Eagles Picked to Finish Second; Duo Named Preseason All-Conference
Friday, August 10, 2012 | by Mike Hill (@mike_hill84)

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU volleyball squad, led by 2011 Freshman of the Year Jill Hopper (Muncie, Ind./Yorktown HS) and Gigi Meyer’s (Gainesville, Fla./Buchholz HS) preseason All-Conference selections, was tabbed to finish second in the Atlantic Sun Conference preseason coaches’ poll, the league announced on Friday.

Lipscomb was predicted to finish first in the A-Sun and received six of 10 possible first-place votes in the poll, while ETSU earned three votes and FGCU picked up one first-place vote.

The Eagles were one of two schools to place multiple players on the preseason All-Conference team. Hopper and Meyer were joined by Lipscomb’s Kaycee Green, UNF’s Paige Pridgeon, Kennesaw State’s Sara Metroka and Camille Pedraza and the lone unanimous selection ETSU’s Megan Devine.

“I am pleased with the results of the preseason poll,” said head coach Dave Nichols. “I think it is really an affirmation of what a very young team did last year and the conference coaches recognizing that our core group of returners is very talented. I just hope our team realizes that we have a ton of work to do and that we need to improve in our consistency and focus if we want to finish at the top.”

The Eagles have boasted a player on the preseason team in each of the last five seasons. Former outside hitter Jelena Simic and libero Holly Youngquist received preseason honors in 2010 and 2011, former middle blocker Jacqueline Cowden was picked in 2009 and former outside hitter Ana Kokanovic and setter Roberta Santos earned honors in 2008.

Hopper shined in 2011, as she earned second team All-Conference honors and a unanimous All-Freshmen team selection to go with her Freshman of the Year award. The outside hitter appeared in 31 matches for the Eagles, leading the team in kills (377), killer per set (3.07), points (455.0) and service aces (47). She ranked 52nd in the nation in service aces per set (0.38) and also recorded double-digit kills on 24 occasions, including five or more 30 times.

“Jill worked really hard to be an elite player for us,” said Nichols. “She is a true competitor and wants the ball in pressure situations. As our go-to player last year she had an excellent rookie season, en route to earning A-Sun Freshman of the Year honors, and I expect her to continue to excel in that role. She has a lot of work ahead of her to become a more polished and focused player, but we are expecting big things from Jill in 2012.” 

Meyer had a solid rookie season where she earned All-Freshmen team honors. The setter, who appeared in all 31 matches last season, led the team and ranked fifth in the A-Sun with 9.05 assists per set. She recorded 1,050 assists and tallied 24 service aces, 204 digs and 24 kills on the season to rank first, third, fifth and ninth on the team, respectively. Meyer also registered 25 or more assists 23 times, including 50 or more four times.

“Gigi was a surprise to a lot of coaches and players last season,” Nichols said. “I don’t think people were aware of her toughness, decision making ability and her confidence in pressure situations. I know that Gigi is not satisfied and will continue to work to become the best setter in our conference.”

The 2012 edition of the Eagles returns 11 players, including five starters. FGCU also welcomes four newcomers to the program, including transfers Courtney Greenberg (Fort Myers, Fla./Fort Myers HS/Juniata College), Christine Pinder (Gainesville, Fla./Buchholz HS/Houston/Central Florida CC) and Karina Mambuca (Naples, Fla./Gulf Coast HS/Northeastern).

The Green and Blue will kick off the season on the road at the Florida Tournament (Aug. 24-25), where they will take on FAMU, FIU and host Florida. The Eagles open their home slate on Sept. 25 when they host A-Sun foe UNF, before welcoming ETSU and USC Upstate to Alico Arena on Sept. 28 and 29, respectively.

FGCU season tickets can be purchased in person at the Alico Arena ticket office or by phone at 239-590-7145. Tickets are also available at www.FGCUathletics.com/tickets. The FGCU ticket office is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday. An adult ticket for all 11 games is $35, while a youth (3-18 years) ticket is $17. Single game tickets can also be bought at $6 for adults and $3 for youth. Groups of 10+ can get in for $3 a person. FGCU students and faculty/staff get in free with their student ID.

2012 Volleyball Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team
Pos. Name (Class) School
OH *Megan Devine (Jr.) ETSU
OH Jill Hopper (So.) FGCU
S Gigi Meyer (So.) FGCU
S Sara Metroka (Jr.) Kennesaw State
L Camille Pedraza (Jr.) Kennesaw State
OH Kaycee Green (Sr.) Lipscomb
OH Paige Pridgeon (Sr.) North Florida
* Unanimous Choice
Preseason Player of the Year: Megan Devine, ETSU
Preseason Libero of the Year: Camille Pedraza, Kennesaw State
Preseason Fan-Voted Player of the Year: Kaycee Green, Lipscomb


2012 Atlantic Sun Volleyball Preseason Poll
Rank School (First Place Votes)
1. Lipscomb (6) 95
2. FGCU (1) 86
3. ETSU (3) 83
4. Kennesaw State 65
5. North Florida 61
6. Jacksonville 52
7. Mercer 38
8. Northern Kentucky 30
9. Stetson 25
10. USC Upstate 15
Tournament Champion: Lipscomb (5 Votes)
Fan-Predicted Regular Season Champions: Lipscomb