If there was any question on who were the two favorites to win the Summit League women's volleyball title this year they were quickly put to rest with the conference's preseason poll.
IPFW and North Dakota State split all nine first-place votes and both finished in the top two spots of the Summit League preseason coaches poll that the conference released Wednesday afternoon.
The Mastodons received three first-place votes to finish the poll in second place with 58 points -- four points behind the projected preseason favorite Bison. North Dakota State as the defending Summit League champions received the other six first-place votes to place ahead of IPFW in the poll.
IPFW and North Dakota State both return a majority of their starters from last year and were the only two teams in Summit League last season to finish with more than 20 wins.
IPFW has three All-League starters returning from last season -- including outside attacker Emily Spencer who was named 2011 Summit League Freshman of Year after being the conference's top five with a 3.79 kills per game average. The Mastodons ended last season in second place in the Summit League but were upset in the opening round of the conference tournament.
The Bison last season won a conference-best 26 matches and won the conference tournament to receive the Summit League's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. North Dakota State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament lost to No. 19 Minnesota.
The Mastodons will open the upcoming season at home with the Hyatt Place IPFW Invitational on Aug. 24-25. IPFW during the two-day tournament will play Cleveland State, Murray State and Kent State.
2012 Summit League Volleyball Preseason Poll
1. North Dakota State -- 62 (6) points
2. IPFW -- 58 (3) points
T-3. Oakland -- 43 points
T-3. South Dakota State -- 43 points
5. IUPUI -- 38 points
6. South Dakota -- 33 points
7. Kansas City -- 23 points
8. Western Illinois -- 13 points
9. Omaha -- 11 points
* Parentheses indicate first-place votes