ST. PAUL - The Martin Luther College volleyball team was picked to finish fourth in the preseason poll released by the Upper Midwest Athletic Conference on Monday.
MLC finished last season with a record of 18-13 overall and took third place in the UMAC with a conference record of 10-4.
The Knights return 10 players with experience from last season, led by 2011 First Team All-UMAC performers Rachel Hein and Rebecca Engelbrecht. Hein led the team with 123 blocks from her middle hitter position and also tied for the team lead in kills with 232, while Engelbrecht finished the season with a team-best 2.89 kills per game in 2011.
Joining Hein and Engelbrecht up front will be returning players Rachel Larson and Heather Danell, each looking to help fill the void left by departed seniors Emily Boldt and Katelyn Hauf.
Also returning this season will be 2011 co-Rookie of the Year in the UMAC Miranda Maasz, who finished last season with 949 assists and 265 digs.
In the back row, senior Jennifer Draeger returns at libero after leading the team with 364 digs last season, while sophomores MacCartney Mendolla and Alex Anthon also return after strong freshman campaigns in 2011.
Northwestern finished first in the preseason poll with 48 total points and six out of a possible seven first-place votes. St. Scholastica finished second with 42 points and two first place votes, while the University of Minnesota, Morris took third with 38 points. MLC received 31 points.
Rounding out the poll were Bethany Lutheran in fifth (25 points), Crown in sixth (18 points), Northland in seventh (14 points) and North Central University in eighth (seven points).