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Bemidji St. vollebyall 11th in NSIC poll

ST. PAUL -- On Monday, the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Volleyball Coaches' Poll was released.

Bemidji State was picked to finish 11th in the 14-team conference.

The Beavers finished last season in 13th place after posting a 7-25 overall record and a 3-17 NSIC record.

Concordia-St. Paul is first in the poll after winning the NCAA National Championship the past two seasons. Golden Bear senior setter Maggie McNamara was voted the preseason player of the year.

"We have a lot to prove and our players know it," Bemidji State head coach Laurie Bitter said. "We had a great spring. The girls are focused and ready to go. We had testing today and all our athletes improved on their vertical and the mile. I'm ready to move up the polls this year and I know the team is too."

BSU sophomore setter Courtney Bitter was named an NSIC Player to Watch. Bitter led the team in assists with 884 in her freshman campaign, posting an 8.58 assists per game average. She also led the team in games played (103) and was second in digs per game with a 2.45 average.

The Beavers began fall drills with their first two-a-day practices on Tuesday.

"We are more athletic (this season)," Laurie Bitter said. "When the team is more athletic there is more competition and I am already seeing that. The athletes came in shape and focused. This is my first fall where I am relaxed as a coach because the athletes know what I want."

The Beavers are returning nine players from last season, including four starters, while welcoming four student-athletes.

BSU begins play Aug. 28-29 at the University of Nebraska at Kearney Fall Classic in Kearney, Neb., where the team will play four matches. The Beavers first home match is Sept. 18, opening the conference season with a contest against Minnesota State University Moorhead at 7 p.m.

2009 Preseason Coaches Poll

1. Concordia (13) 169

2. Minn.-Duluth 145

3. MSU, Mankato (1) 143

4. Wayne State 128

5. Southwest 125

6. Augustana 122

7. MSU, Moorhead 99

8. Winona State 82

9. St. Cloud State 65

10. Northern State 64

11. Bemidji State 44

12. Minn.-Crookston 43

13. Upper Iowa 26

14. U-Mary 23

(First place votes in parentheses)