YORK, Pa. -- Defending champion Mary Washington and Christopher Newport each received a handful of first-place votes to highlight the 2016-17 CAC Women's Basketball Preseason Coaches' Poll. UMW was selected as the preseason favorite to repeat with six first-place votes and 78 points, narrowly edging CNU (4 first-place votes; 76 points) for the top spot.
Perennial contenders Marymount (61 points) and York (61 points) tied for third place in the poll, with Salisbury (49 points) rounding out the top five. Penn State Harrisburg (36 points) was picked sixth, follwed by St. Mary's (31 points), Wesley (28 points), Southern Virginia (16 points), and Frostburg State (14 points).
The 2015-16 season was a banner year for CAC women's basketball, as a conference-record tying three CAC teams earned bids to the NCAA tournament. Mary Washington posted a pair of road wins in the conference tournament to captures its sixth CAC title and first since 2011-12, while Marymount and Christopher Newport earned at-large berths into NCAA's following stellar campaigns of their own.
In the NCAA Tournament, CNU advanced to the Sweet 16 for the third time in four years, Marymount advanced to the round of 32, and Mary Washington fell in the opening round.
The 2016-17 campaign figures to be another tight race for conference supremacy, as many of the perennial contenders return a number of key performers to the court this season. The CAC as a whole features a bevy of talented returning players, with 10 all-conference selections from last year back in the fold.
The season begins on Tuesday, with CAC play starting up on Nov. 30. The CAC Tournament will take place in late February, with the title game slated for Saturday, Feb. 25.
2016-17 CAC Women's Basketball Preseason Poll
|1. Mary Washington (6 first-place votes)||78 points|
|2. Christopher Newport (4 first-place votes)||76 points|
|3T. Marymount||61 points|
|3T. York||61 points|
|5. Salisbury||49 points|
|6. Penn State Harrisburg||36 points|
|7. St. Mary's||31 points|
|8. Wesley||28 points|
|9. Southern Virginia||16 points|
|10. Frostburg State||14 points|
Here is a brief preview of each team entering the 2016-17 season:
CHRISTOPHER NEWPORT returns the bulk of its roster this season following a year in which the young Captains went 24-5 overall with a third appearance in the NCAA Sweet 16 over the last four years. CNU featured a stingy defense last season, ranking third nationally in steals per game while allowing just 52.8 points per game. The return of three All-Conference performances from last season in Sam Porter, Devon Byrd, and Makenzie Fancher, will highlight a roster that returns all five starters and the top eight scorers and rebounders from last season. The Captains will open the season on the road against Bridgewater on Nov. 16.
Seniors Kirsten Rayner and Kache Fields return to power the 2016-17 FROSTBURG STATE lineup for third year head coach Carrie Saunders. Rayner paced the Bobcats in her first year with the team in points (13.4) and rebounds (8.4), while Fields led the squad in steals (51) and assists (109). Saunders will also welcome the return of junior Adjowa Pinkrah who averaged 6.1 points and 4.1 years as a sophomore.
MARY WASHINGTON returns for 2016-17 off a 24-5 season in which they claimed the CAC Championship. All but one player returns for the Eagles this season, led by All-American and CAC leading scorer Brianne Comden, as well as all-conference point guard Megan Green. The Eagles also welcome back key contributors Kendall Parker, Taylor Barton, Meghan Comer, and Jordan Pamlanye.
2016 Coach of the Year Ashlee Rogers and the reigning conference regular-season champion MARYMOUNT returns a core of experience from last year's squad that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Heading the team is lone senior Kiki Laux along with juniors Leah Hurst and Nicole Viscuso. Viscuso, who landed on first-team All-CAC and D3hoops.com All-Region last season, returns as a Preseason All-American for D3hoops.com.
After a 10-15 season, PENN STATE HARRISBURG will look to improve on last year's record. The Lions will look to senior Kaitlyn Carmo to lead the team in scoring again as they look to replace four of their top five scorers. The Lions will also look to sophomores Rachel Miller and Precious Shirk to add a boost of both the offensive and defensive end. With a talented group of freshmen coming in for the Lions they will look to make the jump into the CAC playoff picture.
ST. MARY'S brings back all-conference performers, Kerri Kline and Nina Haller. They're expected to guide the Seahawks through a challenging schedule which features three 2016 NCAA Tournament participants. Last season, Kline was third in the CAC in scoring (14.4 ppg) while Haller was second in blocks (2.6 bpg) and third in rebounding (9.2 rpg).
SALISBURY opens up the 2016-17 with an experienced group of veterans in addition to a group of underclassmen who saw significant minutes last season. In the back court, the Gulls will look to junior Mary McDonagh to control things at the point, while senior Lauren Rothfeld will handle most of the duties as the team's shooting guard. Both McDonagh and Rothfeld averaged over 8 points-per game, playing in all 26 games a season ago. In the front court, sophomore Kaylyn French comes back after an impressive freshman season and will be joined by junior Josephine Noonan. Also down low, a mix of newcomers will look to fight for minutes.
SOUTHERN VIRGINIA looks for their first ever playoff appearance since joining the CAC. The Knights, under the direction of third-year head coach Heather Roberts, return a number of starters from last year, including rebound leader Shelby Winsor who also averaged 11.3 ppg.
WESLEY returns four of their five top scorers as the Wolverines will attempt to get back to the CAC Tournament for the first time since the 2010-11 season. 2015 CAC Second Team All-Conference selection Brionna Johnson will lead the Navy and White into the season with high hopes. Tiyanna Gibbs, Alexus Stroud, and Monshea Newsome-Murray also return from last year's starting lineup and will be joined by six other returners as the Wolverines seek to improve on last season's 7-18 finish.
YORK returns 13 players from last year's 20-7 squad including first-team All-CAC forward Sam Hruz. The Spartans return six of their top seven scorers as Betsy Witman believes she has a team that can contend for a CAC championship. Hruz finished last year averaging 10.7 points and 8.6 rebounds per game while she led the CAC in blocked shots with 87. Hruz opens the year five blocks short of the Spartans' all-time school record. Junior Morgan Kuehne was York's other double figures scorer last year as she averaged 10.8 points and 3.7 rebounds per game in her 26 contests last year. Katie Wagner, Beth Wiseley, Brianna Bisci, Sarah Shearer, and Morgan Golec round out the Spartans' top seven players.