High Point, NC- Barton College has been voted by Conference Carolinas head coaches as this year’s preseason league favorite. Barton’s women's basketball team has played in three of the last six NCAA D-II tournaments and would like nothing more than to be tipping off in the postseason come March of 2010. Head coach Wendee Saintsing, in her 21st season, returns three starters (Esty Flores, Jannetta Robinson and Jamila Johnson) and has a freshman class of nine, so developing team chemistry will have a lot to do with how successful the Lady Bulldogs will be this year. Three other players return from a 2008-09 squad that finished 22-6 overall and won the Conference Carolinas regular-season championship at 18-4. However, the Lady Bulldogs were left out of the NCAA Tournament, so they have a point to prove this season.
Flores, the 5-foot-3 point guard and reigning Conference Player of the Year, will again run the show for Barton. The All-Southeast Region first-team pick averaged 20.5 points and 5.1 assists last season. Senior 6-1 center Sharnita Alston, 5-8 junior Destiny Hamlin and 6-2 junior Kelsey Sill are experienced players as well.
“Nobody knows what you have,” Saintsing said. “It (preseason poll) is really based on last year, so you can’t put a lot of weight in preseason polls. We’re young and talented, so I think that success will come when we are able to gel and get everybody thinking and doing the same thing. It’s just a matter of how long that will take.”
Mount Olive College places second in this year’s preseason poll as they return three starters from last year’s squad, which eclipsed the 20-win mark for the second straight year and made their second consecutive appearance in the Conference Carolinas Tournament championship game. The Trojans rode a school-record 14-game winning streak to a 23-7 mark and finished second in the conference standings with a 17-5 record. Senior forward Jasmine Whitby earned All-Southeast Region honors and was named to the All-Conference Carolinas first team. Whitby became the first player in Trojan basketball history – women or men – to record a “30-20” game with 32 points and 20 rebounds against Erskine. She ranked seventh in the conference in scoring with a 15.8 average and also ranked in the top five in rebounds and steals.
Also returning is junior point guard Shequanta McGee and junior forward Brittany Miller. McGee ranked sixth in the conference in assists and hit a crucial three-pointer in the final minute of the Trojans’ semifinal win over Belmont Abbey in last year’s Conference Carolinas Tournament. Miller ranked sixth in the conference last year with a 53.7 percent field goal percentage and blocked a three-point attempt at the buzzer in a two-point win at Queens. After winning the Conference Carolinas Tournament championship and advancing to the NCAA Tournament Regional semifinals in 2007-08, Mount Olive was conference tournament runner-up last year.
Anderson University comes in tied for the third-place spot in the preseason poll with Belmont Abbey. The Trojans are coming off their sixth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament following their fourth Conference Carolinas tournament championship. The Trojans return five players, including two starters, from last year's squad, which posted an 18-13 overall and 14-8 league record after winning nine of their last 11 games. The backcourt is anchored by guards Shanice Wilson and junior Alexa Neal. Wilson started all 31 games, while Neal started 28 contests. Neal earned All-Tournament accolades and Honorable Mention All-Conference honors after averaging 14.5 points and a team-high 4.4 assists (ranking fourth in the conference). The Trojans also welcome eight newcomers to the 2009-10 squad.
The Belmont Abbey College women’s basketball team returns seven players, including its top three leading scorers, for Coach Susan Yow, who will be entering her third season after guiding the Lady Crusaders to back-to-back 19-10 records (16-6 league record). Forward Shayla Jackson returns as the Abbey's leading scorer at 13.4 points per game, while senior guards Courtney Naquin and Ashley Giddens averaged 12.9 and 9.76 per game, respectively. The returners will complement five recruits for the upcoming season - Kelsey Campbell, Alyx Ingram, Kiandria "Kiki" Allen, Dana Middleton and Autumn Smith-Faulkner.
Rounding out the lady's poll 5-12 was: Queens, Erskine, Coker, Limestone, Pfeiffer, Lees-McRae, Converse, and St. Andrews respectively.
Women's Basketball Preseason Poll (# of First place votes in parenthesis)
1. Barton College (6) 114
2. Mount Olive College (2) 100
T-3. Anderson University (3) 97
T-3. Belmont Abbey College (1) 97
5. Queens University of Charlotte 81
6. Erskine College 74
7. Coker College 56
8. Limestone College 54
9. Pfeiffer University 48
10. Lees-McRae College 35
11. Converse College 24
12. St. Andrews Presbyterian College 12