Cougars Take Top Spot in AMC Pre-Season Poll
ST. LOUIS -- Columbia College grabbed the top spot in the American Midwest Conference Women's Basketball pre-season poll that was released Tuesday afternoon. The Columbia Lady Cougars tallied nine first place votes in the poll voted on by all the league's coaches. William Woods University was second with one first place nod and conference newcomer Lyon College earned the third spot.
Columbia posted a 24-10 overall record in 2011-12, and finished in first place in the AMC standings at 12-2. The Cougars reached the AMC Tournament championship contest, and qualified for the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship for the ninth time in 11 seasons. Columbia is coached by Mike Davis and returns the 2011-12 AMC Player of the Year and Third Team All-American Heather English. The junior guard averaged 15 points and five rebounds per contest. English will be joined by senior Julie Teeple and Tierney Seifert who all were in the starting line-up for the Lady Cougars last season.
Head Coach Dan Chapla looks for his talented group of newcomers to join a squad that finished 24-10 last season, winning the AMC Tournament Championship and advancing on to the NAIA National Championships. Finishing second in the regular season race last season with a 12-4 record, the Owls return guards Blake French and Katie Scherder as well as forward Ashlee Taylor. The trio combined to average 23 points and 11 rebounds per contest in 2011-12.
The Scots of Lyon College are new to the AMC in 2011-12 but are no stranger to success on the court. Lyon finished last season with a 20-12 record and qualified the NAIA National Championships with a 9-8 conference mark. Under the leadership of Tracy Stewart-Lange the Scots return four key players in seniors Phagen Altom, Debbie Onukwube, Christine Smith and Suzanne Fincham. Altom, an NAIA Honorable Mention All-American dropped in 13 points and 4 rebounds a game last season.
Park University and Hannibal-LaGrange University finished the poll in a tie for fourth. With Kelly Quigle at the helm, the Hannibal-LaGrange University Trojans return last season's AMC Newcomer and Freshman of the Year in Ashley Wilson and Ashleigh Hurd-Spencer, respectively. The pair of 6-0 forwards combined to average almost 30 points a game last season including averaging over 15 rebounds a contest.
Park University tied for fourth after finishing the 2011-12 AMC regular season with an 8-6 record and a 19-8 overall record. The Pirates lost numerous key players to their lineup but return three seniors that will hopefully propel them to the top in 2012-13. Brianna Beridon tops the list of returners with her 10.7 ppg, 2.1 rpg, 2 spg and 2 apg performance last season. Fellow seniors Carla McKinney and Joanna Matthews will assist at the guard position for Kenneth Cooper's squad.
The Williams Baptist College Eagles were voted sixth this season. Under the guidance of Carol Halford the Eagles wrapped up 2011-12 with a 17-10 record and a 9-5 regular season AMC mark, good enough for the third seed in the AMC tournament. Cheyenne Childers (6 ppg, 4 rpg) and Kimberly Wise (10 ppg) are the top returners for the Eagles this season.
Even though they've lost first team all-conference member Tonette Murphy to graduation, the Hornets of Harris-Stowe State University hope their strong group of returners will lead them to success. Harris-Stowe was 6-8 against league foes last year and return point guard Kayla Fisher (12.4 ppg) who was an honorable mention all-conference recipient in 2011-12.
The Spartans of Missouri Baptist University also lost some key players from last season but return a talented group of seniors led by Mandy Kirby, Lauren Taylor and Iesha McDaniel. The Spartans are coached by Iris Dixon.
Under the instruction of first year head coach Chris Duncan, the Stars of Stephens College look to make a splash this season with a talented group of returners and newcomers. Jessica McConnell leads the returners in her senior campaign after averaging a team high 8.9 points per game last season.
Wanda Nettles leads the Benedictine University at Springfield Bulldogs into their inaugural season. A strong group of recruits hope to set a winning tradition for the Bulldogs.