MOUNT VERNON – Midwest Conference volleyball coaches pegged Cornell as the clear-cut favorite to win its third consecutive MWC championship.
The Rams gained 10 first-place votes for a maximum 100 total points in the 2014 MWC Volleyball Preseason Coaches' Poll released Friday. St. Norbert earned the other first-place vote in the 11-team league. Coaches cannot vote for their own teams.
Carroll is picked to finish second with 86 points, just ahead of St. Norbert in third with 84. Lake Forest is fourth with 69 points, followed by Ripon (63), Monmouth (53), Lawrence (52), Grinnell (38), Beloit (22), Illinois College (22) and Knox (16).
Cornell, ranked No. 24 in the AVCA Division III Preseason Coaches' Top 25 Poll, rolled through the conference last season without dropping a set to claim its second straight MWC regular-season and tournament titles.
The Rams are 72-3 in sets played against MWC foes since rejoining the league in 2012.
Cornell brings back plenty of firepower with five returning senior starters, anchored by a pair of three-time all-conference performers in libero Kylea Weber and middle blocker Taylor Dicus. Katie Sickelka and Sabrina Hargis are also past all-MWC honorees.
The Rams start preseason practices Saturday, Aug. 16. The team opens competition at the Augustana Tournament Aug. 29-30 in Rock Island, Ill.