. We know our conference is tough and we will have to work hard to compete on the conference. We will have some youth that will be playing like everyone else, but we have the majority of our starting lineup back, so we are excited about that.”
Anderson tips off the regular season with three matches at the Bellarmine Invitational on Sept. 5-6, beginning with the host Knights on that Friday at 7 p.m.
2014 SAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll
School (1st Place Votes) Points
Wingate (11) 121
Lincoln Memorial 94
Lenoir-Rhyne (1) 89
Mars Hill 38
2014 Volleyball Preseason All-South Atlantic Conference
Alison Cooke, Wingate
Haley Rhyne, Lenior-Rhyne
Lexi Potter, Wingate
Shannon Gillespie, Anderson
Hailey Pittman, Anderson
Susie Murach, Wingate
Rachel Harper, Carson-Newman
Casie Mense, Lincoln Memorial
Briana Gottberg, Lenoir-Rhyne
Megan Hasse, Tusculum
Kristen Pickett, Carson-Newman
Alix Hooker, Anderson
Cory McGowan, Wingate
Mary Kate Griffen, Mars Hill
Stephanie Tassone, Wingate
(Tie) Logan Hayward, Newberry
(Tie) Elizabeth Bialkowski, Queens