Posted By Press Democrat Staff Writer Michael Coit:

Powered by former Empire prep volleyball greats, Sonoma State should contend for a conference title this season as the Seawolves seek another NCAA Division II playoff appearance

Keala Peterson, Ally Sather, and Taylor Krenwinkel

Sonoma State was picked third in the California Collegiate Athletic Association preseason vote of conference coaches, behind Cal State San Bernardino and UC San Diego.

Last season, Sonoma State finished fourth in the CCAA and was 17-10 overall following a loss in the opening round of the NCAA Division II Volleyball Tournament.

Six players that combined for 134 starts last season are back led by All-Americans Keala Peterson, a senior outside hitter from Analy High and UC Davis, and senior libero Taylor Krenwinkel, from San Diego. Junior outside hitter Ally Sather, an All-Conference pick from Maria Carrillo High also returns to the Seawolves lineup.

A talented all around player, Peterson was second on the Seawolves with 308 kills and third with 198 digs last season. Peterson earned American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America honors for a second consecutive year after making the All-Conference team.

A defensive specialist, Krenwinkel finished second in the conference last season with 4.91 digs per set and is just 167 digs from breaking the program’s career record. She earned American Volleyball Coaches Association All-America honors for a second consecutive year after making the All-Conference team.

Leading the Seawolves with 331 kills last season, Sather also earned All-Conference honors.

Another pair of former Empire prep standouts gives Sonoma State valuable experience on the court. Senior Lindsay Lytle and sophomore Hayley Ross were offensive catalysts.

Lytle, from Analy High and the University of Rhode Island, split time at setter and outside hitter last season. She had a team-high 477 assists and was third in kills with 147.

Ross, out of Petaluma High, totaled 438 assists at the net.

Back on defense are junior middle blockers Brooke Moore, Fresno, and Devynne Johnson, San Diego. They combined for 124 blocks on the front line.

In his 10th campaign leading Sonoma State coach Bear Grassl looks to get the Seawolves back into the NCAA playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. In four NCAA tournament appearances overall, Sonoma State has yet to win a match.

Sonoma State opens the 2011 season with four matches over three days at the Hilton Waikiki Beach Invitational starting Sept. 1. The Seawolves follow with their first match at home in Rohnert Park, against conference rival Chico State on Sept. 9.