New Jersey Athletic Conference volleyball coaches see perennial championship contender Stockton University as the team to beat again this fall.

The Ospreys, who last year went undefeated in regular-season conference matches for the sixth time since 2010, were picked No. 1 in the NJAC preseason coaches poll released Friday. The league’s head coaches gave Stockton five of the nine first-place votes.

Stockton went 26-8 (8-0 NJAC) in 2018 and returns four all-conference players: defensive specialist Natalie Miller, setter Emily Sullivan, middle hitter Julie Kohlhoff and middle hitter Franceska Gustave.

Sullivan was a first-team selection, Kholhoff second team, and Miller and Gustave received honorable mentions. Miller is a senior, and Sullivan, Kohlhoff and Gustave are juniors.

The Ospreys have won nine NJAC titles and gone 338-123 overall in 13 seasons under coach Allison Walker.

Kean, which won the NJAC Tournament championship for the second straight season in 2018, was picked to finish second and received the other four first-place votes.

Following Kean in the coaches poll: Montclair State, Rowan (the dark horse), Ramapo, Rutgers-Newark, William Paterson, Rutgers-Camden and New Jersey City.

The 38th NJAC volleyball season will begin Aug. 30. The first conference matches are set for Sept. 17.

Stockton will open its season with four matches at the Cortland Red Dragon Classic. The Ospreys will face Cortland and Rochester on Aug. 30 and Oneonta and Nazareth on Aug. 31.

Six teams will advance to the NJAC Tournament that begins Nov. 5. The semifinals are scheduled for Nov. 7, and the championship match will be played two days later at the site of the higher seed. The NJAC Tournament champion will get a berth in the NCAA Division III Tournament.

Stockton lost to Montclair in the 2018 NJAC tourney semifinals.

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