MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – The UNC Asheville women’s basketball team is a preseason pick to finish in 11th place in the Big South Conference preseason poll that was announced by the league at its annual media day held at the Sheraton Convention Center.
For the 16th time in the last 17 seasons, Liberty is the preseason favorite, as the Lady Flames received 13 of the 25 first-place votes and 261 out of a possible 275 points. Liberty welcomes back two starters and nine letterwinners from last year’s Big South championship and NCAA Tournament squad. Winthrop was voted second with 256 points and 11 first-place votes -- the Lady Eagles’ highest standing in the preseason poll since predicted second in 2008-09. Campbell was picked third with 206 points, while High Point was voted fourth with 178 points. Gardner-Webb collected the remaining first-place vote and finished fifth in the poll with 144 points.
Longwood, last year’s tournament runner-up, was predicted to finish sixth (133 points), while Presbyterian College claimed the seventh spot in the poll with 129 points. Radford was eighth in the preseason ranking (118 points), followed by Coastal Carolina (ninth, 91 points), Charleston Southern (10th, 79 points) and UNC Asheville (11th, 55 points).
Second-year coach Brenda Mock Kirkpatrick hopes to prove the experts wrong by the end of the season.
“Preseason picks are based on what you’ve done in the past and what people expect out of you,” explained Kirkpatrick. “I’m a little disappointed because our kids have worked very hard and are ready to compete this year, and you’d like to see them get rewarded for that work.
“But it’s up to us to change the expectations,” added Kirkpatrick. “The preseason poll won’t deter us. It’s going to motivate us a little more, and we’ll be even more determined this year to prove everyone wrong.”
The Bulldogs return eight letterwinners from last year’s club and have brought in an outstanding recruiting class that’s ready to make an impact right away.
Leading the returnees is junior guard Shonese Jones. She was the Big South Rookie of the Year in 2012 and was averaging 14.5 points per game last season before injuring her knee midway through the season and missing the rest of the year.
Junior forward Jeannie Buckner (4.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg) returns along with sophomore guard Paige Love (7.4 ppg, 83 assists, 24 steals). Red-shirt sophomores Tacey Trammel and Leah Wormack are back this year, as well. Both missed most of last season with injuries.
The Bulldogs open the 2013-14 season at home on Saturday, Nov. 9 against Furman at Kimmel Arena starting at 2 p.m.
2013-14 Women’s Basketball Preseason Poll
Team (first-place votes) -- Points
1. Liberty (13) -- 261
2. Winthrop (11) -- 256
3. Campbell -- 206
4. High Point -- 178
5. Gardner-Webb (1) -- 144
6. Longwood -- 133
7. Presbyterian College -- 129
8. Radford -- 118
9. Coastal Carolina -- 91
10. Charleston Southern -- 79
11. UNC Asheville -- 55
Note: points are based on a weighted system. First-place votes received 11 points, followed by 10 points for second-place, and so on.