TAMPA, Fla. – The University of Tampa climbs the AVCA Division II coaches poll two spots to No. 4, as announced by the association office, Monday. This is the Spartans first top five rank since week 12 of the 2015 season.
The Spartans' 23-1 start is the best since the 2014 season. The 2014 team also kicked off the year with a 23-1 start and went on to finish 34-1 concluding the season as national champions. The Spartans started this season unranked after falling out of the poll for the first time in 21 years in week 1 of the 2017 season.
This past week, the Spartans went 3-0 at the 2018 South Region Crossover. They defeated both the Valdosta State Blazers and the Lee University Flames in four sets before going on to succeed in a five-set thriller against the No. 12 University of West Florida Argonauts. Due to their outstanding performances on the court, both Katie McKiel and Sorrel Houghton earned spots on the 2018 South Region Crossover All-Tournament team. Additionally, Houghton earned the Sunshine State Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors.
Tampa leads the SSC in hitting percentage (.278), assists (13.53 per set), and kills (14.31 per set). The offensive prowess is a lot in part to the sophomore duo, Sorrel Houghton and Katie McKiel, who are stride for stride with one another so far this season. Houghton has 334 kills and a .280 kill percentage and McKiel has 328 kills and a .249 kill percentage. The two are third and fifth respectively in the SSC in kills. Junior middle blocker Taylor Fosler has also been crucial to the Spartans success and is currently first in the conference with a .417 kill percentage. Additionally, the Ocala, Florida native has 338 kills of her own. Defensively this season, Nicole Dominguez has found a new role on the court as libero. The junior out of Apopka, Florida currently sits with 368 digs averaging 4.04 per set and is 8th in the SSC. The Spartans have also valued newcomer Claudia Rivera at the DS position. Rivera has 205 digs in her rookie season, averaging 2.30 digs per set. Sammy Mueller quarterbacks the Spartans at the setting position. For her junior campaign, she has recorded 914 assists, averaging 10.04 per set, 4th in the SSC. The Gainesville, Florida native has stated 14 double-doubles on the season with 261 digs. Finally, the glue to Tampa's roster this season has been sophomore Melissa Elias. Elias recently became the first Spartan in program history to earn a triple-double, in addition to having nine other double-doubles this season.
Reigning national champions, Concordia-St. Paul, return to No.1, followed by Western Washington and Cal State Bernardino at No. 2 and No. 3 respectively. Tampa moves up in the poll to No. 4 followed by Northern State rounding out the top five.
UT returns to conference play this week with three matches. First, the Spartans will take the road traveling to Winter Park, Florida to take on the Rollins College Tars. This game will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday night. Tampa will then host the Nova Southeastern Sharks, and the Palm Beach Atlantic Sailfish on Friday and Saturday at 7:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. respectively.
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