Despite losing one of its best hitters, setters and liberos in school history to graduation, the Viterbo University women’s volleyball team heads into the season ranked No. 4 in the NAIA — its highest-ever preseason rank.
Viterbo ended last season ranked third with a 39-2 — its fourth consecutive 39-win season — and a third consecutive Final Four finish. The V-Hawks were ranked No. 2 heading into last year’s Final Four.
The NAIA, which released the preseason rankings Tuesday, does weekly polls throughout the season and the playoffs, including a final postseason ranking.
Heading into the Thursday’s season-opener at the Evangel Tip-off Classic in Springfield, Mo., Viterbo will have to replace its top hitter, setter and libero.
Amelia Grahn graduated the all-time leader in assists (5,177). Natalie Geidel finished her career last season, second all-time in the record books in kills (2,174). And Baylee Gross graduated fourth on the V-Hawks’ all-time digs record with 2,117.
Viterbo plays Evangel at 6 p.m. Thursday. On Friday, it plays 11th-ranked Midland and third-ranked Missouri Baptist.
The V-Hawks open at home the next weekend (Aug. 24-25) with the Holiday Inn Express preseason tournament.