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Women's Basketball - Tue, Oct. 3, 2006
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The TranSouth Athletic Conference women’s basketball coaches have designated Union University as the team most likely to win this year’s TranSouth title in the annual preseason coaches’ poll.

The Bulldogs, two-time defending National Champion, received nine of the ten first place votes and totaled 99 points. Three-time defending champion Freed-Hardeman University is picked second and received 84 points and the other first place vote. Cumberland University has reached the NAIA Tournament for two consecutive seasons and the Bulldogs are picked to finish third in this year’s race and are just four points back of FHU with 80 points. Trevecca Nazarene has advanced to the National Tournament seven consecutive seasons and are picked fourth with 72 points after losing four starters off of last years Elite Eight team. Conference newcomer Lambuth University gathered 62 votes and is picked fifth, Martin Methodist is sixth, Bethel College is seventh while Lyon College, Blue Mountain, and Mid-Continent round out the poll.

The TranSouth has arguably been the best women’s basketball conference over the last three years. Last season saw four TranSouth teams hold positions in the NAIA Top 10 for most of the season, as expected several of those teams were hit hard by graduation. However, due to tradition, strong coaches, and great facilities most of those teams are in the reloading mode rather than rebuilding. As one assess’ the team capsules included later in this preview, one would have to believe the TranSouth will be as strong as ever by the time the 2006-07 National Tournament rolls around.

The conference’s tradition and strength will grow this year with the addition of three teams and three new coaches. Bethel College, Lambuth University and Mid-Continent University join the TranSouth for the upcoming season. Bethel has been a regular at the NAIA Division II National Tournament and look to continue their strong play as they return to the TranSouth after spending a few years in the KIAC. Lambuth University has never been a member of the TranSouth, but were in the Volunteer State Athletic Conference and the Tennessee Collegiate Conference with most of the TranSouth schools before moving to the Mid-South Conference. The Eagles have numerous appearances to the NAIA National Tournament in Jackson and look to return to Oman Arena again this year. Mid-Continent started their women’s program a year ago and played in the KIAC with Bethel College. The Cougars look to build on that start during their first year in the TSAC this year.

Bethel, Lambuth, and Blue Mountain have hired new coaches. Chris Nelson will be in his fifth season on the Bethel bench, but his first as the head coach. Nelson has been an assistant for four years at Bethel. Nelson was Head Coach at Yorkville School and an assistant at Gibson County previously. Joe Reints, the South Dakota State graduate, takes over the Lambuth program after serving as an assistant at Texas State University. Blue Mountain will have someone other than Jack Moser pacing the sidelines for the first time in 17 years. Interestingly enough, it’s the guy the Moser replaced 17 years ago, Lavon Driskell. Driskell has been the head coach at Madison Ridgeland Academy for the last 12 years.

Below the coaches poll you’ll find a capsule on ever team in the conference.

        School                                        Pts (first place votes)

  1. Union University                           99      (9)
  2. Freed-Hardeman University           84      (1)
  3. Cumberland University                  80
  4. Trevecca Nazarene University        72
  5. Lambuth University                       62
  6. Martin Methodist College              46
  7. Bethel College                             38
  8. Lyon College                               35
  9. Blue Mountain College                 20
  10. Mid-Continent University              10

Votes were given with a value of 10=1 point and 1=10 points. 


McKENZIE, Tenn. - The Bethel College Lady Wildcats return several key players as they rejoin the TranSouth Athletic Conference. Returning from last year’s 27-6 (14-1 Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship team are; Whitney Baird (5’11 junior, post/forward) who averaged 15.4 ppg and 52.7% from the field, Amanda Cunningham (5’6” senior, guard) who posted 11.6 ppg and 2.1 apg, and Suzanne Seat (5’6” senior, point guard) who dished 3.1 apg last season. Erin Meyer (5’11” junior) will bring height and strength to the guard position. Key Newcomers to the Wildcats are Nina Djokovic (6’1” junior, post) and Gretchen Several (5’9” freshmen, guard). Djokovic averaged a double-double with 19 ppg and 10 rpg last season. Seyerle averaged 10.9 ppg and 2.8 apg. The Wildcats have had a very successful stint in NAIA Division II’s Kentucky Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. The Wildcats have advanced to the NAIA National Tournament in three (2003, 2005, 2006) of the last four seasons. The Wildcats have won the conference title three times (2000, 2003, 2005) seven years. Last season the Wildcats had another impressive 27-6 (14-1) finish to the season. The Bethel women will be under the direction of former assistant and new Head Coach Chris Nelson this year. 


BLUE MOUNTAIN, Miss. – The Blue Mountain College Toppers will be under new leadership following the retirement of veteran basketball coach Jack Moser after a 17 year stint at the helm. Lavon Driskell has returned to Blue Mountain College as the Head Women's Coach for the 2006-07 campaign. Driskell previously served as the Head Coach from 1985-89. This year's team finished the season at 12-18 with a 2-8 record in the conference. Driskell will be looking to build on last year's record as BMC returns six seniors consisting of 5'7" guard Kelly Yates, 5'4" guard Andrea Moore, 5'4" guard Magan Weeks, 5'6" forward Brittany Wilson, 5'9" forward Lauren Ford and 5'11" forward April Reeder. Jamie Harrison, a 6' transfer from Northeast Community College, should add additional help to the seasoned team. Lana Harris, a 6' sophomore, and BreAnna Heard a 5'10" sophomore gained valuable experience last season.  Also joining the club are freshmen Katelynn Wright, Kim Cobb, and Nicole Curtis. Yates averaged 8 ppg., Moore contributed 3 ppg., Weeks averaged 6 ppg., Wilson at 7 ppg, Ford added 10 ppg., and Reeder ended with a 8 ppg average. Jamie Harrison finished 3rd in the nation in free throws at Northeast Community College and average10 ppg.


Renae WilliamsLEBANON, Tenn.The Cumberland University Bulldogs women's basketball team is coming off a second straight season where they advanced to the NAIA National Tournament. The Clint Mason coached Bulldogs produced another 20 win season with an overall record of 23-9 during the 2005-06 season. The Bulldogs return two anchors in All-TranSouth Athletic Conference selection forwards C'Kala Humes and Renae Williams. Williams is the leading returning scorer at 14.5 ppg. Coach Mason, as he starts his fourth season at Cumberland, is also excited about the arrival of Connecticut/Shelton State transfer Kiana Robinson. Robinson is a talented a 5'8 guard from the Bronx in New York. The team returns two other starters from last season in point guard Ashley Cross (6.2 apg) and post player Tomika Hall (8.4 rpg). The coaching staff is expecting a solid year from Isabelli Cunico, Cunico (7.9 ppg) was one of the conference’s best deep threats; shooting over 45% from three point range. The only other newcomer for the Lady Bulldogs is guard Keshia Forrest out of Bowling Green, Kentucky. Forrest red shirted last year and should compete for minutes at both guard positions.


HENDERSON, Tenn. - After losing five seniors to graduation, including two All-Americans, from their 32-3, TranSouth championship team, the three-time defending Conference Champion Freed-Hardeman University Lady Lions will have a brand new look for the 2006-2007 season. Senior Stacy Myers, the lone returning full time starter, will be expected to lead the way for this young team. As a junior, Myers averaged 12.2 ppg and 5.4 rpg a game on her way to All-Conference and All-American honors. Also returning with some experience as starters for the Lady Lions are Kari Bishop (7.4 ppg) and Megan Thompson (2.0 ppg). Other returnees expected to contribute heavily are senior guard Ashley Helton (3.4 ppg) and junior forward Meredith McLemore (4.0 ppg). Head Coach Dale Neal has also added two junior transfers, Kori Bledsoe (University of New Orleans) and Phenicia West (Shelton State CC). FHU brought in a talented freshman class to round out this year’s squad. The Lady Lions' newcomers will have to be a big factor in their success this season. The very promising freshmen class includes 6'3" post, Nicloe Duncan (Lewis County) as well as four All-State players: Kristal Edney, (5'8’ guard, Perry County); Jana Cross (5'10" forward, Loretto); Chelsie Alsup, (5'9" guard, Eagleville); and Tara Deatheridge (5'6" guard, Ezell Harding). After four consecutive 30+ win seasons, ten consecutive NAIA national tournament appearances and three straight Elite Eights, the Lady Lions know their work is cut out for them. 


JACKSON, Tenn. - The Lambuth University Lady Eagles return a solid nucleus from last years 18-14 team that finished ranked No. 32 in the NAIA poll. The Lady Eagles return four starters and seven total letter winners from a team that just missed advancing to the NAIA National Tournament. Last year’s two leading scorers (Meghan Fuqua, 12.0 ppg and Jodi Gunter, 11.5 ppg) return to provide a solid foundation. The Lady Eagles have added some depth and experience with three transfers and more depth with four talented freshmen. The transfers include highly touted senior Reggie Maddox (ClemsonUniversity), junior Demetrice Preyer (University of Arkansas Little Rock) and junior Makeba Thomas (Angelina Community College). The freshmen class includes; Kristin Brison from Fairview (Tenn.) High School, Kasi Bryant from Hardin County High School in Savannah, Tenn., Abby Reedy from Obion County Central High School, Troy, Tenn., and Holly Norwick of Liberty Magnet Technology School in Jackson, Tenn.


BATESVILLE, Ark. - After last season’s dreary 11-20 overall campaign and 2-10 TranSouth Athletic Conference finish, the 2006-07 Lyon College Pipers are searching for a way out of the league’s second division. Lyon’s many injuries last season slowed the Pipers early in 2005-06 season, but the squad appears healthy and ready to start this season in good health. Three players return to the Lyon starting lineup including junior guard April Carter (6.4 ppg), sophomore forward Maribeth Waters and senior forward Nikki Baker (8.9 ppg). Waters, a member of the TranSouth All-Freshman team last season, was second on the team in both scoring and rebounding last season, averaging 12 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. A truckload of newcomers; three transfers and four freshmen are expected to offer the team improved play. The crop of incoming freshmen include three Arkansas All-State selections; Ashley Walker (5’11” guard), Alison Wilkins (5’8” guard) and Lori DeMent (5’8” forward). Transfers are Madonna Hickson, Jessica Bowie and Jessica Allen. The trio will be counted on this season to push the Pipers away from the TranSouth cellar.


PULASKI, Tenn. – The Martin Methodist College RedHawks posted one of their best seasons in recent history last year with a 13-17 overall record and a 3-9 (fifth place) conference record. After losing their two key scorers in Jessica Ezell (16.9 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Shawra Ricks (9.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg), the RedHawks have only one returnee in senior in Monica Westbrook (8.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg). Nina Robinson (Alabama Southern CC) will lead the list of a baker’s dozen of new recruits, along with Shontel Johnson (Pensacola JC), Nini Edwards (Southeastern Illinois CC), Sam Houston (Walters State CC) and Jordan Ramsey (Clarkrange High School). To help the RedHawks compete in one of the toughest conference in the NAIA, Coach Nikki Sullivan-Ficca has added depth at every position to help bring a quicker pace on offense and higher pressure on defense. This Sullivan-Ficca’s third season at the helm of the RedHawk program.


MAYFIELD, Ky. - In its inaugural season, the Mid-Continent University Cougars Women’s Basketball team performed valiantly against the odds, showing character and improving in each game, finishing with a 4-20 record. Bright spots to us as a launching pad for the 2006-07 season include their three victories after the break and the program’s first conference and conference tournament victory in the same game were especially uplifting for the Lady Cougars. This outlook is brighter for this season with the addition size in the post from Junior College transfers Felicia Brown a 6’0” forward (Shawnee Community College) and Omega Key a 6”0” forward (Three Rivers Community College). Also adding to the size that was ominously absent last season is 6’0” Erica Cash of Union City, Tenn. who arrives as a red shirt senior transfer. Freshmen post players, Katelyn Perry (6’0” forward, Anchorage, Alaska) and Samantha Taylor (Fulton, Ky.) will hone their skills behind the experienced transfers. The guard play will be a strength again as it was last year. Junior Sarah Cripps (Heavener, Okla.), a 2006 All-Mideast Region honoree will shoulder the load along with sophomore guards Bristyn Prowell (Fredonia, Ky.) and hometown favorite Beth Jordan (Mayfield, Ky.). Incoming freshmen guards Tiffany McGregor (Eddyville, Ky.), Cassie Bellamy (Benton, Ky.), and Cataria Sains (Paducah, Ky.) will offer great support and make their presence known. Sophomore transfer Whitney Hamlet (Jacksonville, Fla.), an excellent outside shooter, adds to a recipe that should provide greater success 2006-07.


NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Trevecca loses four starters and two all-American’s off last seasons 31- 5 team that advanced to the NAIA Elite Eight for the second consecutive season. The Trojans return one starter and the top five players off the bench. Second team All-TranSouth selection Kristin Archie (9 ppg, 4 rpg, 87 assists) is the teams lone returning starter, though Mariska Reed (10 ppg, 46 steals) has started several games in her first two seasons. Seniors Amy Hutchins (2 ppg, 2 rpg) and Amy Beavers (2 ppg, 48 assists) return for their final season on the hill and will provide much needed leadership, while TranSouth All-Freshmen selection Jennifer Bognar (5 ppg, 2 rpg) returns after a productive freshman campaign. Second-year coach Gary Van Atta has signed seven very talented freshmen. Austin Peay transfer Casey Attebery (Cheatham Co., All-State), Christian Gibson (2005 State Champ, Mt. Juliet HS), Abby Lawson (Three-time All-State, Cheatham Co.), Paige McFarlin (2005 State Champ, Mt. Juliet HS), Angelica Sails (All-State, Madison Magnet), Jessica Spencer (All-District, Page HS), and Alecia Weatherly (Perry Co., Class A Miss Basketball) form the best recruiting class in school history. Coach Van Atta says, “If these freshmen live up to their press clippings, then our team could be strong down the stretch, but the TranSouth conference provides a tough learning curve for youthful teams”. The Trojans have reached the NAIA National Tournament for seven consecutive seasons.


JACKSON, Tenn. - The Union University Lady Bulldogs will open a season for the second straight year as the defending NAIA National Champions. Last season Union added a third NAIA National Title (1998, 2005, 2006) to their trophy case. Only two other current NAIA teams (Southern Nazarene-7 and Oklahoma City-4) have won more NAIA Women's Basketball National Titles. Southwestern Okla., a current NCAA DII school, won five NAIA titles. Union lost three seniors from last season, two of which were starters. Tiffany Fisher and Jennifer Henson combined for just 15.4 ppg last season but the leadership will be greatly missed. In Union's combined 11 losses over the past two seasons, Henson was not in the starting lineup in six of those loses. Union returns the top five scorers from the 2006 national title team; Josephine Owino (12.3), Ena Daniels (11.7), Natanya Smith (11.3), Merideth Richardson (9.4), and Crystal Eason (8.3). Union adds All-State player, Kaitlin Dudley to the mix along with three other players. Union head coach Mark Campbell, the NAIA's winningest active coach with a .863 (226-36) percentage, leads this group in what hopes to be another outstanding season.