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Women's Basketball - Mon, Oct. 19, 2009
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Cross
Dudley                 Djokovic

Hodges
Lawson

click for preseason all-conference team
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The 2009-2010 TranSouth Athletic Conference women's basketball preseason coaches poll has Union University as the favorite to win their fourth straight TranSouth title. The Bulldogs are the defending NAIA National Champion as well.

The Bulldogs, who won the TranSouth Tournament last year, received all seven of the first place votes and totaled 63 points. Freed-Hardeman University, who advanced to the NAIA Sweet 16 last year, finished second with 56 points. Trevecca, who reached the TranSouth Tournament Championship game, was voted third with 49 points. Bethel University, who advanced to the NAIA Tournament last season, is fourth with 42 points. Lyon College (33), Martin Methodist (26), Cumberland (25), Blue Mountain (12), and Mid-Continent (9) round out the conference poll.
The TranSouth has been one of if not the best NAIA women's basketball conference for the last five years. The strength of the conference was obvious to Top 25 rankers across the NAIA as four teams were ranked in the top 25 all season. Much of the season there were three teams ranked in the Top 10 and Union held the No. 1 spot all season.

2009 TranSouth
Preseason Coaches Poll
1.       Union University (7) - 63
2.       Freed-Hardeman - 56
3.       Trevecca Nazarene - 49
4.       Bethel University - 42
5.       Lyon College - 33
6.       Martin Methodist - 26
7.       Cumberland University - 25
8.       Blue Mountain - 12
9.       Mid-Continent - 9
Due to coaching changes only 7 of 9 coaches participated
Votes were given with a value of 9=1 point and 1=9 points.
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At least one conference team has reached the championship game in each of the last five years. The championship has been won by a conference member in four of those years and two seasons both teams were from the conference. However, the conference member who won the NAIA National Championship was the TranSouth champion in only one of those four seasons.

The conference will see six of the nine schools return with the same head coach this season. Only Martin Methodist, Cumberland and Mid-Continent will see new faces leading the team from the bench. The stability of the coaching regimes, strong recruiting classes, and great facilities in the TranSouth only confirm the conference will be as competitive as ever and will see as many as four teams in the NAIA preseason poll this year.

Mid-Continent University (Courtney Nicely), Martin Methodist (Ed Pipes), and Cumberland (Jeremy Lewis) will see new mentors on board this season. Courtney Nicely takes over as the new head coach at Mid-Continent University. Nicely replaces Dominic Tharpe. Nicely played collegiately at Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne. There she scored more than 1,000 points. She was an assistant at Grace College (Ind.) for two seasons and later worked as an EMT prior to taking the MCU positions this summer.  Ed Pipes joins the RedHawks program following Dee Bell's departure to accept an assistant coach position at Tennessee Tech. Pipes joins the Martin Methodist program from Tennessee State University. He was formerly the head coach at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs. Jeremy Lewis is a new head coach, but not new to the conference or Cumberland. Lewis was a key part of the men's basketball program for three years as a player and four as an assistant. He also spent time as the women's basketball graduate assistant. He takes over the lead of the women's basketball program this year. .

Once again as you read the team capsules below you will get the sense that the TranSouth will serve as one of the strongest conference in the NAIA and have a strong voice in who takes home the 2010 NAIA Championship.


BETHEL UNIVERSITY WILDCATS

McKENZIE, Tenn. - Experience and confidence should prove to be the key for this years Lady Wildcats. Coming off an appearance in the national tournament, the expectations for these ladies have never been higher. And why shouldn't there be? Bethel returns the core of the team and has added talented energetic new faces. The Lady Wildcats are looking forward and will begin the season highly motivated as they will be in pursuit of a serious post season run.

With the return of Nina Djokovic for her final season, the Cats have a strong foundation. Nina is a dynamic competitor that has a desire to get better everyday. Already the (Bethel)single season leading rebounder (300) and a red wagon full of awards ,Djokovic is the ultimate team player.


Tristan Johnson enters her third and final season with the team. TJ looks to leave her mark on this program and she has seen this program mature over her time here.  TJ is a proven gamer that steps up in big games. Joining  TJ  at the guard position will be senior point guard Kashundria Berry and local native Anna Trull.

Berry is one of the quickest guards in the nation and the motor behind this team. It's clear from preseason workouts that she has matured into the point guard role. Berry

Trull, who is known for her shooting ability, is the team's best defender. There's nothing overly skilled about her game, it's that she can get it done in so many ways.  Trull has tremendous speed that seems to never wear down and causes havoc on the defensive end that often turns into easy transition buckets. Her quickness will continue to pay dividends in the Cats up-temp style.

Fellow junior and versatile Teena Carter brings just about everything to the table. Carter is an underestimated talent that does all the dirty work without saying a word. With long arms and an instinct to rebound she also has the ability to knockdown the long ball. Carter like Djokovic will need to key on consistency. Much of the team's success has been based on Teena Carters performance.

The recruiting class includes two D-1 transfers.  At 6-2, Jovana Petrovic finds her way to Bethel with just one year left in her collegiate career. She is a highly skilled player with the ability to play any where on the floor. Jana Roney comes to Bethel after just one season at Murray State University. She brings a winning frame of mind to the basketball team and a toughness that can not be taught. She has spent the off season battling a broken nose and a few nagging injuries. What's clear from her limited time with the team is that Roney has the desire to do what it takes to win.

Bethel coach Chris Nelson sums up his thoughts head into the season, "The key for this team is to finish out games this season. We take great pride in our toughness and up-tempo style of play, but have tried to work on our weakness during the off season. This team meshes well together after a full year of learning one another and learning the league. We challenge our team to dream big and set lofty goals; however, everything is based on our attitude and the ability to close out games."
has not only grown familiar with our league, but has adapted to our style of play. She is strong to the rim and always looking to get everyone involved.



BLUE MOUNTAIN COLLEGE TOPPERS
BLUE MOUNTAIN, Miss. - The Lady Toppers of Blue Mountain College finished the 2008-09 season with a record of 8-25 and a TranSouth record of 3-15.  "This was a disappointing season for us," stated Head Coach Lavon Driskell.

With the return of 3 of 5 starters off last year's squad, experience will not be the issue it has been for the past couple of seasons. The three starters combined for an average of 30 ppg., plus there will two part time starters on the roster.

Driskell continued, "I feel we are more talented overall than we have been. Our speed and quickness is better, as well as our overall size. How this translates into wins will remain to be seen. We will be expecting a lot from our sophomores and freshmen and they must step up big for us to be successful. Our freshman class is the most talented class collectively that we have been able to sign since I came to BMC. Our sophomores can play the game and we are counting on them to play up to those expectations."

Key returnees are seniors Katelynn Wright and Lauren Burgess along with juniors Joy Pierce and Jordan McCormick. Leadership is a must from this group and with solid play the team will see significant improvement.  The group has the ability and mindset to do this. It will take their best efforts night in and out to compete in the always tough TranSouth Athletic Conference.

The three returning starters are Katelynn Wright, Joy Pierce, and Jordan McCormick. Wright a 5'9" forward (9 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 2.4 apg) who has a great eye for the basket.
Pierce is a 5'9" forward (11.9 ppg, 5 rpg, 3.2 apg) can score and make the big play. McCormick a 5'9" forward (6.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 2.8 assists) who is the overall best defender and rebounder but has developed her shot over the summer to where she is a scoring threat.

Caitlin Beckham and Lauren Burges were part time starters last year. Beckham (6' post, 2.3ppg, 2.2 rpg) came back with a lot of confidence because she worked hard over the summer and really improved her game; she must make the post play inside as well as defend the post. Burgess (5'5" guard, 5.9 ppg, 2.9 rpg) can handle the ball; good playmaker, and can score from anywhere on the court

Sophomores Anna Lisa Powell and Kala Morris will be counted on heavily to bring scoring and rebounding to our team. Morris was an outstanding scorer in high school, she struggled a bit as a freshman, but we are counting heavily on her to bring her high school shooting touch to the Lady Toppers this season. She has really been performing well in practice. Anna Lisa Powell played inside and out in high school and she will do that for us. With a season behind her and healthy, Anna Lisa has the potential to be a scoring threat for us each night out. 



CUMBERLAND UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS
LEBANON, Tenn. - First-year Cumberland head coach Jeremy Lewis returns six letter winners for the 2009-10 campaign, including three starters. The Bulldogs also welcome seven newcomers, including two junior college transfers and one four-year transfer.

Lewis is a familiar face at CU, playing three years for the Bulldogs from 2002-04, including a trip to the NAIA National Tournament as a senior. The Hendersonville, Tenn., native has been coaching at Cumberland since his playing days, serving as a graduate assistant for the women's team for one season and then as a full-time assistant for the men's program the past four years.

Lewis will stress defensive intensity and a motion offense that should keep everyone involved and hopefully lead to more easy baskets. The Bulldogs allowed opponents to shoot almost 41 percent from the field last year and score almost 72 points per game, while CU struggled offensively putting the ball in the bucket, making only 36 percent from the floor and scoring just 61 points per outing.

Neither of the team's double-figure scorers from last season return - Chaquaila Gaten or Tranisha Benton - but sophomore Simone Ryan averaged 7.7 points and 7.0 rebounds per game in 2008-09. Sophomores Tamara Gonzalez and Brittany Cash both averaged more than seven points as well, while senior point guard Angie Wells scored 6.6 points and handed out 4.0 assists per contest.

The Bulldogs have also added size to the frontline with Riana Hensley (6-foot-3, Akron Univ.), Joy Ford (6-foot-3, Hunters Lane HS), Ashley Whitmore (6-foot-1, Walters State CC) and Stephanie Martin (6-foot, Florence [AL] HS). Sharp-shooter Kristi Landers from Briarcrest High School and junior college point guard Allysia Bailey should add depth and scoring punch as well for CU.


FREED-HARDEMAN UNIVERSITY LIONS
HENDERSON, Tenn. - For a team that had no seniors last season, there will be a lot of new faces on the floor for the 2009-10 version of the Freed-Hardeman University Lady Lions. The roster of 12 will be split half-and-half with returnees and newcomers as FHU brings back six players while welcoming six freshmen to the squad.  Last season continued a long stretch of excellence for Lady Lion basketball as Freed-Hardeman notched its 13th straight season with at least 20 victories after finishing the year with a record of 25-9. The team also made its 13th consecutive appearance in the NAIA National Tournament, advancing to the Sweet 16 and maintaining the third-longest streak of its kind in the nation.

The Lady Lions will be led into the new season by a pair of returning All-Americans in Jana Cross and Tara Deatheridge. Cross also made Freed-Hardeman history by becoming the program's first player to win the WBCA/State Farm NAIA Player of the Year award.  FHU head coach Dale Neal will look to his two seniors for leadership both on and off the floor.  As it has for two seasons before, the Lady Lion offense will revolve around Cross, a three-time All-American.  Despite missing 12 games last season, Cross was still a first team all-conference and first-team NAIA All-American selection after averaging 19.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game while shooting 55.4 percent from the field.  A first-team all-conference and second-team All-American selection in 2009, Deatheridge will again be looked to as the leader in the backcourt for the Lady Lions in her senior season. Deatheridge, who set a school record by making nine 3-pointers in a win over Bryan (Tenn.) College on Dec. 13, ranked second on the team in scoring (13.4 ppg), assists (3.1 apg) and steals (2.5 spg) while also making a team-high 70 3-pointers.

Meribeth Boehler also returns after a breakout sophomore season that saw her lead the team in field goal percentage while averaging 11.2 and 6.6 rebounds per game. Her physical play along with her length provides an important counterpart to Cross on the blocks. Junior Whitney Johnson and sophomore Hannah Parsley also return in the backcourt. Johnson started all 34 games last year and was second on the team in minutes played, while Parsley averaged over 20 minutes per game in a reserve role. The team is also hopeful for the early-season return of junior guard Kristal Edney, one of the best perimeter shooters in the NAIA. As a sophomore, Edney averaged 13.1 points per game and shot 38.4 percent from 3-point range.

Freshmen Natalie Shumpert and Jessica Light could both make immediate contributions. Both are super-quick players with the ability to break down a defense off the dribble. Shumpert averaged over 20 points per game as a senior at Paducah Tilghman HS, while Light was rated as one of the top 35 high school girls' basketball players in the state of Tennessee.  Another freshman, Brittney Williams, could figure into the mix in the backcourt. Williams was the starting point guard as a sophomore for a Jackson North Side HS team that advanced to the TSSAA State Tournament, averaging nearly 10 points per game that season.

While Cross is definitely at her best playing back-to-basket, she will get balance at the forward spots from newcomers Leslie Morgan and Maria Bagwell, both of whom can face up to the basket and do damage from mid-range. Summer Waggoner, another freshman, adds depth in the low post.


LYON COLLEGE PIPERS
BATESVILLE, Ark. - The Lyon College Pipers hope that a mixture of experience and youthful exuberance will fuel them to a big season in 2009-10.
 
Lyon finished 13-18 overall and earned an 8-8 fifth-place finish in the Tran South last season, despite finishing the year with only eight players on the roster.
 
The Pipers lost three seniors to graduation, including Maribeth Waters (Lyon's No. 4 leading scorer and No. 2 rebounder), but numbers have bounced back up to 15 total players on the roster this year. Those numbers include five returning starters and five key newcomers who are expected to make an impact for the 2009-10 season, Head Coach Tracy Stewart-Lange's fifth voyage at the helm of the Pipers.
 
When one talks about Lyon's impact returnees, any discussion must begin and end with NAIA Honorable Mention All-American K.K. Hodges. Hodges, a 5-11, junior forward from Wynne, Ark., has led the Pipers in scoring and rebounding the past two seasons and is a two-time all-conference player. The junior averaged 13.7 points per game and 7.5 rebounds in 2009-10 and is expected to lead the team again in both categories.
 
Sophomore center Lauren Ramsey (North Little Rock, Ark.) also returns to give the Pipers more muscle in the paint after averaging 11.5 points and 4.6 rebounds a season ago. Senior guards Syeeda Echols (Wichita, Kan.) and Ashley Waller and sophomore forward Morgan Myrick round out the five returning players for the Pipers this season.
 
Among the newcomers who could make an immediate impact are junior transfer Jordin Coleman

(State Fair CC) and freshmen Chris Smith (Springdale, Ark.), Suzanne Fincham (Royal, Ark.), Debbie Onukwube (Little Rock, Ark.) and Stephanie Glover (Cabot, Ark.).


MARTIN METHODIST COLLEGE REDHAWKS
PULASKI, Tenn. - Martin Methodist returns to the court this year with a new coach at the helm of the RedHawks squad. Ed Pipes has been called on the lead the RedHawks in the tough TranSouth Conference. He will have some key starters returning to the line-up and with the addition of some new freshman and junior college transfers Coach Pipes hopes to keep the winning tradition alive for the RedHawks.

The RedHawks have seven returnees. Whitney Robison (5'11" Forward - 13 Ppg, 6 Rpg), Tiffany Travis (6'0" Forward - 5.9 Ppg, 2.8 Rpg), Miranda Cravens (5'3" Guard - 1.1 Ppg, 1.3 Rpg 41 assists
Lauran Hudgins (5'6" Guard - 11.8 Ppg, 1.6 Rpg, 35 assists), Danielle Proudfit (5'8" Guard - 7.2 Ppg), Micah Anderson (5'9" Forward - 7.5  Ppg), Ashley Meeks (5'11" Forward - 6.4 Ppg)

The newcomers are: Sade Gardner (5'11" Junior Forward, from Tallahassee, Fla./Tallahassee CC), Karley Kenley (5'6" Junior Guard, from Little Rock, Ark./Central Baptist College 15 Ppg), Kiona Brooks (6'2' Senior Center, from Memphis, Tenn./Marshall University 7 Ppg), Jessy Christopher (5'4" Freshman Guard, from Lebanon, Tenn./Central High School 10 Ppg), Becca Smithson (5'7" Freshman Guard, from Dickson, Tenn./Dickson County HS11 Ppg), Rikki Sanders (5'7" Freshman Guard, from Knoxville, Tenn./Bearden HS 12.5 Ppg


MID-CONTINENT UNIVERSITY COUGARS
Mayfield, KY - Mid-Continent returns five players from its 2008-09 squad which posted a 3-25 record and won one TransSouth game.  First-year coach Courtney Nicley and assistant Chris Jefferson are faced with the task of building a program that has yet to experience a winning season in a seven-year history. They begin with nine players and no returning All-TSAC selections.
    
"We have a group of nine players who desire to work hard and improve in every facet of the game," says Nicley, who was a four-year starter for Indiana-Purdue Fort Wayne from 2001-05.  "My emphases always have been defense and fundamentals, physical play and hustle, working hard and focusing for the entire game, and knowing the game"
    
Kandi Knupp, a 6-3 senior post, returns after averaging 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds with 41 blocked shots. Amanda Daugherty, a 5-8 sophomore, who started the last 13 games of the season, averaged 3.8 points and 5.1 rebounds, and 5-4 sophomore Nicki Dewitt contributed 7.1 points with 39 three-pointers, mainly as a reserve.
    
Nicley and Jefferson must wait until the conclusion of the collegiate volleyball season to gain the services of three of its top players:  5-11 junior forward Katie Perry, who averaged 9 points and 4 rebounds in 24 games for MCU in 2006-08 but sat out last season, and 5-8 junior guard Tiffany Payton and 5-6 junior guard Lindsey Davis, who both played two seasons for Kaskaskia College in Illinois.
    
Davis and Payton helped Kaskaskia to a 26-9 record last season with conference and NJCAA Region 24 championships, and a berth in the 2009 NJCAA Tournament final four in Salina, Kansas.  Davis totaled 166 assists in 59 career games, and Payton earned All-Conference and All-Region 24 selection last season and averaged 12.1 points with 142 three-point field goals and an .844 free throw percentage in 58 games at Kaskaskia.
    
MCU also returns two other reserves.  5-11 junior forward Alisha Herndon played in nine games last season with 16 points and four rebounds, and as a freshman in 2007-08, she averaged 6.1 points and 2.4 rebounds in 9 games.  5-6 junior guard Jean-Ann Riley, an All-TSAC Scholar-Athlete last season, begins her third season at Mid-Continent and has played briefly in 29 games in 2007-09.


TREVECCA NAZARENE UNIVERSITY TROJANS
The 2009-2010 Trevecca women's basketball team starts with nine returning players and seven newcomers and Coach Van Atta knows the team will learn together and with such an infusion of youth, there might be some growing pains early.

Van Atta says he is looking forward to the journey of developing this team, "This has already been a fun team to coach in the early preseason workouts. We have maturity and experience on this team and yet we have such a strong group of newcomers that we have an air of youthful bliss rounding out our team chemistry."

The team has a lot to live up too in holding true to the program's tradition. Trevecca has reached the TranSouth Conference Championship game in three of the last four seasons and has appeared in 10 consecutive NAIA National Tournaments. Two years ago the team reached the NAIA Championship game and finished NAIA Runner-up.

Seniors
This year's senior class has a pair of highly successful four-year players. Abby Lawson is a returning first team NAIA All-American. Two years ago she was named to the NAIA All-Tournament team en route to playing in the National championship game. Lawson has added an improved three-point threat that will make her even more of a challenge to defend in the half court offense. Christian Gibson has started all but two games she has suited up for in her career at Trevecca. She was the point guard of Trevecca's National Runner-up team and the Mt. Juliet State Championship team. She knows how to run a team efficiently.

Juniors
Jessica Spencer, Casey Pigue, Angelica Sails, K.C. Van Atta, and Paige McFarlin make up this year's junior class. It is a class that would make up a pretty fair starting lineup all alone.

K.C. Van Atta is a returning second team All-TranSouth selection and despite missing seven games last year due to injury she is closing in on the 1000 career scoring mark. Angelica Sails had her season end prematurely last year with a season ending injury. Paige McFarlin is a pure shooter that can score effectively facing the basket. Casey Pigue is three-point threat and a tenacious defender. Jessica Spencer ended the season last year on an exciting note and the coaching staff is looking for her to contribute this season.

Sophomores
The sophomore class is made up of Chelsey Taylor and Shenita Gleaves. Chelsey Taylor will be more of an offensive threat this year. Taylor doesn't make a lot of mistakes and is a great addition to the team on and off the court. Shenita Gleaves is one of the team's most athletic players. Gleaves plays much bigger than her 5'10" size.

Freshmen
The freshman class, London Elie, Lauren Wasson, Kristin Majors, Destiny Dishman, Anissa Ragland, Rachel Raby, and Bonny Kate Simpkins, is seven strong and is going to add tremendous height and depth to the team this season. London Elie is expected to be an impact player for the Trojans this year. Lauren Wasson is a two-time state champ and brings a tenacious defensive mindset to the program. Destiny Dishman is a good all around basketball player and is a big guard that can shoot the three. Anissa Ragland is a tremendous athlete who can run the floor extremely well for a player her size. The former McGavock standout can go to the basket and score on the offensive end and block and defend on the defensive end. Rachel Raby will provide even more depth at the post position.

The 2009-2010 Lady Trojans will have a team that combines experienced players and a number of energetic newcomers.


UNION UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS
JACKSON, Tenn. - The Union University Lady Bulldogs enter the 2009-10 season as the defending NAIA National Champions. Union has won three titles in the past five seasons and has advanced to at least the NAIA semifinal round in each of the last five seasons.

This year's team returns three starters, and seven players overall from last year's team. Union also adds four new players to the program and two players return after sitting out last season. Jessica Graves returns to the program after missing last season with a knee injury and Beatrice Awino Duol after playing as a freshman with Union two years ago.

Union head coach Mark Campbell says, "We have a strong group of returners that know exactly what is expected of them and the expectations of this program. I believe that this is the strongest group of guards we have had in my 11 years. Kaitlin Dudley (17ppg), Zienab Chan (11ppg), Lavanda Ross (10ppg), Kayla Hudson (9ppg 7apg), Jessica Graves (10ppg in 2008) and Christina Ray (started every game, best defender) will be a great group to lead this team."

The senior class for Union has five players led by three-time All-American Kaitlin Dudley. Graves returns for her fifth year at Union, after playing for three seasons and then missing all of last year with an injury. Laura Crittendon returns to complete her four-year career at Union. Crittendon was named an NAIA Scholar Athlete last season. Christina Ray and Ashley Lilliard are back for their second seasons with Union after transferring in as juniors.

Three juniors highlight the roster for Union, led by All-American Kayla Hudson. Zeinab Chan returns for her third season with the Lady Bulldogs, while Kayla Bryant begins her Union career after transferring in this season.

Union boasts four talented sophomores led by last season's TranSouth Newcomer of the Year, Lavanda Ross. Duol returns to the roster after not playing in 2008-09. Rebecca Sharpe joins Union from Bryan (Tenn.) College where she led NAIA DII in assists last season as a freshman. Stacey Conway joins Union this year, coming from the junior college level.

Three freshmen begin their college careers at Union. Paige Parker comes to Union from Hanceville, Ala., Aly Giddens joins Union from the University School of Jackson, while Mildred Olumasi is from Kenya.

Union will also look to extend several streaks that are intact entering the 2009-10 season. Union has been ranked No. 1 in the NAIA for 25 straight rankings (two straight seasons). Union has also won 23 straight games, 42 straight home games and 35 straight regular season conference games.

The Union Lady Bulldogs have won three straight TranSouth titles. Over the 13-year history of the TranSouth Conference, Union has won 11 regular season titles and 10 tournament titles.