Suns Picked to Win 2018 GAC Volleyball Title

Great American Conference head coaches believe that Arkansas Tech University will repeat as conference volleyball champion in 2018.

The Golden Suns received 120 points and 10 first-place votes in a preseason poll released by the GAC office on Thursday, Aug. 2.

Harding University (2nd, 112 points) received the two remaining first-place votes.

Oklahoma Baptist University (3rd, 101 points), Northwestern Oklahoma State University (4th, 86 points), Southern Nazarene University (5th, 76 points), Southwestern Oklahoma State University (6th, 67 points), Ouachita Baptist University (7th, 64 points), Henderson State University (8th, 55 points), Southeastern Oklahoma State University (9th, 48 points), the University of Arkansas-Monticello (10th, 29 points), East Central University (T-11th, 17 points) and Southern Arkansas University (T-11th, 17 points) completed the poll.

Arkansas Tech completed the 2017 volleyball season with an overall record of 35-1 and a GAC mark of 16-0. The Golden Suns opened the season on a school-record 35-match winning streak, including a five-set victory over Harding in the GAC Tournament championship match to clinch an automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Tournament.

Along the way, the 2017 Golden Suns attained the highest national ranking (No. 8) in the history of ATU volleyball.

Nationally second-ranked Southwest Minnesota State University ended Tech’s season in the first round of the NCAA Division II Tournament Central Regional by defeating the Golden Suns 25-9, 25-20, 25-21.

All six starters and 13 members of the 2017 Tech volleyball team return in 2018, including All-America setter Amanda Milnick and 2017 NCAA Division II freshman of the year Lexie Johnston.

Milnick, a junior from Tahlequah, Okla., was GAC player and setter of the year last season. Johnston, a sophomore middle blocker from Nixa, Mo., captured GAC freshman of the year. All-GAC selections Hunter Eshnaur, Allie Anderson and Greer Rogers are also among the Golden Suns’ returnees.

Kera Dukic will make her debut at ATU head volleyball coach in 2018. She succeeds Kristy Bayer, who stepped down after 14 seasons to accept an athletic administration position at Emporia State University (Kan.).

Arkansas Tech will open the 2018 season in Warrensburg, Mo., at the Peggy Martin Challenge. Tech will face tournament host University of Central Missouri at 1 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 24, in its first match of the Dukic era.

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