FRISCO – The Sam Houston State Bearkat volleyball team has been picked to finish third in the Southland Conference race as league officials unveiled the predicted order of finish on Monday.

The poll includes rankings of all 13 schools by both the coaches and the sports information directors with each school unable to vote for itself. Sam Houston was selected to finish third in the league behind two-time defending league champion Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Stephen F. Austin, despite being the only team other than the Islanders to garner first-place votes.

Coach Brenda Gray’s group collected 230 points and three first-place votes, while the Islanders were chosen as the clear favorite once again with 286 points and 23 of a possible 26 first-place votes. SFA was picked second with 246 points, while Houston Baptist came in one spot behind the Kats with 219.

Central Arkansas, Abilene Christian and Northwestern State were the next three in order, followed by UIW, McNeese and Lamar to close out the predicted top 10. Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls and New Orleans closed out the voting.

The Kats return plenty of firepower from a year ago when they finished third in the regular season before advancing to the championship match of the Southland Conference Tournament. Senior outside hitters Jordyn Vaughn and Brooke White were each, along with junior middle blocker Taylor Cunningham were all named to the preseason all-SLC first team. They are three of four returning starters for the Kats, along with middle blocker Amanda Gooch who finished third in the league in hitting percentage as a sophomore.

Sam Houston will kick off its 2017 campaign on August 25 in College Station when they battle Texas State and Texas A&M on the first day of the Texas A&M Invitational.

Southland Conference Preseason Poll
1. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi (23)
2. Stephen F. Austin 
3. Sam Houston State (3)
4. Houston Baptist 
5. Central Arkansas
6. Abilene Christian
7. Northwestern State
8. UIW
9. McNeese
10. Lamar
11. Southeastern La.
12. Nicholls
13. New Orleans