CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The University of New Hampshire volleyball team, led by 12th-year head coach Jill Hirschinger, was selected third in the 2007 America East Preseason Coaches Poll that was released Monday.

UNH received a total of 23 points to place behind UMBC (34 points; four first-place votes) and University at Albany (30; three), but ahead of Binghamton University (22), Stony Brook University (21), University of Maine (11) and the University of Hartford (6).

The top four teams in the league will advance to the America East Championship, which will be played Nov. 16-18 at the site of the highest seed. The winner of the tourney will receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats (11-16 overall, 6-6 America East in 2006) tied Stony Brook for fourth place in last year’s conference standings but missed the postseason due to the tiebreaker.

UNH’s young-but-talented team in 2007 returns six starters and boasts four of last year’s America East All-Rookie Team selections, including Alyse Lahti (Pepper Pike, Ohio), who led the team in digs and points. The ‘Cats will be led by senior outside hitter Emmy Blouin (St. Albert, Alberta), whose career-high 402 kills were a team best, as well as captains Toni Barnas (Cary, Ill.), Jessica Compton (Woodridge, Ill.) and Kate Uitti (Pinckney, Mich.).

New Hampshire opens the 2007 season Aug. 24 (7 p.m.) at Colgate University. The Wildcats play host to Bentley College on Aug. 28 (7 p.m.) in an exhibition match that will be broadcast on unhwildcats.tv. UNH’s regular-season home opener will be Sept. 14, when the ‘Cats play Syracuse University on the opening day of the UNH Tournament; tickets are available online at www.unhwildcats.com.

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