BOSTON-- The University of New Hampshire women's volleyball team was picked first in the America East conference coaches poll on Thursday, Aug. 29.

The Wildcats received four of a possible seven first-place votes and edged conference rival Northeastern University by two points with 46. Northeastern received three first place votes and tallied 44 points to capture second place in the poll. This is the fourth time in seven years that the Wildcats have been tabbed the America East preseason favorite heading into the year since head coach Jill Hirschinger arrived in 1996.

Hirschinger enters her seventh year as the head coach of the UNH volleyball program and the program enters its 18th year at the varsity level. During that time, she has posted 118 victories, which is most in school history, and she currently ranks 13th of the NCAA wins list with 527 career coaching wins.

Senior captain Lauren Knight (Centerville, Mass.) and junior outside hitter Alyson Coler (Monte Sereno, Calif.) return as the Wildcats' statistical leaders from the 2001 season. Knight, an America East honorable mention selection in 2001, ranked second on the 'Cats squad with 304 kills and ranked seventh in America East with a .277 hitting percentage. Coler, an All-Conference and All-Tournament selection last season, led the team with 429 kills and only needs 304 kills to become the school's third member of the 1,000 kill club.

The Wildcats return four of six starters from last year's team that owned a 18-9 overall record and a 11-3 mark in America East play.

UNH opens its season Friday, Aug. 30 with a 7 p.m. match vs. No. 13 ranked University of Utah in Salt Lake City. On Saturday, Aug. 31 the Wildcats face No. 12 University of the Pacific (10 a.m.) and at 5 p.m. they take on Murray State in their last game of the Utah Classic.

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