By Karen Allen
ROME — The Lady Hawks enter the 2017 season as the GSC coaches’ pick to finish third; while, a breakout season last year for Tiffani Estep earned the senior a preseason all- GSC selection.
Shorter, who finished 22-7 with a 17-3 conference mark last year, looks to continue the success they’ve seen since joining NCAA DII and the GSC in 2014. During that span, the team has won two regular season titles, including last season when they tied with the University of West Florida for the top spot entering the conference tournament. Shorter also looks to maintain their dominant play at home, bringing a 15-game unbeaten mark at the Winthrop-King Centre with them into 2017, where they posted an 11-0 mark in 2016.
Estep finished her junior campaign first on the team in blocks with 111 (28 solo, 83 assisted), and second in kills with 261. Earning a first team All-GSC nod for the first time in her career.
Along with Estep, three of Shorter’s top four attackers return from last season in Madeline Munroe (218 kills) and Kelsi Jones (146 kills). Cheyenne McLemore returns to anchor the back row for the Lady Hawks, posting a team high 439 digs in 2016.
Notably missing from the lineup in 2017 will be three-time first team All-GSC selection Elizabeth Dowd, who led the team in kills with 318, was second in digs (405) and aces (26), and fourth in blocks with 49 last year. Also gone is Cheyenne Frady, who finished first on the team and third in the GSC in service aces with 42 in 2016 along with 664 assists.
North Alabama was the preseason favorite to finish first, receiving nine of the possible 13 first place votes for 141 points. West Florida came in second with 136 points, including the remaining four first place votes. Shorter rounded out the top three with 118 total points, ahead of Valdosta State in fourth with 100 points.
The Lady Hawks officially open the season Sept. 1 when they travel to Charlotte, NC to take part in the annual Queens University Fall Invitational.
Shorter’s first home game comes Sept. 6, when they face Southern Wesleyan at 7 p.m.
Shorter opens conference play on the road Sept. 19 at Alabama-Huntsville before a weekend clash at Union and Christian Brothers on September 22 and 23, respectively.