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WKU's Sophia Cerino (23) serves the ball during a home game against North Texas on Friday, Oct. 19, 2018. This match was the Lady Toppers' third straight lost.

With the 2019 season set to start in two weeks, Conference USA released its Preseason Coaches’ Poll and Team on Thursday afternoon. 

In a vote by the 13 C-USA head coaches, WKU volleyball was predicted to finish in third place this year. The last time the Lady Toppers weren't picked as the preseason favorite was 2014, which was the program’s first year in C-USA. The team was picked to finish second that season.

Rice landed 11 first place votes, while Florida Atlantic and the Lady Toppers each received one. North Texas, Texas-San Antonio, Florida International, Charlotte and Southern Mississippi — the team the Lady Toppers fell to in the 2018 C-USA Tournament — rounded out the predicted postseason field.

Senior Sophia Cerino and sophomore Lauren Matthews were two of the 12 players selected to the Preseason All-Conference team after anchoring WKU's offense and defense, respectively, in 2018.

Cerino returns for her senior campaign after earning Second Team All-Conference honors from the league last year. Cerino led the Lady Toppers and C-USA with 45 service aces on the year while appearing in all 117 sets across 30 matches.

Matthews ended 2018 with an All-Freshman team nomination from C-USA. She appeared in 77 sets across 20 matches after missing nearly a month to start the year. Matthews concluded the season with 196 kills and 60 blocks, recording double-digit kills in eight games and at least three blocks in 10.

WKU head coach Travis Hudson, who is entering his 25th season at the helm of the Lady Topper program, will be looking for his 20th-straight 20-win campaign. Hudson's program is one of just five from around the country to collect at least 19 20-win seasons in a row.

WKU’s first match against another team will take place on Aug. 21, when the Lady Toppers head to Lexington, Kentucky, to face No. 7 Kentucky in an exhibition game at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School.

The Lady Toppers' official season opener is Aug. 30 against Loyola (Chicago) in the Toledo Blue & Gold Tournament in Toledo, Ohio.

Reporter Kaden Gaylord can be reached at 270-745-6291 and kaden.gaylord559@topper.wku.edu. Follow Kaden on Twitter at @_KLG3.

Kaden Gaylord is a sports reporter for the College Heights Herald. He currently covers the women's volleyball team and previously covered the baseball team.