Volleyball picked to finish ninth in Horizon League Preseason Poll


Volleyball was ranked ninth in the Horizon League’s preseason poll. Photo Credit: Colonial Sports Network

By Austin Bechtold, Contributor

After winning the 2019 Northeast Conference regular-season title with a 25-5 overall record including an astonishing 15-1 in conference play, the Robert Morris volleyball team has been picked to finish ninth in the 2021 Horizon League Preseason Coaches Poll.

The ranking, voted on by Horizon League coaches, comes as a surprise, due to the Colonials returning all but one member of the dominant 2019 team, with Lauren Kolenik graduating last year.

The Colonials place third from last with 43 points amongst only 11 teams in the conference, providing a potential chip on the shoulders for members of the program.

Wright State, winners of the 2019 Horizon League regular-season crown, finished first in the poll with 112 points and receiving five first-place votes. 2019 HLVB tournament champion Northern Kentucky was not far behind, receiving three first-place votes and finishing with 111 points, only one behind the Raiders. Green Bay, who was placed fourth, also received two first-place votes.

Robert Morris set a program-record with 15 wins in the NEC last season, with 25 overall victories under head coach Dale Starr ranking third all-time in RMU history. Starr, going into his 11th season as the leader of the program, was named the 2019 NEC Coach of the Year for his efforts.

The Colonials return seven seniors including 2019 unanimous NEC Player of the Year Emma Granger, 2019 All-NEC First Team selection Maria Alfano, and 2019 All-NEC Second Team member Whitney Brown. RMU’s middle blockers and setter, respectively, will once again guide the offense in hopes of reaching new heights in Horizon League competition.

Granger, one of the best players in team history, holds program records for single-match kills (26), single-season total blocks (160), and aces (174), and is on pace to shatter the block assists and total blocks program records. Fellow seniors poised to make an impact include Skylar Clements, Alyson Londot, Mirna Sarjanovic, and Erika Wilt.

Also back for the Colonials are juniors Alyssa Hudak, Emily Devlin, Nikolette Zanolli, and Megan Cannon, all key contributors to not only the success of the 2021 spring campaign but for the year prior as well. Allena Carmody returns as the only sophomore on the roster, with three freshmen, Emma Brown, Annie Monaco, and Abby Ryan looking to make their mark on the team in their first season on campus.

Robert Morris will attempt to prove the doubters within their own conference wrong and translate the success of the program in the NEC into similar feats in the Horizon League.