NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The 2010-2011 TranSouth Athletic Conference women's basketball
preseason coaches' poll has Union University as the favorite to win their fifth straight TranSouth title. The Bulldogs are the two-time defending NAIA National Champion as well.
The Bulldogs, who won the TranSouth Regular Season Championship last year, received all nine of the first place votes and totaled 79 points. Union features TranSouth Preseason Player of the Year Sarah Chan as well as Kayla Hudson and Lavanda Ross who made the preseason all-conference team.
Freed-Hardeman University, the defending TranSouth Tournament Champion
, finished second with 64 points. The Lions have two players on the preseason all-conference team in Meredith Boehler and Hannah Parsley. Trevecca finished in a three-way tie for second in the TSAC regular season last year and received 54 points, third best. The Trojans placed London Elie and K.C. Van Atta on the preseason all conference team.
Bethel University, who advanced to the NAIA Championships for a second consecutive year, is fourth with 44 points. BU reached the final 16 for the first time. Wildcat Teena Carter made the preseason all-conference team.
Lyon College, Cumberland, Martin Methodist, Blue Mountain, and Mid-Continent round out the conference poll. K.K. Hodges of Lyon received the second most votes on the preseason all-conference team. Cumberland's Tamara Gonzalez also made the preseason all-conference team.
The TranSouth has proven to arguably be the best NAIA women's basketball conference for the last six years. NAIA Top 25 rankers across the country consistently voted four teams from the conference in the top 25. Union held the No. 1 spot all season. There were a couple of polls that nearly saw five conference teams in the top 25.
At least one conference team has reached the championship game in each of the last six years. The championship has been won by a conference member in five 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 five seasons.
The conference will see seven of the nine schools return with the same head coach this season. Only Martin Methodist and Mid-Continent will see new faces leading the team from the bench.
Mid-Continent University (Courtney Nicely) and Martin Methodist (Ed Pipes) will see new mentors on board this season. Charlotte Snowden takes over as the new head coach at Mid-Continent University. She replaces Courtney Nicely who moved to Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne. You can read more about Snowden in the MCU preview below. Jamy Bechler replaces Ed Pipesfor the MMC RedHawks program. Bechler joins the Martin Methodist program from Bryan College. Learn more about Bechler in the MMC preview below.
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 more than likely see four teams in the NAIA Preseason Top 25, and up to six receiving votes. The NAIA Preseason Top 25 will be released on October 25.
The teams capsules that follow will help prepare for the coming TranSouth women's basketball season. The conference will once again be a factor throughout the season in the polls and ultimately in who wins the 2011 NAIA Championship.
BETHEL UNIVERSITY WILDCATS
MCKENZIE, Tenn. - After the first ever Sweet Sixteen appearance and its second consecutive trip to the NAIA Championships, the Bethel women's basketball team is ready to make a jump to the next level and the players to do so, are in place. Bethel looks to build upon the last two years with a host of returners and a talented group of newbies. "After a three way tie for second place in TranSouth, and first 20 win season since reentering the TranSouth we are looking to build upon what we have done the past four seasons and to keep that moving forward into this season," said Coach Chris Nelson. "The next step is to move past the Sweet Sixteen and to ultimately reach our goal of a national championship." The Cats will do so without first team All- American Nina Djokovic and second team all-conference member Kashundria Berry.
Key components in its mission this year will be local natives and seniors Teena Carter (Milan, Tenn.), Anna Trull (McKenzie, Tenn.), and Ashlee Dubruiel (Dresden, Tenn.). "This group of seniors is strong in character and is very coachable," said Coach Nelson. "Teena is a seasoned veteran and has been so easy to coach throughout her career," added Nelson.
Jana Roney is ready to settle into her position and become more of a scoring threat. "She is so versatile and can cause matchup problems for opposing teams," stated Coach Nelson. Fellow junior and transfer (UMSL) Hailee Deckard has the ability to defend with tremendous ball pressure, a great rebounder and will be one of the biggest offensive threats for the Wildcats.
Another junior and long range threat is 5-7 Kelsey Hamilton. "Having Kelsey on the court is like having two point guards out there at the same time," said Coach Nelson. Also joining the team this season is JUCO transfer Takara Harris (Fort Meyers, Fla.). Harris played two seasons at Kaskaskia CC in Illinois. "When TK is agressive our team is better. She shoots the ball well from the outside, sees the floor well in transition and a breakdown ball handler that can get to the rim," stated Coach Nelson. Shalonda George (Denham Springs, La.) redshirted last year and will add depth to the post. Shalonda fits BU's style extremely well with her ability to defend with pressure and crashing the offensive glass.
Redshirt sophomore Ginny St. Lawrence (Franklin, Tenn.) will return to action second semester. "Ginny is a program kid that has improved in every aspect since being here. She has a true desire to and focus to push her to be the best basketball player and teammate." Jasmine Porter (Paris, Tenn.) also is coming back from an injury riddled freshman year. "Jasmine had one of the best springs and got in better shape over the summer," according to Coach Nelson. "She is probably one of the best offensively skilled kids that we have and can shoot it, runs the floor great and is always sacrificing her body for the team."
Five freshman, all local natives to West Tennessee, joining the team are; post players Tiffany Keck (6-2, post, Lexington, Tenn.). Tiffany can run the floor, and is a great shot blocker and strong at posting and asking for the ball. Coach Nelson said, "Keck does something every day that gets our coaching staff excited about her game." Molly Wallsmith (Bradford, Tenn.) will step in and run the point guard position. "Molly is such a savvy player that does little things that make your team better "Nelson said. Shooting guard Katie VanDyke (Paris, Tenn.) will add depth to the backcourt this season. "Katie can flat out shoot the basketball from anywhere, "said Nelson. She is very fundamental and spent time learning the system in the preseason.
Heather Capps (Camden, Tenn.) was a late, but a steal signee with raw athletic skills. "The best thing about Heather is her attitude and her focus to get better every day," added Nelson. Halie Miller (Jackson, Tenn.) is a feisty shooting guard that is learning on the defensive side of the ball and adapting to the physical style of play. "She is a joy to have on our team and always seems to keep our team in a good mood," said Coach Nelson.
BLUE MOUNTAIN COLLEGE TOPPERS
BLUE MOUNTAIN, Miss. - The Lady Toppers of Blue Mountain College hope that a mixture of experience and the addition of three newcomers will be the right combination for an exciting 2010-11 basketball season.
BMC finished the 2009-10 campaign at 11-20 overall and a 4-12, 7th place tie, in the TranSouth Conference.
The Lady Toppers lost two seniors to graduation, including three year starter Katelynn Wright, and a two year starting guard Lauren Burgess. With eight returning players, who received valuable game experience, anticipation is high for an improved 2010-11 finish.
Key returnees, are Joy Pierce, Sr. Fwd., leading scorer for the Lady Toppers the past two seasons; Anna Lisa Powell, Jr. Fwd., second leading scorer, Jordan McCormick, Sr. Fwd., 3rd leading scorer, and So. Guard, Jessi Hayles the 4th leading scorer.
Junior center, Caitlin Beckham, a starter during 2009-10, provided valuable inside play for the Lady Toppers and alternated with So., center, Samantha Burns, the 3rd leading rebounder. Sophomores Bam Bam Robinson and Candace Davis played the guard spots and provided valuable play.
Newcomers expected to make an immediate impact are Junior College transfer Erin Parrish, freshmen Kyesha Clark and Chelsea Hussey.
CUMBERLAND UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS
LEBANON, Tenn. - Cumberland second-year head coach Jeremy Lewis returns six letterwinners but more importantly has six newcomers, including three Division I transfers and a junior college transfer as the Bulldogs look to make a jump in the standings in 2010-11.
Cumberland lost eight contests by seven points or less last season during a 9-18 campaign, Lewis' first as head coach after four years as an assistant for the men's program at his alma mater. Six of the eight defeats came against ranked foes and National Tournament attendees Union University, Bethel University, Trevecca Nazarene and the Univ. of the Cumberlands, all by a grand total of 31 points.
Three former UT Martin players - Samantha Harper, Yalonda Davis and Jessica Pace - along with Walters State Community College transfer Ambrea Owens bring experience and toughness to what was a very young team last season.
Colombian guard Stefan�a Ibague along with Seymour High School product Casie Cowan should add to the backcourt depth with returnees Tamara Gonzalez and Kristi Landers, who played in only four games last season before a foot injury sidelined the Briarcrest Christian School product.
Tranisha Benton, who averaged 11.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 2008-09, also returns after a knee injury knocked her out all of last season.
Gonzalez averaged 9.2 points, 3.4 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 1.7 steals per contest in 2009-10 while shooting 33 percent from behind the arc. The Asuncion, Paraguay, native scored in double figures seven times in TranSouth action, including 12 points in outings versus Union and Trevecca.
FREED-HARDEMAN UNIVERSITY LIONS
HENDERSON, Tenn. - The Freed-Hardeman Lady Lions did the unthinkable last season, winning the TranSouth Conference championship by upsetting No. 1 Union (Tenn.) University on their home floor and becoming the first road team to win the tournament championship in TSAC history.
However, as head coach Dale Neal enters his 17th season at FHU, there are some questions to be answered as the new season approaches.
Gone are four-time NAIA All-American Jana Cross and Tara Deatheridge, who was also an All-American and a four-year starter. While those are the only two losses of players who saw significant action, their production and experience will prove difficult to replace.
This year, expect the offense to run through senior Meribeth Boehler, a first-team all-conference selection and second-team All-American in 2010.
Boehler, who was second on the team in scoring (14.1 ppg) and rebounding (6.7 rpg), came on strong during conference play and averaged 18.4 points during the month of February.
Returning in the backcourt is a trio of talented guards in Hannah Parsley, Whitney Johnson and Natalie Shumpert. Like Boehler, Parsley (5-8; Jr.) exploded in February, averaging 15.1 points per game during the month. Parsley proved deadly from well beyond the arc, knocking down many deep 3-pointers while shooting 39.2 percent for the season.
Johnson (5-4; Sr.) and Shumpert (5-4; So.) have very similar styles of play with their quickness and ability to break defenses down off the dribble. Both are also tenacious defenders, combining for 108 steals last season.
Also returning in the frontcourt alongside Boehler are Maria Bagwell (5-7; So.) and Summer Waggoner (5-10; So.). Bagwell was a pleasant surprise last season, earning all-freshman honors after proving herself as a soild rebounder despite being an undersized post. Waggoner saw limited action as a freshman but her role is expected to grow this season.
Neal is hoping for immediately contributions from several newcomers including Karissa Dyer (6-3; Fr.), Katie Pate (6-2; Fr.), Shelby Taylor (5-3; Fr.) and Cynthia Woodward (5-7; Fr.).
The Lady Lions' schedule will, as always, be filled with nationally-ranked opponents. Seven of their 14 non-conference opponents were in the top 25 in last season's final national rating.
LYON COLLEGE PIPERS
BATESVILLE, Ark. - Any discussion about the 2010-11 version of the Lyon College Scots women's basketball team this season begins and ends with its formidable frontline and two-time NAIA All-American K.K. Hodges.
Hodges, a three-time All-TranSouth Conference forward, returns for her senior season with Lyon and is the TranSouth's top returning player in scoring average at 18.1 points per game. The senior placed third in the league in double doubles with 14 and in rebounds with 8.1 per game.
"K.K. is just so versatile," said sixth-year Lyon Head Coach Tracy Stewart-Lange. "She can beat you in a variety of ways. She's the ultimate power player in the paint. She's just so tough inside and out. We're glad to have her back."
Last season, Hodges' versatility helped lead the Scots to a 17-13 record with a mark of 8-8 in the TranSouth Conference. With three additional returning starters and a host of sharp-shooting newcomers on the perimeter, the Scots are primed and ready for an improvement on last year's performance.
Junior Lauren Ramsey and sophomore Suzanne Fincham return to bolster the Scots in the paint at the post positions, while point guard Jordin Coleman is back to marshal the Scots on the court.
Ramsey was second only to Hodges in scoring average (11.5 ppg) and rebounds (4.6) and gave the Scots added scoring punch on the blocks. Fincham helped provide a boost off the bench with 6.0 ppg and 3.6 rpg as a freshman. Coleman was vital on both offense and collected the team's highest returning assists total with 67 a year ago.
The Scots have quite the post presence, but could become more adept at dialing in from long distance, thanks to the addition of three transfers: sophomore Phagen Altom (Arkansas Tech), junior Erin Roush (Northern Oklahoma-Tonkawa) and sophomore Holly Burt (SW Oklahoma State).
"We already had strong post play," said Stewart-Lange, "But now I feel we might finally have the balance in scoring that we have needed with the addition of some really good perimeter players. If we mesh and stay healthy, we could challenge and have a successful conference season."
MARTIN METHODIST COLLEGE REDHAWKS
PULASKI, Tenn. - Martin Methodist College women's basketball will welcome new leadership for 2010-11, as Head Coach Jamy Bechler takes over for the RedHawks. Bechler, who enters his ninth season as a head coach, comes to MMC from Bryan College in hopes to propel the RedHawks into the top of the TranSouth standings this season.
Bechler's squad consists of seven returners from last year's RedHawk team, while six newcomers will compliment MMC. Top returners include point guard Jessy Christopher (Sophomore/Lebanon, Tenn.), who led the RedHawks in minutes played and shot 37 percent from beyond the arc last season, and forward Micah Anderson (Junior/Hohenwald, Tenn.), who averaged 15.4 points per game for the birds in her sophomore campaign.
MMC brings in top prospects guard Tyffani Fenwick (Junior/Fayetteville, N.C.) and forward Vee Young (Junior/Pulaski, Tenn.), while point guard Cori Jones (Senior/Lawrenceburg, Tenn.) returns close to home after playing for Bechler at Bryan College last season. Fenwick transfers from Palm Beach CC where she earned All-Conference honors and averaged 14 points per contest, while Young returns to Pulaski, after spending two years at Volunteer State CC where she was named the Tennessee Community College Athletic Association Eastern Division Player of the Year, and was second in TCCAA scoring with an average of 16.8 points.
Jones led Bryan College in minute played as a junior, and with 4.3 assists per game, led the Appalachian Athletic Conference. The RedHawks will also use new collegiate players to enhance their program, adding four freshman to their roster this season.
Martin Methodist opens their season on October 30th at Reinhardt University, before their home-opener scheduled for November 4th against Tennessee Temple University.
MID-CONTINENT UNIVERSITY COUGARS
MAYFIELD, Ky. - Mid-Continent University women's basketball begins 2010-11 with a mixture of seven returning players, including five seniors, four community college transfers and six freshmen and a new coaching staff charged with blending an increased talent pool, better team speed, shooting prowess and team depth into a cohesive unit in pursuit of MCU's first winning season in six seasons of women's hoops. MCU posted a 3-26 record and won one TranSouth game last season.
New head coach Charlotte Snowden replaces Courtney Nicley, who coached MCU for one season before returning to her alma mater, Indiana University-Purdue University-Fort Wayne, as an assistant coach.
Snowden brings 15 seasons of college basketball coaching experience from Trinity Bible College in North Dakota (2002-09) and Southeastern College in Florida (1994-2002), and has added Lauren Templeton, a former player at McKendree University (2001-03) and East Central Community College (1999-2001), as her assistant coach.
Snowden welcomes back five seniors including three starters. 6-0 forward Katie Perry (Anchorage, Alaska/Grace Christian School) averaged 9.0 points and 6.8 rebounds in 28 games for MCU last season and is MCU's all-time leader in offensive rebounds and ranks second in points, field goals, free throws, defensive rebounds and total rebounds. 5-8 guard Tiffany Payton (Wadesville, Ind./Mater Dei HS) averaged 12.1 points and 3.9 rebounds with a team-leading 43 three-pointers last season after transferring from Kaskaskia College (Ill.), and 5-6 guard Lindsey Davis (Charlestown, Ind./Charlestown HS), who also played two seasons for Kaskaskia, averaged 4.4 points and 3.3 rebounds with 36 steals and a team-leading 71 assists. Perry and Davis join the team after the volleyball season ends in November.
5-11 forward Alisha Herndon (Clarksville, Tenn./Montgomery Central HS) and 5-6 guard Jean-Ann Riley (Mayfield, Ky./Graves County HS) begin their fourth seasons in MCU uniforms. Herndon averaged 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds in 26 games with nine starts last season, and Riley, a two-time All-TSAC Scholar-Athlete and NAIA Scholar-Athlete, begins averaged 1.7 points and 1.5 points with seven three-pointers in 27 games with four starts.
Also returning to the MCU line-up are guards Nicki Dewitt (Louisville, Ky./Atherton HS) and Magen Hancock (Clinton, Ky./Hickman County HS). A 5-4 junior, Dewitt averaged 4.4 points with 19 three-pointers in 23 games, and Hancock, a 5-3 redshirt sophomore started 21 times last season in 29 games and contributed 2.3 points with 16 three-pointers.
The rest of MCU's success this season rests in the hands of a recruiting class of four community college transfers and six freshmen. 5-4 junior guard Holli Daily (Gainesboro, Tenn./Jackson County HS) and 5-10 junior post player Heather George (Morristown, Tenn./Morristown HS) join the MCU squad from the Roane State CC (Tenn.) program, where they combined for 693 career points, 452 rebounds, and 227 assists in two seasons. 5-6 junior forward Kaneisha Jones (Reno, Nev./Hug HS) and 5-4 junior point guard Shanice Martin (Reno, Nev./Hug HS) transfer in from Feather River CC in Quincy, Calif., where they combined for 1223 career points.
The freshmen recruit class includes 5-8 forward Stephanie Malone (Louisville, Ky./Iroquois HS), who adds versatility and athleticism to MCU's mix after averaging 22 points and 9 rebounds per game during her senior season. 5-6 swing player Haley Richards (Wingo, Ky./Graves County HS) averaged 6.6 points and 6.1 rebounds with a .472 field goal percentage as a senior, and 5-5 guard Audrey Futrell (Cadiz, Ky./Trigg County HS) averaged 7.0 points with a team-leading 60 assists and 65 assists as the only senior for Trigg County High School.
5-9 forward Shawn Berry (Louisville, Ky./Doss HS) led her high school team in blocked shots and her volleyball team in total blocks as a senior, and 5-9 forward Ginger Gilbert (Owensboro, Ky./Apollo HS) and 5-8 forward Autumn Bowman (Brookport, Ill.), from nearby Community Christian Academy, both were All-District selections last season. Bowman and Dewitt also play softball for Mid-Continent during the spring season.
TREVECCA NAZARENE UNIVERSITY TROJANS
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The 2010-2011 edition of the Trevecca women's basketball team-the 15th since the program was re-started in 1996-will have several familiar faces back in the fold, but it will also be missing several recognizable faces. Nine players return from last year's team which finished in a tie for 2nd place in the TranSouth conference regular season and advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NAIA National Tournament. Gone, however, are five players who combined to play 494 games at Trevecca, including Abby Lawson and Christian Gibson, two of the best players ever to put on a Trevecca uniform.
Leading the returnees is this season's lone senior, K. C. Van Atta, a 2010 All-TranSouth First Team selection and the program's all-time leader in 3-point field goals made (209) and attempted (609). Van Atta was also a 2010 NAIA All-American Honorable Mention, led the Trojans in scoring at 12.8 points per game, and eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for her career as well (1,181). "We know other teams are pay attention to K. C.," says Coach Gary Van Atta. "She is healthy for the first time in a couple of years, and I know that she is up to the challenge."
Also back are Chelsey Taylor and Shenita Gleaves, a pair of 5-9 juniors that will step up more this season. Taylor, actually in her fourth year, shot 47% from the field, including 40% from beyond the three-point line. "She seems to be in the right place at the right time," says Van Atta. "Shenita really gained some confidence from her NAIA performance, and we expect her to build on that experience, both offensively and defensively."
The other juniors on the roster are transfers, Heather Miller (Vol State CC) and Elizabeth Pentecost (Virginia Western CC), who will add size and depth to the Trojan roster. "Heather brings a lot of experience from her play at Vol State," Van Atta says. "She is a big, strong, physical presence and adds depth to the front line."
Six solid sophomores return for their second year, London Elie, a 6-3 post player, earned the TranSouth Freshman of the Year Award last year leads the way. "London came up big for us last year," said Van Atta. "We're expecting even more from her this season." Another 6-3 post player who came on late last season was Rachel Raby. Coach Van Atta says Raby was "probably our most improved player from the start of the season to the finish. Having her and London gives us a presence inside that should give K. C. and our other shooters good looks outside."
Kristin Majors, Lauren Wasson, Destiny Dishman, and Anissa Ragland, all of whom could see their minutes increase, all showed promise in their first year. In order for the team to maintain the Trojan winning tradition, their contributions, both offensively and defensively, are needed.
Four freshmen arrived on campus this fall. Rachel Bollinger (Denver, Colo.), Britt Bell (Mt. Juliet, Tenn.), Anna Mitchell (Nashville, Tenn.), and Shateka Battle (Nashville, Tenn.) all bring a solid high school pedigree with them. "Rachel came in physically ready to play, and Shateka will be one of the best athletes in the conference," said Van Atta. "Britt has had some setbacks physically, but she's ready to go now, and Anna had a great summer and was all-everything at CPA."
The pre-conference schedule is challenging and will undoubtedly help a team with 10 freshmen and sophomores prepare for the rigors of TranSouth play. Trips in November include Georgetown (Ky.), Point Loma Nazarene and Westmont College (California), and the North Georgia Classic. In December a trip to the Olivet Nazarene Tournament will match the Trojans with ONU as well as with NAIA-power St. Xavier.
Later in December the Trojans will compete in the Rosa Stokes Classic at Cumberland University, taking on the University of the Cumberlands and Indiana Wesleyan. Two-time defending national champion Union along with Freed-Hardeman and Bethel make the TranSouth schedule a daunting challenge as well. "Union is the team to beat until somebody beats it," says Van Atta. "And Freed won the conference tournament last year, so they should be tough again. I think Martin Methodist could be a real sleeper this year."
Coach Van Atta is excited about the possibilities. "We may have as athletic a team as we've had since I've been here," says Van Atta. "They have a chance to be the best rebounding team I've had as well." Van Atta goes on to say, "With our depth, we'll be able to get up and down the floor and play pressure defense." And Coach Van Atta has high expectations for this group. "We may struggle early as we incorporate all the new faces into the lineup and develop our identity, but as the season goes on, I think we will be a force to be reckoned with."
UNION UNIVERSITY BULLDOGS
JACKSON, Tenn. - The Union University women's basketball enters the 2010-11 season as the two-time defending NAIA National Champions. In fact, Union has won five national titles overall, including four in the past six seasons.
Over the past six seasons, Union has posted one of the most dominate stretches in women's basketball history. In the past six years, Union has four national titles and a combined record of 204-21 (.906), including a 108-4 (.964) record in the last three seasons. In the two seasons in which Union did not win the national title during this stretch, the Lady Bulldogs lost in the semifinals on a shot in the final 10 seconds of each game to the eventual national champion.
Union has been ranked No. 1 in the NAIA for 36 straight rankings, spanning three seasons. The Lady Bulldogs have also won each of the past three regular season TranSouth titles and had their stretch of two straight conference tournament titles snapped last season in a upset at home in the title game. The loss snapped a 60-game home winning streak. Over the 14-year history of the TranSouth Conference, Union has won 12 regular season titles and 10 tournament titles.
In 2010-11, Union will look to continue that run of record setting basketball. Reigning NAIA Coach of the Year, Mark Campbell and eight-year assistant Katie Woodruff, will take three returning All-Americans, a quality groups of reserves and a group of talented newcomers and work toward another run at a title. Their work will be tough as they adjust to the loss of the leading scorer in Union University women's basketball history, Kaitlin Dudley. Dudley was a four-time NAIA All-American and finished with 2,385 points.
Kayla Hudson, the senior guard who has started every game for the Lady Bulldogs since signing with Union as a freshman, will be the leader on this team. She became Union's all-time assists leader last season in just her junior year. Sara Chan and Lavanda Ross also return after All-American seasons from a year ago.
The senior class for Union included Hudson, Chan, and sharp-shooter Kayla Bryant. Hudson and Chan will lead the offensive production for Union. Bryant will continue to provide Union a long range scoring threat, something the Lady Bulldogs have been known for over the years.
Ross leads a group of three juniors, two of which are returning. Ross was an NAIA honorable mentioned All-American last season as a sophomore. Beatrice Duel returns as one of the biggest players in the NAIA and will continue to work on her skills as she comes off the bench. Newcomer Hope Adams will have an opportunity to play an immediate part in Union success this season.
Two sophomores return from last season, however both will be playing their first minutes with Union. Aly Giddens missed the season with an injury and will look to make up for lost time with her shooting ability from the outside. Rebecca Sharpe completed a redshirt season last year and will provide a great back up to Hudson at the point as she prepares to lead the team later in her career.
The largest class is the freshman class, made up of five players, three of which are coming off red-shirt seasons. Paige Parker, who redshirted last season, will step in as one of the top shooters on the team and could see playing time early and often. Mildred Olumasi, also a redshirt, will provide solid depth to Chan in the post. LaTesa McLaughlin, who came in mid-semester and redshirted, will provide an offensive and defensive spark at the guard position. Newcomers to the program, Terrah Garner and Astrid Huttemann, enter with high expectations and will see plenty of early opportunities to contribute.
Union again boasts one of the toughest, if not the single toughest schedule in the NAIA. Union's non-conference schedule is again list of who's who among NAIA powers. Union will face NAIA ranked teams and national tournament participants including St. Francis (Ill.), Cumberlands (Ky.), Oklahoma Baptist, Azusa Pacific (Calif.), Vanguard (Calif.), Lee (Tenn.), St. Xavier (Ill.), Olivet Nazarene (Ill.), Shorter, Campbellsville (Ky.) and Evangel (Mo.). Of Union's 13 non-conference games, 11 were ranked at some point last season, nine were participants in the national tournament, seven advanced to the second round, and one (Azusa Pacific) will be a rematch of last season's title game.
Union's conference schedule does not get any easier as the TranSouth has become one of the top women's basketball leagues in the NAIA. Five different conference teams have made the national semifinals at least once in the past four years. Union will face national tournament participants Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.), Trevecca Nazarene (Tenn.) and Bethel (Tenn.), all of which advanced to the second round last season. Other programs such as Cumberland (Tenn.), who as a national finalist 2007, and up-and-coming programs Lyon (Ark.) and Martin Methodist (Tenn.) are on the very edge of advancing to the national tournament.
Union will also play two exhibition games this season against SEC and NCAA national powers, Tennessee and Vanderbilt (Tenn.). This will be the second straight season for Union to face Vanderbilt.
Last season Union led the Lady Commodores by as many as 13 points and led for the first 29 minutes of the game before falling. Union played Tennessee four times during the 1970's, with Union holding a 3-1 advantage.