Coastal favored to repeat; Hardeman nets top honor

The Coastal Carolina volleyball team was voted to defend its Sun Belt Conference title, it was announced Monday as the league released the results of its preseason poll. The Chanticleers led the conference poll with a maximum of 72 points after garnering first-place votes from all 12 member institutions.

In addition, senior outside hitter Leah Hardeman was named the Sun Belt Preseason Offensive Player of the Year. It is the second straight season that Hardeman is earning the preseason award, as she and Arkansas State’s Carlisa May shared the honor prior to the 2016 campaign.

Last season, Hardeman claimed Sun Belt Player of the Year and Sun Belt Tournament Most Outstanding Player honors. She also became the first Chanticleer to earn AVCA All-Region honors in consecutive years. Hardeman closed last season ranked second in the Sun Belt in kills per set, fifth in aces per set and ninth in hitting percentage. The Clarkston, Ga., native enters her senior season ranked fifth among Coastal’s all-time kills leaders, and is 492 kills shy of matching the program record of 1,807.

South Alabama finished second behind Coastal in the Sun Belt East Division with 51 points. Georgia Southern (43) and Georgia State (37) were picked to finish third and fourth, respectively. Appalachian State (30) and Troy (19) rounded out the East Division.

In the West, last year’s division winner Arkansas State was picked first with 71 points after receiving 11 first-place votes. Texas State took second place with 57 points, followed by UTA in third with 50 points. Little Rock’s 34 points were good enough for fourth place, while Louisiana (28) and ULM (12) took the division’s fifth and sixth spots.

Rounding out the conference’s preseason awards were ULM’s Kacey Leblanc as Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, and Texas State’s Erin Hoppe as Preseason Setter of the Year.

Coastal begins its Sun Belt title defense on Aug. 25 when it opens with a neutral-site match versus UTSA in Fort Worth, Texas.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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