Aug. 12, 2001
In the annual preseason poll of Conference USA head volleyball coaches, the University of Houston was picked to finish tied for third among the 14 teams that will compete for the 2001 league championship. Cougar senior Jennifer Wittenburg meanwhile had the distinction of being one of six conference players selected by the coaches to the C-USA all-preseason team the league office announced.
The Cougars tied for third in the poll with South Florida. Louisville, which returns five starters and 11 letterwinners overall, was selected as the preseason favorite. Cincinnati was tabbed for second place. The four teams picked for the top four spots in 2001 all advanced to the NCAA Tournament last season, including UH with a 21-11 record. Houston is one of only 12 schools in the nation that can claim a streak of 10-straight NCAA bids.
Wittenburg, an outside hitter from nearby Cy Falls High School in Houston, was granted a sixth season of eligibility by the NCAA after enduring a number of injuries throughout her collegiate career. She was named First Team All C-USA in 2000 after finishing the season as one of two players in the country ranked among the Top 20 in the nation in both kills and digs per game. There is a chance Wittenburg will be joined by as many as five new starters in the Cougar lineup when the season begins at the Rice Invitational on August 31.
The addition of TCU and East Carolina to Conference USA brings the volleyball membership to 14 teams, which will now compete in one division. The teams play a 16-match schedule, single round robin (13 matches), with each team meeting its "traditional rival" twice and two additional teams twice.
2001 CONFERENCE USA PRESEASON POLL
1. Louisville (26-8, 12-4 in 2000)
2. Cincinnati (24-10, 14-2)
3. Houston (21-11, 11-5)
3. South Florida (28-6, 15-1)
5. DePaul (21-12, 10-6)
6. Tulane (17-17, 8-8)
7. TCU (15-18, 6-8 WAC)
8. Saint Louis (13-18, 6-10)
9. Marquette (13-17, 7-9
10. Charlotte (14-18, 7-9)
11. Memphis (13-20, 3-13)
12. Southern Miss (12-19, 4-12)
13. East Carolina (17-13, 7-5 CAA)
14. UAB (6-24, 0-16)
Michelle Collier, South Florida*, Stephanie Bishop, DePaul, Colleen Hunter, Saint Louis, Stacey Mercer, Louisville, Bonita Wise, Cincinnati, Jennifer Wittenburg, Houston * Preseason Player of the Year