(Posted August 21, 2007)

LEXINGTON, Ky.- Coming off a stellar 41-1 campaign, matching the school record for fewest losses in a season, and the programs\' second-ever national championship, veteran mentor Larry Bock\'s Juniata College Eagles are poised to repeat in 2007. Juniata, who remains the only school to appear in all 26 NCAA Division III Championships, begins a fresh season as the nation\'s top vote-getter according the CSTV/AVCA Preseason Coaches Top 25 Poll, released by the AVCA headquarters Tuesday afternoon. Juniata, who has now earned a No. 1 ranking 49 times since the poll\'s inception, will rely on the power of junior outside hitter Amber Thomas and the guidance of junior setter Beth Kozak to keep the Eagles\' firepower going in 2007. Thomas was an AVCA First Team All-American and named the Most Outstanding Player at the NCAA Championships last year, while Kozak garnered Honorable Mention AVCA All-American accolades and earned a spot on the NCAA Championships All-Tournament a season ago. After breezing through 2006 with a 35-8 record, a NCAC Championship and its second consecutive appearance in the NCAA Final Four, Wittenberg University begins 2007 two spots ahead of its No. 4 final ranking a year ago. Tigers\' mentor Paco Labrador won\'t be shortchanged with depth or experience on his roster, as 19 letterwinners, along with all six starters and the libero, return in hopes of earning the program\'s first appearance in the Division III title bout. Wittenberg will rely heavily on its pair of talented outside hitters, senior Emily Bell and junior Jackie Williams to ignite the offense. Bell, a 2006 AVCA Honorable Mention All-American, and Williams, a 2006 AVCA All-Region player, aim to lead the Tigers to their 10th final top-20 finish in the last 11 years. The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater is no stranger to postseason action, as taskmaster Stacy Boudreau\'s Warhawks have earned fourteen consecutive NCAA Division III Tournament berths. After capturing national titles in both 2002 and 2005, UW-Whitewater ended last year\'s campaign with a 37-7 record and a final national ranking of third, which is there they begin the 2007 season. Returning will be a wealth of talent and experience with 14 letterwinners and all six starters, including two AVCA All-Americans, back for another go-around. Figuring to be the go-to players will be a pair of juniors, Carley Polk and Rebekah Nelson. Polk earned a spot on the 2006 AVCA Second Team All-America in 2006 from the middle blocker position, while Nelson, an outside hitter, garnered AVCA Third Team All-America status. Chomping at the bit is Washington University in St. Louis, who after ending the 2006 campaign as the NCAA Runners-up, dropping its only two contests of the season to title winner Juniata, rings in 2007 in the No. 4 spot. The Bears are eager to continue building their collection of an NCAA Division III record eight national championships, having hoisted the last trophy in 2003. They will return five starters and 13 letterwinners to head coach Rich Luenemann\'s sideline. Wash U. will welcome back two All-Americans to anchor the line-up, led by junior AVCA First Team All-American setter Audra Janak. Junior right side/opposite Nikki Morrison, a 2006 AVCA Third Team All-American selection, joins Janak and the rest of the defending UAA champions in their quest to bring title number nine back to St. Louis in November. Rounding out the top-five in the preseason poll is Emory University, who has now been ranked a total of 60 times since the poll\'s inception. The Eagles are fresh off a 28-11 campaign, where they earned their 11th straight berth in the NCAA Tournament, and ended the season ranked No. 10 in the final CSTV/AVCA Division III Coaches Top 25 Poll. Coach Jenny McDowell\'s squad is also full of experience, as 14 letterwinners, including all six starters, return. Paving the way for the Eagles will be senior middle blocker Janet Bunning, who was an AVCA First Team All-American last year, as well as sophomore outside hitter Alysse Meyer, an AVCA Third Team All-American and AVCA Freshman of the Year in 2006. In addition, fifth-year senior Courtney Rose returns as an outside hitter, after missing the 2006 season due to a knee injury. Rose\'s return will be significant, as she was the 2005 AVCA National Player of the Year prior to her injury. The first CSTV/AVCA Division III Coaches Top 25 Poll of the regular season will be released Tuesday, September 11. CSTV/AVCA Division III Coaches Top 25 Poll 2007 PRESEASON POLL: August 21, 2007 (First place votes in parentheses) 1. Juniata (14) - 572 pts. 2. Wittenberg (6) - 566 3. Wisconsin-Whitewater (2) - 542 4. Washington (Mo.) (1) - 531 5. Emory (1) - 517 6. La Verne - 468 7. Trinity (Texas) - 446 8. Carthage - 412 9. Wisconsin-Oshkosh - 382 10. Calvin - 356 11. St. Thomas (Minn.) - 348 12. Concordia (Minn.) - 322 13. Rhodes - 256 14. Austin - 234 15. Ohio Northern - 225 16. Capital - 203 17. Redlands - 193 18. Wisconsin-Eau Claire - 185 19. Southwestern (Texas) - 159 20. NYU - 130 21. Cal Lutheran - 113 22. Pacific Lutheran - 105 23. Stevens - 100 24. Linfield - 74 25. Coast Guard - 49 Others Receiving Votes and listed on two or more ballots: Hiram 39; Puget Sound 32; St. Benedict (Minn.) 31; MIT 29; Central (Iowa) 25; Wisconsin-Stevens Point 25; Colorado College 22; Wisconsin-Platteville 21; Endicott 10; Nazareth 10; Millikin 8; Gustavus Adolphus 7; Illinois Wesleyan 6; SUNY Cortland 6; Washington & Lee 6; Haverford 5; Mount Union 2. Six schools were listed on only one ballot for a total of 28 points. Next Poll : September 11, 2007 ###

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