Volleyball voted second among nine programs in RRAC Preseason Poll

The 2021 Red River Athletic Conference (RRAC) Volleyball Preseason Poll has been released, and the OLLU volleyball team is ranked second, while new RRAC member Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA) has been picked first.

This ranking comes after the Saints won both the conference regular-season and tournament and made their fourth trip to nationals in the 2020 abbreviated season. The team has won five regular-season titles plus four tournament titles. The women had an undefeated conference season last year.

XULA, which edged out the Saints for the top ranking by one point, has won the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament championships in the past 10 years.

In the three previous matchups between OLLU and Xavier, the Saints have won 3-1 in 2016 and 3-2 and 3-0 in 2020.

The Saints will begin RRAC competition against Paul Quinn College (PQC) at home on Sept. 17 after they kick off the season with seven non-conference matches, including the OLLU ShinDig Tournament on Aug. 27-28.

OLLU will compete from the West Division with Huston-Tillotson University (HTU), PQC, the University of the Southwest (USW) and Wiley College (WC). The East Division is comprised of Jarvis Christian College (JCC), Louisiana College (LC), Texas College (TXC) and Xavier University of Louisiana (XULA).

The field for this season grew from three teams in 2020 to nine. Four schools that opted out last year (HTU, WC, TXC and PQC) are returning to play this fall, and the RRAC picked up Xavier and Louisiana College as new members. The RRAC returns to its normal fall schedule after playing in the spring and completing the conference’s championship tournament in March of this year. 

Head Coach Scott Mattera commented, “Preseason rankings are always an inexact science and this year more so than ever because so few teams played last year. We are excited to have the new additions to the conference and look forward to great new friendly rivalries. Xavier especially is exciting because they are coming off a conference championship as well and New Orleans is always a fun city to visit.”

Mattera addressed the 2021 squad saying, “I’m honestly not sure where to rank us in the preseason seeing as we lost a lot of firepower from last year. I do know that I like what we have returning and our new additions. The energy in our gym and the ‘buy-in’ to our philosophies are fantastic. The big question is how soon will that translate into on-court performance? Returning Sadie Ballesteros (JR/Atascosa, Texas) and Tijana Kruta (SR/Bar, Montenegro) in the middle is a big deal and while our back row graduated two starters, we have a lot of players with significant experience to hold it down back there. Cassidy Haller (SO/Cibolo, Texas) was named RRAC Freshman of the Year last season, and she coming back after her health issues could be huge for us. Breaking in a new setter is always something you worry about, but Madelynn Strzelczyk (SO/Marion, Texas) did a great job last year in a backup role, and she’s ready to take the reins. If we can get solid production from our outsides and stay healthy, we should be a fun team to watch!”

XULA, which joined the RRAC from the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference (GCAC) this year, earned four first-place votes to OLLU’s two. HTU picked up two first-place votes as well and is ranked third. WC took fourth and USW, which is picked to finish fifth, earned one top selection. JCC placed sixth in the poll, followed by LC, TXC and PQC.

Voting was conducted by head coaches at the conference. Results of the poll are shown below with points calculated through a 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 format.

First-place votes are shown in parentheses.
 

1.Xavier University of Louisiana (4)70
2.Our Lady of the Lake University (2)69
3.Huston-Tillotson University (2)61
4.Wiley College59
5.University of the Southwest (1)45
6.Jarvis Christian College34
7.Louisiana College32
8.Texas College19
9.Paul Quinn College16