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Millikin's Emily Seegmiller is part of a group returning for the Big Blue volleyball team, which was picked to finish third in the CCIW preseason poll.

NAPERVILLE — Defending College Conference of Illinois & Wisconsin (CCIW) champion Millikin was chosen to finish third this year in the conference preseason volleyball coaches' poll announced Tuesday.

The Big Blue won its third straight regular season title (second straight outright title) and seventh overall title last season, followed by its second straight NCAA Division III Volleyball Tournament appearance. Millikin (29-8, 8-0 CCIW) advanced to the regional semifinal last season, joining Illinois Wesleyan and Carthage in helping the CCIW go 3-0 in the first round.

Millikin finished behind Illinois Wesleyan and Carthage in the preseason poll, with 47 points.

Wesleyan (23-8, 6-2) won the poll with 61 points and five first place votes following last year's second-place tie with Carthage in the CCIW standings. Illinois Wesleyan qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years last season, with the Titans advancing to the regional semifinal round.

Carthage (27-9, 6-2) was second in the poll with 60 points and four first-place votes following its third NCAA appearance in four years. Last season, Carthage advanced to the regional final for the seventh time in program history and third time in the last four years. The Reds earned the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA postseason with their 10th CCIW Tournament title in program history.

Elmhurst (10-19, 5-3) was fourth with 44 points, while Augustana (14-15, 3-5) was fifth with 32 points, followed by North Central (12-7, 3-5) in sixth (29 points) and North Park (16-14, 3-5) in seventh (24 points). Carroll (11-20, 1-7) (15 points) and Wheaton (4-21, 1-7) (12 points) rounded out the poll.

Voting is done by the CCIW's head volleyball coaches. Each coach votes for the eight other schools in the conference in order of predicted finish. Points are assigned in reverse order of voting (eight points for first, seven for second, etc.). Coaches do not vote for their own teams.

The CCIW volleyball season begins Friday, Aug. 31. Millikin, which returns several players from last year including Maddie Holland, Marissa McElroy, Rose Syversen and Emily Seegmiller, will open its season on Aug. 31 against Elizabethtown College and the University of Puget Sound at the Pacific Sound Premier in Tacoma, Wash.

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