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SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- The Sacramento State volleyball team was selected to finish sixth among 11 teams in the Big Sky Conference's preseason coaches poll today.

Previously a nine-member league, the Big Sky will expand to 11 teams this year with the addition of members North Dakota and Southern Utah. In addition, the top six teams at the end of the regular season will advance to the Big Sky Tournament after four teams reached the league's postseason event the last three seasons.

Defending conference champion Northern Colorado was picked first in the poll with 99 points and nine first-place votes, followed by Portland State (88 votes, 1 first place), Eastern Washington (71), North Dakota (70 points, 1 first place), Montana (62), Sacramento State (61), Idaho State (48), Northern Arizona (33), Southern Utah (30), Weber State (24) and Montana State (19).

Last year's Sacramento State squad finished third place in the final league standings with a 10-6 conference record, the best mark since the 2007 season. The Hornets return nine players from last season's team, including three starters (senior outside hitter Janelle Currey, junior rightside hitter Kayla Beal and junior setter Hannah Hettinga).

Also back in 2012 are senior outside hitter Jessie Genger, senior defensive specialist Sydney Kordic, senior middle blocker Olivia Moss and junior setter Katie Aprile. Each of the seven players that received time on the court last year had substantial playing roles. In addition, two players that took a redshirt last year (senior setter Alex Diemer and sophomore middle blocker Ashley Newcomb) will be back. Currey and Genger will share the team captain role. The Hornets also welcome six newcomers to the fold in 2012, two of which transferred from Div. I institutions.

Sacramento State began its summer practice schedule last week, and will open the season at a two-day, three-match tournament in Charleston, S.C., on Aug. 24. The Hornets will take on tournament host College of Charleston on Aug. 24, and both North Carolina State and Jacksonville on Aug. 25.

Team - Points (First Place Votes)
1. Northern Colorado - 99 (9)
2. Portland State - 88 (1)
3. Eastern Washington - 71
4. North Dakota - 70 (1)
5. Montana - 62
6. Sacramento State - 61
7. Idaho State - 48
8. Northern Arizona - 33
9. Southern Utah - 30
10. Weber State - 24
11. Montana State - 19