NASHVILLE, Tenn. - 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, who have won the two conference championships, received all nine of the first place votes and totaled 81 points. Freed-Hardeman University finished second with 66 points. The Lions reached the Fab Four last season. Trevecca, who finished as the 2008 National Runner-up, was voted third with 65 points. Bethel College is fourth with 49 points. Martin Methodist is just two points back in fifth place with 49 points.
The TranSouth has been one of if not the best NAIA women's
basketball conference for the last four years. Last season provided
more proof of the strength of the conference. Four TranSouth teams held
strong positions in the NAIA Top 25 all year and three of the final
four teams were from the TranSouth. Union, Freed, and Trevecca all
reached the final four teams and Trevecca advanced to the championship
At least one conference team has reached the
championship game in each of the last four years. The championship has
been won by a conference member in three of those years and one year
(2007) both teams were from the conference. However, the conference
member who won the NAIA National Champion wasn't the TranSouth champion
in any of those three seasons. Lambuth and Cumberland were tied for
third in the TranSouth in 2007, and those two teams made the 2007 NAIA
Due to the tradition, strong coaches, and
great facilities the TranSouth will be as competitive as ever and will
see as many as four teams in the NAIA preseason poll this year. As you
read the team capsules below you will get the sense that the TranSouth
will again serve as a measuring stick for the rest of the NAIA and have
a say in who wears the 2009 NAIA National Championship crown.
University is the only school to have a new mentor on board this season
with Dominic Tharpe. Tharpe served MCU as assistant women's basketball
coach and head junior varsity coach last season under Rian Puckett.
Puckett moved to Dyersburg State CC. Tharpe, a standout at Henry County
HS in Paris, Tenn. played at Motlow State CC for Cumberland University
men's coach Lonnie Thompson. He continued his college career at Park
University in Parkville, Mo. and Bethel College. He graduated with a
B.S. in education in 2005. He began his coaching career at Henry County
and then Bethel College. His final stop before joining MCU was at his
alma mater Motlow State CC as an assistant.
Below the coaches poll you'll find a capsule on every team in the conference.TranSouth Women's BasketballPreseason Coaches Poll
1. Union University 81 (9)
2. Freed-Hardeman 66
3. Trevecca Nazarene 65
4. Bethel College 51
5. Martin Methodist 49
6. Cumberland University 36
7. Lyon College 31
8. Blue Mountain 17
9. Mid-Continent 10Votes were given with a value of 9=1 point and 1=9 points.BETHEL COLLEGE WILDCATS
Tenn. - The Bethel College Lady Wildcats return a solid nucleus from
last year's 14-16 overall record and 9-9 TranSouth Conference finish.
The Wildcats return three starters and a total of nine returnees from
First Team All-TranSouth selection and Honorable
Mention All-American forward Nina Djokovic tops the list. She averaged
13.5 ppg and 8.45 rpg last season. Tristan Johnson (9.45 ppg, 1.8 apg)
and Jelena Budimir (8.55 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 1.14 bpg) are the other two
Senior forward Jenna Roney (6.24 ppg, 3.8
rpg), sophomore forward Teena Carter (7.03 ppg, 4.79 rpg) and sophomore
guard Anna Trull (5.76 ppg) will be looked to for significant
contributions this year.
Coach Chris Nelson, entering his
third year leading the Wildcats program, added three junior transfers,
Lanicka Smith (Allen County CC), Kashundria Berry (Hannibal LaGrange),
and Joanna Ortiz (Allen County CC).
The freshman class
includes: Kelsey Hamilton from Dickson (Tenn.) County HS, Erin Grant
from Clarksburg (Tenn.) HS, and Ginny St. Lawrence from Franklin
Coach Nelson says of this year's team. "This team
has high expectations for themselves. We return our solid core and have
improved in the spots we needed to. As a coaching staff we evaluated
our team and skill level and feel like we have the tools to be a
serious post season contender. To fulfill our expectations many factors
are involved. We have to stay healthy, develop the right mindset and
create a little luck along the way."BLUE MOUNTAIN COLLEGE TOPPERS
MOUNTAIN, Miss. - The Blue Mountain Toppers women's basketball team
returns six (two starters) of 12 players off of last year's 5-26 team.
coach Lavon Driskell has signed five talented transfers and freshmen.
How quickly the team can mesh together and understand the system of
play will determine the degree of success the Toppers will enjoy. With
a tough pre-conference schedule, Coach Driskell hopes the team will
mature quickly and will be ready for conference play.
returning players are seniors Shayla Stroud point guard (9ppg, 3 rpg);
Brittany Garner (5 ppg., 3 rpg); junior Katelynn Wright (7 ppg, 5 rpg);
sophomores Kristen Coleman (6 ppg, 3 rpg); Ashley Hale (3 ppg, 2 rpg)
and Joy Pierce (6ppg, 3 rpg).
The five newcomers include;
Lauren Burgess (Northwest Mississippi CC) who brings good ball handling
skills and speed, Jordan McCormick (Delta State) who sat out last year
due to a medical redshirt, Caitlin Beckham, a 6' freshman, with good
inside/outside play, Kala Morris (South Pontotoc HS) an all conference
performer and Anna Lisa Powell the class 3A Player of the Year.
Driskell stated, "Anytime you have this many new players coming in, the
question is how quickly will they mesh together and learn your system,
I believe this team has the means to be competitive in our conference.
I feel better about this team than any I have had since coming to BMC."CUMBERLAND UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS
Tenn. - Cumberland's women's basketball team returns just four
letterwinners from last year's club but welcomes seven newcomers,
including a pair of junior college guards, one juco forward and a high
school wing player from Mississippi.
The Bulldogs and
sixth-year head coach Clint Mason must also win this season with a
shorter bench, as only 10 healthy players will be available at the
start of November.
Sophomore Keshia Brown is the team's leading
returning scorer after averaging 10.8 points and 4.0 rebounds per game
last season. She is joined by senior Chaquaila Green (7.4 points) and
junior Keshia Forrest (5.9 points).
Newcomer Tranisha Benton
averaged 14.5 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season at Volunteer
State CC, while point guard Angie Wells handed out 5.3 assists per
contest at Cleveland State CC. Post Stasia Holden grabbed 6.9 boards
and posted 4.8 blocks per outing last year at Frank Phillips [TX] JC.
is also very excited about freshman Simone Ryan, who averaged 19.6
points and 12.7 rebounds per game at H.W. Byers HS in Mississippi last
season, helping her squad to the 3A state championship.FREED-HARDEMAN UNIVERSITY LIONS
Tenn. - Experience and health will be two key factors for a
Freed-Hardeman Lion team that is coming off a 29-8 season that included
a trip to the NAIA Fab Four. While returning two starters, the team
no seniors on the roster and has dealt with a series of injuries to
several key players in the off-season.
The Lady Lions' offense
will again go through junior Jana Cross. A two-time All-American, Cross
averaged 20.3 points and 7.4 rebounds per game last season. The
perimeter features a pair of deep threats in juniors Kristal Edney and
Tara Deatheridge, both of whom missed time last year due to injury.
Deatheridge was named to the All-National Tournament team, while Edney
was a second-team all-conference selection averaging 13.1 ppg. Edney
will miss the first half of the season due to injury.
sophomore Meribeth Boehler has continued to improve and should see a
increase in her playing time. With her size and aggressiveness, Boehler
has a chance to make a impact in the paint. Classmate Whitney Johnson
showed flashes of dominance last season and will be counted on for more
minutes at both guard positions this season.
Parsley (Rector, Ark./Rector HS) is expected to see action in the
backcourt. A versatile player, Parsley can play both guard spots as
well as the three. Fellow newcomer Rakeshia Perry (Trenton,
Tenn./Peabody HS) has a physical presence inside and will provide
support off the bench when she returns from off-season knee surgery.LYON COLLEGE PIPERS
Ark. - Improved versatility and a stockpile of experienced players are
expected to power a Lyon College Pipers basketball team that finished
with its first winning record (18-13) under head coach Tracy
Stewart-Lange last season. Lyon placed fifth in the TranSouth with an
8-10 mark. Stewart-Lange expects improvement this season with four
returning starters and a host of talented newcomers in the fold.
quartet of Lyon returnees are led by sophomore sensation K.K. Hodges
and senior leader Maribeth Waters. Hodges, a forward from Wynne, Ark.,
burst on the scene with a breakout year last season, averaging a
team-high 15.6 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. Those numbers earned
Hodges a second-team all-conference nod and a league all-freshman team
Waters averaged 11.7 points and 6.5 rebounds per
game last season. The forward enters her senior season ranked ninth on
the Pipers' career scoring list and fifth on the rebounding list. She
has accounted for 1,137 career points and 541 career rebounds. She is
one of only six Pipers to cross both the 1,000-point and the
Also returning are starting guards
Snezana Jovanovic (Vienna, Austria) and Hollye Jernigen (McAlester,
Okla.). Jovanovic averaged 11 ppg last season and Jernigen led Lyon in
assists with 88.
Stewart-Lange found five freshmen newcomers to
help with depth and to help ease the departure of shooting guard April
Carter, who graduated as Lyon's career 3-point queen, and LeAnna
Peerson, who transferred in the offseason. Three of those newcomers are
6-0 post Lauren Ramsey (North Little Rock, Ark.), 5-11 forward Morgan
Myrick (Huntsville, Ark.) and point guard Janey Jacimore (Russellville,
Ark.).MARTIN METHODIST COLLEGE REDHAWKS
PULASKI, Tenn. -
Hopes are high for the RedHawks this year. With 14 new bodies to
introduce to Transouth play. The RedHawks have added size in the post
and accuracy from behind the arc. Depth at all positions could be the
greatest strength for Coach Bell.
Key returning players are:
5'4" point Kaneka Brown, a great defender and should run the show for
us this year - 5'10" forward Whitney Robison, an excellent scorer who
is a former TSAC All-Freshman team member -
Key newcomers are:
5'6 shooting guard Lauran Hudgins (Motlow St. CC) who averaged 17 ppg
and was first team all conference - 5'6" shooting guard Jordan Ramsey,
return after red-shirt year at Tennessee Tech - 6'1" center T'Qwana
Pendergrast, "Big T" (Motlow St. CC) was a Third Team All-American who
averaged 19 points and 10 rebounds per game - 6'2" center Nakisha
Strickland, "Strick" (Walters State CC) led WSCC to the Tennessee State
Juco championship and the national tournament and was First Team
All-Conference and All Tournament both years at WSCC - 6"0" forward
Tiffany Travis (Walters State CC) is the most versatile player on the
team - 5'8" guard Danielle Proudfit (Bradford HS) was First Team
All-State and has great scoring ability - 5'11 forward Ashley Meeks
(Smyrna HS) can play multiple positions on the court and can put the
ball in the hole
Coach Bell feels this team has potential, "If
they buy into defending we have a deep unit that has some scoring
threats. Still we play in the toughest league in the nation, but focus
we can hopefully keep our heads above water."MID-CONTINENT UNIVERSITY COUGARS
Ky. - "New and improved" clearly describes the Mid-Continent women's
basketball program under first-year head coach Dominic Tharpe. Tharpe,
MCU's assistant last season, was an assistant at Bethel College (Tenn.)
and Motlow State CC (Tenn.).
Tharpe will have four returning
players from last season's (9-22, 1-15 TSAC) team. Ten of the 18 roster
players are true freshmen and four are junior college transfers. "This
team must grow up fast," acknowledges Tharpe feels he is putting a
better product on the floor against what he considers an "amped up"
Leading the way are senior guards Brittany Butler
(Carrollton, Texas/Hebron HS) and April Carter (5-8; LaCenter,
Ky./Ballard Memorial HS). Both transferred from Shawnee College (Ill.)
in 2007. Butler averaged 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds last season.
Carter averaged 6.1 points and 2.3 rebounds and hit 26 three-pointers.
Also returning is sophomore forward Katie Mayes (6-1; Edgewood,
Ky./Dixie Heights HS) averaged 9.1 points and 2.6 rebounds with 18
blocked shots as a freshman.
Transfers include: JC transfers
Candace McGee (5-10; Detroit, MI/Consortium Prep HS), from Southeastern
Iowa CC, Kandi Knupp (6-3; Luka, Miss./Tishamingo County HS) from
Northeast Mississippi CC, point guard Tyqea Butler (5-7; Louisville,
Ky./Waggener HS) a St. Catherine (Ky.) transfer
are: Abbey McLeod (5-9; Kuttawa, Ky./Lyon County HS) and Karissa
Nicholson (6-0; Shelbyville, Ky./Shelby County HS) at the forward and
post positions, point guard Nicki Dewitt (5-3; Louisville, Ky./Atherton
HS), shooting guards are Sarah Jackson (5-1; South Fulton, Tenn.),
Tierra Jackson (5-7; Madisonville, Ky./North Hopkins HS) and Renee
Smith (5-6; Shepherdsville, Ky./Bullitt Central HS).
Tharpe says, "Mid-Continent is taking steps to grow in the right
direction of becoming better contenders in the TranSouth. Our schedule
is designed to prepare us for the TSAC games. We have made huge gains
already and could be one of those teams to sneak up on our opponents."TREVECCA NAZARENE UNIVERSITY TROJANS
Tenn. - The Trevecca women's basketball team only returns one senior,
the Trojan lineup is young but experienced after 2008's National
That senior is Jennifer Bognar (10.2 career
points per game) who will continue to be the top option at the post.
The return of Paige McFarlin (injured last season) will boost the post
spot as will Jessica Spencer a 6'2" red-shirt sophomore.
juniors lead the guard position: Abby Lawson, Christian Gibson, and
Casey Atteberry. Lawson can create scoring opportunities and
defensively pressures the ball and blocks shots. Gibson and Atteberry
and are equally dangerous passing or driving to the basket. K.C. Van
Atta led the team in three-point field goals made last season, and
Casey Pigue can distribute and score. Chelsey Taylor played in three
games before taking a medical redshirt. Vanessa Pincheon and Shenita
Gleaves are freshmen. Pincheon is a point-guard, while Gleaves' plays
Anglica Sails, who shined in the national tournament, is at forward along with Van Atta.
shooting will be a key like last season when nearly 30 percent of TNU's
field goal attempts were three-pointers. Van Atta noted, "We have some
great shooters. Our guards can really shoot the ball, and our post
players can be dangerous as well."
The up-tempo offense will be
accompanied by a high-intensity defense. A year ago TNU forced 15
turnovers and 11 steals per game which contributed to their 83.4
points-per-game average. "We want to make the other teams play our
game," said Van Atta, "and our style of basketball is to pressure the
ball, force turnovers, and run the floor. We have great athletes who
make that style of play work well, and their play will only get better
this year."UNION UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS
JACKSON, Tenn. - Union
is returning four starters from last season's team that posted a
perfect 29-0 regular season record. Union also won the TranSouth
Conference Regular Season and Tournament titles for the second straight
year, and participated in their fourth straight NAIA Fab Four last
Returning to the floor are 2008 All-Americans
Josephine Owino, Kaitlin Dudley, and Kayla Hudson. Merideth Richardson
Jacobs has also earned All-American honors in her career. Union's only
loss from last year's squad was senior guard Crystal Eason who was
named honorable mentioned All-American in 2008.
The Bulldogs are
led by three four-year seniors, led by Owino the 2008 NAIA & WBCA
Player of the Year. The other two seniors are guards Jacobs and Jessica
Graves. Jacobs was a member of 2005 and 2006 NAIA National Title teams,
while Owino and Graves were freshmen on the 2006 title team.
Dudley leads the junior class in her third season at Union, along with
Lindsey Flynn. They are joined this year by two junior college
transfers: Ashley Lillard a 5-11 forward from Parkland (Ill.) CC and
Christina Ray a 5-8 guard from the University of Texas-El Paso.
the returning point guard, leads the sophomore class that includes:
post Zeinab Chan, guard Ella Joines, guard Laura Crittendon. The lone
freshman is Lavanda Ross, a 5-8 guard from Jackson North Side HS.
Lady Bulldogs look to continue the tradition of winning basketball. The
past four Union teams have two NAIA National Titles, four national
tournament semifinal appearances, and two conference titles. They have
averaged 33 wins per seasons.
Head Coach Mark Campbell, now in
his tenth season states, "We are returning the best shooting team in
Union history. We look to be deeper this season and more athletic on
defense." Campbell adds, "This team has a lot of experience in big
games and that will help us as we work through our schedule and into