FLC volleyball must contend with the East

There’s a two-headed powerhouse atop the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference East Division, while Fort Lewis College volleyball was picked to finish fifth in the RMAC West.

A familiar face was named the RMAC Preseason Setter of the Year, too.

Metro State and Colorado School of Mines, both nationally ranked in Tuesday’s American Volleyball Coaches Association Top 25 Preseason Poll, each received seven first-place votes to win the RMAC in the conference’s preseason poll.

Metro State, ranked 13th nationally, received 20 points overall as the team to beat in the RMAC. Colorado Mines, which will start the season in a two-way tie for 25th nationally, received 21 points as the No. 2 team in the RMAC.

Adams State, behind Bayfield High School alumna Gabriella Rifilato, was picked to win the West.

FLC was picked fifth in the West and 10th overall in the 14-team conference.

“We have a solid core of returners coming back this season,” FLC ninth-year head coach Shelly Aaland said in a news release. “We also added some freshmen impact players who will see immediate action. I am expecting us to improve upon our finish from last year and compete again at the level we’re accustomed to.”

FLC finished its 2011 season 5-21 overall and 2-16 in the RMAC. Before last year’s campaign, FLC posted winning records four out of five years. The Skyhawks reached the NCAA Tournament twice, and they shared the RMAC crown in 2007.

Colorado Mines swept the offensive and defensive preseason player of the year honors: Jackie Stabell, a 6-foot senior outside hitter, was named the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year; Hannah Margheim, a 5-9 junior defensive specialist/libero, was named the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.

Rifilato, the daughter of FLC assistant football coach Ed Rifilato and BHS head volleyball coach Kelley Rifilato, was named the preseason setter her second year in the RMAC. She transferred to Adams State after a year at North Idaho College.

Rifilato led the RMAC in service aces and finished third in assists last season.

Stabell was joined on the Preseason All-Conference Team by Lauren Quijano, a sophomore right-side hitter from Metro State; Dominique Davis, a senior outside hitter from Adams State; Angelina Pulu, a junior outside hitter from Western New Mexico; Nikki Kinzer, a senior middle blocker from UC-Colorado Springs; Andi Weber, a senior middle blocker from Colorado Christian; and Alysa Heath, a junior outside hitter from Metro State.

Regis was picked to finish third in the conference, then Adams State, Western New Mexico, Colorado Christian, UC-Colorado Springs, Colorado Mesa and CSU-Pueblo. After FLC, Western State was picked 11th, N.M. Highlands 12th, Chadron State 13th and RMAC newcomer Black Hills State 14th.

heraldsports@ durangoherald.com