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Shelby Bretschneider of Midland hits a spike past Anna Lund and Tara Callahan of Concordia during a Great Plains Athletic Conference match last season. Bretschneider is a returning starter for the Lady Warriors. 

Midland University is picked to finish fourth in the Great Plains Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches’ Volleyball Poll that was released Thursday.

Dordt, the runner-up at the 2017 national tournament, is the favorite to win the GPAC. The Defenders received 10 first-place votes and tallied 120 points. Northwestern received the other two first-place votes and is second with 110 points. Hastings is third with 98 points while the Warriors are next with 96.

Despite battling injuries, including a nagging foot problem to All-American setter Jessica Peters, the Lady Warriors competed at nationals for the fifth straight year in 2017. In doing so, they also advanced to the Round of 16 for the third straight season.

Midland finished 21-11 last year and return the core of its team, including Peters, All-American middle blocker Priscilla O’Dowd, sophomore middle blocker Sydney Morehouse, right side hitter Shelby Bretschneider and outside hitter Jenny Bair.

“I’m very excited to get back on the court,” said Bair, a senior from Clarinda, Iowa. “We have a strong nucleus back. It will be very exciting to see how some of the newer girls fit in with the ones we have coming back.”

The Lady Warriors did lose libero Jessica Nekl from last year’s squad.

“Obviously we’re going to miss Jess, but we have some younger players that have experience,” Bair said. “We have a really competitive team this year. We have depth and we’ll all be fighting for playing time, but we also have one common goal. That is to make it back to nationals and see what we can do there.”

The rest of the poll includes: Doane, fifth with 70; Jamestown, sixth with 67; Morningside, seventh with 64; Concordia, eighth with 50; Briar Cliff, ninth with 42; College of Saint Mary, 10th with 31; Dakota Wesleyan, 11th with 26; and Mount Marty, 12th with 18.

The Lady Warriors begin their season Aug. 16 against Missouri Baptist University in Springfield, Missouri. Midland’s first home game will be at 7 p.m. Aug. 22 against Peru State.

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