With three starters returning from last year's team that won 23 games, Greenville University has been selected as the favorites in 2017-18 Women's Basketball Coaches Preseason Poll for theSt. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Greenville picked up 60 points, receiving four first-place votes to hold an edge over what is expected to be a three battle at the top.
Greenville, coached by Roy Mulholland, finished 23-9 overall last year, setting a new school record for wins, and advanced to their second consecutive SLIAC Tournament Championship game. The Panthers return three starters including Second Team All-Conference performer Laura Goodnight. Goodnight, a 6'1" senior forward, is a match-up problem and averaged 12.4 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season while finishing 10th in the conference in three-pointers. Joining her are Kelly Lenz (5.1 ppg and 5.1 rpg) and Wesley Woodard (9.9 ppg on 50-percent shooting). While the Panthers return plenty of experience in the post they will have to replace their two starting guards, Taylor Paulin and Claire Schmidt. Among newcomers that could see time on the floor are Katie Wolfram and Naomi Johnson.
Defending SLIAC Tournament Champion Eureka College was 2nd in the poll with 55 points and two first-place votes. After going 20-8 last season and capturing the program's first-ever SLIAC Championship the Red Devils will welcome in new head coach Amos Arbogast. He has a good situation to come into with four starters returning including a pair of All-Conference guards. Kerrigan Dura earned Third Team All-Conference honors after averaging 9.9 points and 5.3 rebounds per game and ranking 2nd in assists with 140. In her first year on the team, Hayley Reneau ranked 2nd in the SLIAC at 13.8 points per game, leading the conference with 68 made three-pointers and picking up First Team honors. Sophomore Kennedy Dura will be looked on to pick up the scoring after the loss of guard Luci Weis. The Red Devils bring in a junior college two-time All-Conference forward Sabrina Clay that should help offset the graduation of Michaela Balducci.
Webster University was chosen 3rd with 52 total points and received three first-place nods. The Gorloks are coached by Jordan Olufson and return three starters and 13 players from last year's team that went 19-5 overall. As one of the faster-paced teams, Webster will rely heavily on their returning depth. The Gorloks return their top eight scorers from last season and finished 7th in the nation at 78.3 points per game. Heading up the list of returners is senior guard Kelsey Miller, a Second Team All-Conference player that averaged 11.3 points per game last season. Sophomores Jade Sawyer (team-high 62 assists) and Jaysea Morgan (7.8 ppg)as well as seniors Taylor Lucas (9.9 ppg and 4.3 rpg) and Megan Brandt fill out the lineup. Incoming freshmen Darieana Hunter and Kylie Shoot, along with sophomore Kaylee Heggemann will only add to the Gorlok depth.
Westminster College finished 4th in the poll with 41 points. The Blue Jays welcome in new head coach James Arnold, who takes over a program that finished 9-15 overall last year. Although Arnold returns three starters he will have to replace SLIAC Co-Player of the Year Andrea Zalis. Junior forward Mirrakohl Johnson could become the go-to player with Zalis' departure after averaging 10.3 points and 7.8 rebounds per game last season while earning Third Team All-Conference honors. Kelsey Ray also returns after averaging 6.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.7 assists per game. Senior Payton Beeler is an athletic guard that averaged 7.0 points per game while sophomore swing player Mikalyn Callahan should see an increase in playing time after averaging 6.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a freshman. The Blue Jays will have experience options new to the program with juniors Kendahl Adams, a transfer from Stephens College, and Jahne Williams, a transfer from community college. Freshman forward Grace Archambault should also see time on the court.
Spalding University is expected to finish 5th, receiving 32 points. Spalding was 13-11 overall last year and returns nine players but just two starters. Head Coach Charlie Just will turn to First Team All-Conference guard Alex Martin to lead the Golden Eagles this season. Martin averaged 13.2 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 4.1 assists per game last season while ranking in the top ten in the conference in three-point field goal percentage. Fellow returning starter, senior forward Mackenzie Myers, averaged 6.1 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. The Golden Eagles will need to overcome the loss of six seniors and expect incoming freshman forward Hannah Renfro to fill one of those roles.
Fontbonne University received 30 points and is picked 6th in the poll. Despite bringing bring back 11 players from last year's team that advanced to the SLIAC Tournament the Griffins will be one of the youngest teams in the league with just four upperclassmen. Head Coach Maureen Sias will look to returning starters Raven Venegas and Kaitlynn Walker to bolster the team in 2017-18. Venegas, the SLIAC Newcomer of the Year, averaged 9.6 points and 6.0 rebounds per game while shooting 46-percent from the floor. Walker, a junior guard, was the team's top scorer last year at 12.3 points per game. The Griffins will need to replace record-setting guard and SLIAC Co-Player of the Year Emmie Haring. Among those that could see time are incoming freshmen guards Riley Guffey and Rylee Stafford.
Iowa Wesleyan University was chosen 7th with 28 points. The Tigers were 10-13 overall last season and bring back seven players. New head coach Jack Bruns will have to replace All-Conference guard Cairece Allen and All-Defensive Team guard Jaimie Hurd. Among the returners are junior guard Darby Massner, 11.0 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Seniors Lastella Slack (8.1 ppg) and Josie Zerrusen (6.7 ppg) should pick up the scoring with increased importance while sophomore Allie Massner will look to improve on her 4.9 points per game output as a freshman. The Tigers welcome in freshman guards Taniya Harris and Ellie Lower.
MacMurray College picked up 17 points and is expected to finish 8th. MacMurray head coach Derek James brings in a nearly entirely new team with just three returning players. Senior guard Elizabeth Kruemmelbein returns after leading the team in scoring (10.5 ppg) and rebounding (4.6 rpg). An incoming class of 10 freshman includes Madison Dalton, Shelby Fink, and Sheyanne Glorfield.
Blackburn College finished 9th with nine total points. First-year head coach Jim Chandler takes over a program that brings back just one starter, sophomore forward Maria Cline. Cline was second on the team in scoring last season, 6.9 points per game, while playing just 19-minutes per contest. She also grabbed a team-best 5.0 rebounds per game. Other returners expected to contribute are Lexi Duncan, Brooker Meyer, and Elisabeth Johnston. Coach Chandler had a busy offseason, signing eight incoming freshmen. Among the newcomers to the team are sophomore Lauryn Jackson and freshmen Savannah Kruse and Kate Smith.
The 2017-18 season begins officially on Wednesday, November 15th while the first conference games will start Wednesday, November 29th.
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