The Southeastern Conference released the preseason volleyball coaches poll Wednesday morning. The South Carolina Gamecocks were picked to finish seventh in the league, and sophomore pin Mikayla Shields made the 10-woman all-conference team.
The Orlando, Fla. native is the first Gamecock to make the conference's preseason team since Juliette Thévenin in 2013.
"We are so proud of Mikayla being named to the preseason team," head coach Scott Swanson said. "It's an honor for one of our players to be noticed and respected by the coaches in our league. She has proven to be a program-changing talent, and this promises to be an exciting year for our team as a whole."
Shields aims to build on a freshman seasons that ranked among the best program history. She made the conference's All-Frehsman team, as well as the AVCA's All-Region honorable mention team. She led the team with 341 kills (3.25 per set) and hit .308, shattering the program's freshman record for hitting percentage in the rally-scoring era.
This summer, Shields received the opportunity to train with Team USA. As part of the national under-20 team, she won gold at the Pan American Cup and saw playing time in four matches. Her next chance to play for the national team comes in the beginning of July, when she will attend camp to try out for a spot on the FIVB Volleyball Women's U20 World Championship team.
South Carolina is coming of an 18-win season in 2016, the most by the Gamecocks since 2012. The team has seven returners who played in 20 or more matches last season, as well as four newcomers. The season begins on Aug. 25 at the Carolina Volleyball center with a 7 p.m. match against Mercer.