Well it’s that time of year once again, the leaves change colors and the air gets nippy. I know football season is already underway; I’m talking about basketball season. That means that even if it will be the final year of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, the teams do still have to play. This week its ladies first as we break down the preseason rankings as determined by the coaches for the upcoming season.
1. Fairmont State will be led by reigning WVIAC Player of the Year Kaitlin Snyder, a second-team NCAA Division II All-American who accounted for 21.5 points, 4.4 assists and 2.7 steals a game a season ago. The experienced Falcons also return a trio of double-figure scorers in Hailey Garrett (14.3 ppg), Tiffany Nicholson (10.5 ppg) and Emily Lohr (10.3 ppg) along with returning starting guard Briana Welch (5.3 ppg). Head coach Steve McDonald’s five returning starters combined for 83.5 percent of the Falcons’ scoring last year.
2. Glenville State advanced to the WVIAC Finals for the second straight year and led the nation in scoring (94.3 ppg) under Bunky Harkleroad’s up-tempo style of play. Ginny Petties (11.8 ppg), Kenyell Goodson (9.6 ppg), and Jelena Elez (8.6 ppg) return to lead a balanced attack which should once again have the Pioneers pushing for success in the postseason.
3. West Liberty is on the rebound after dealing with an abundance of injuries last season. This season, the Hilltoppers return second-team all-WVIAC guard Hillary Southworth (16.1 ppg) and senior post player Emily Blevins (11.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg). Head coach Lynn Ullom also welcomes back 2011 starters Meghan Wiseman and Jordan Stacey, who missed all of last season with medical redshirts.
4. Concord advanced to the WVIAC semifinals before dropping an overtime thriller to Glenville State. The Mountain Lions return second-team all-conference performer Andrea Bertrand (13 ppg, 7.2 rpg). Head coach Kenny Osborne’s line-up will also include returners Amanda Smith (9.3 ppg) and Tanisha Williams (4.0 ppg).
5. West Virginia Wesleyan won the regular-season title and the league tournament a season ago en route to its NCAA Tournament appearance. The Bobcats lost their top two scorers to graduation but return a core group for their title defense. Brittany Maxey garnered 9.6 points and 7.1 rebounds a game while leading the team with 62 steals last year and is ready for the spotlight.
6. Shepherd made a nice postseason run a year ago before falling to the Bobcats in the WVIAC semifinals. The Rams return several key pieces from that squad, including leading scorer Emily Daniel (12.4 ppg), a second-team all-WVIAC selection.
7. Davis & Elkins won its first WVIAC Tournament game in a decade last March and head coach Jason Asbell is aiming for bigger and better things. The Senators will be led by second-team all-WVIAC standout Page Turner (12.4 ppg) and honorable mention all-WVIAC pick Jorden Lykes (12.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg).
8. Pitt-Johnstown sends a talented and experienced team into the 2012-13 campaign. Leading the way is first-team all-WVIAC guard Kaitlynn Fratz (17.2 ppg), the WVIAC Freshman of the Year. Backing the stellar sophomore are Nicole Carman (10.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and perimeter sharp shooter Kelsey Sleighter (8.4 ppg), who drained nearly 40 percent of her three-point tries a year ago.
9. Seton Hill has four of its top five scorers back from a season ago. Leading the way is second-team all-conference selection Paige Alviani. A year ago, she poured in 15.5 points a night and dished out 110 assists. Katie Gattuso tallied 9.3 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds last year. Clare Berenato also returns, having started every game a season ago.
10. Charleston is under the direction of first-year head coach Adam Collins. The Golden Eagles advanced to the tournament quarterfinals in 2012 and return a core group ready to keep the team near the top of the league standings.
11. West Virginia State is led by first-year head coach David Smith, who has 575 victories under his belt for seventh place on the all-time NCAA Division II list. He inherits a team that returns three of its top five scorers.
12. Wheeling Jesuit returns a core group that gained valuable experience last year. All-freshman team performer Emily Robinson (13.1 ppg) should lead the Cardinals into the 2012-13 campaign.
13. Alderson-Broaddus has an experienced squad returning. The Battlers are led by honorable mention all-conference standout Amanda Peoples (12.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg).
14. Ohio Valley boasts a line-up that has seen a lot of playing time in the WVIAC. Junior Shelby Way’s 12.1 points and team-high 72 assists are back.
15. Bluefield State won six league games a year ago and will look to continue climbing in the WVIAC standings. Honorable mention all-conference selection Charlene Diggs (15.9 ppg) and Dragana Tomic (10.2 ppg, 1.9 spg) lead the way.
Special thanks to Brent Hager, WVIAC Associate Commissioner, for helping with information distribution.