DURHAM, N.H.- The University of New Hampshire is the preseason favorite to repeat as America East volleyball champions, according to a vote of the conference's head coaches.

The Wildcats, which return five starters from last year's title team, received four of a possible eight first-place votes for a total of 60 points. Hofstra, which has won three of the last four titles, was picked second with one first place vote and 54 total points. Rounding out the top five were Northeastern (47), Delaware (41) and Towson (35).

UNH finished the 1998 campaign with an undefeated 14-0 record in conference play (24-11 overall) and earned the school's first-ever berth in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats return two first-team all conference players in junior setter Stacy Barnett (Crystal Lake, Ill.) and senior outside hitter co-captain Leisha Campbell (Oswego, N.Y.). Also returning is second-team all-conference selection Jillian Ross (Naperville, Ill.) and 1997 Player of the Year Bethany Cole (Canterbury, N.H.), who was forced to sit out all of last year with an injury.

The Wildcats begin the 1999 season Wednesday at Fairfield before hosting the UNH Tournament September 3-4 at Lundholm Gymnasium.

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