GANSEVOORT, N.Y. – The defending North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) women’s basketball champion SUNY Polytechnic Institute Wildcats will again be the team to beat in 2016-17, according to the coaches’ preseason poll rankings.
The Wildcats collected seven out of a possible 13 first-place votes to finish with 155 points and top the list. SUNY Poly, also the two-time defending North Division champions, will see five players return from last season’s title squad to go with a handful of new faces to help reload the roster. Leading the way will be senior guard Stevie Ray (Syracuse, N.Y.), a NEAC All-Conference Second Team selection last season after averaging a team-best 17.9 points and 2.3 steals per game while shooting 43 percent from both the field and from 3-point land. Ray also took home NEAC Tournament MVP honors following a tremendous three-game stretch during last season’s conference tournament. Joining Ray in the backcourt will be junior Paige Gallo (Ballston Spa, N.Y.), a 22-game starter last season who shot nearly 38 percent from downtown.
Wildcat head coach Jessica Skelton, entering her 13th season at the helm, will test her squad throughout the year with nonconference bouts against SUNY Cortland, Utica College and Lehman College. The Wildcats finished 23-6 overall and 17-1 in NEAC play a year ago en route to their first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division III Tournament.
Morrisville State College placed second with 148 points behind four first-place votes. The Mustangs will see nine players and four starters return from last year’s squad that qualified for the NEAC Tournament. Leading the way will be senior guard Jordan Anderson (West Edmeston, N.Y.), a 2015-16 NEAC All-Conference First Team selection who averaged 15 points, 4.9 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 steals through 27 starts last season. Also returning is junior and NEAC All-Conference Third team selection Haley Kilmartin (Fort Plain, N.Y.), who averaged 15.9 points and 5.9 rebounds in 27 starts a year ago. Fellow 27-game starter Marissa Woodard (Unadilla, N.Y.) also returns after the defensive-minded senior posted a team-best 1.3 blocks per game.
Bryn Athyn College followed closely behind in third with 144 points while garnering a pair of first-place votes. The Lions return the core group that led them to the playoffs behind a 13-7 conference record. All-Conference First Team honoree Kristina Clark (Perth Amboy, N.J.) returns for her senior season after averaging 21.1 points and 11.3 rebounds per game last year, ranking her third in the NEAC in both categories. Seniors Keana Schoennagle (Hazleton, Pa.) and Je'la Watson (West Chester, Pa.) and sophomore Sarah Elizabeth Atunrase (Yardley, Pa.) all return after appearing in all 26 Lion contests, with Atunrase posting a conference-leading 4.1 blocks per game.
Wells College placed fourth with a total of 114 points. Seven players and three starters return from last year’s playoff squad, including junior and All-Conference First Teamer Ashida Cooper (Bensalem, Pa.) and her 18.8 points per game on 52.4 percent shooting, which was the second-best clip in the conference. Senior and leading rebounder Kamarie Maturine (Brooklyn, N.Y.) along with sophomore Shelby Medovich (Harpursville, N.Y.) also return for the Express, who will be led by new coach Tara Ruckh this season following 11 years at the helm at SUNY Potsdam.
Lancaster Bible College placed fifth with 106 points and received the final first-place tally. The Chargers, four-time defending NEAC South Division champions and NEAC Tournament runners-up last season, will be led by senior Krissy Pennell (Wrightsville, Pa.). The point guard returns after dishing out a conference-best 7.9 assists per game while being second in steals (3.9) through 29 starts. The Chargers will also boast the reigning NEAC Coach of the Year in Katelyn Vanderhoff, who enters her second season in command for LBC.
SUNY Cobleskill placed sixth with 102 points and will once again be led by senior and NEAC All-Conference Third Teamer Shelby Preston (Ravena, N.Y.), who pulled down a NEAC-best 14.5 rebounds per game to go with 13.8 points. College of Saint Elizabeth followed closely in seventh with 101 points to round out the top-half of the rankings, with the Eagles seeing the return of nine players for new head coach Mike O'Brien. The full women’s basketball preseason poll rankings can be found below:
|Rank||Institution (First-Place Votes)||Total Points|
|1||SUNY Polytechnic Institute (7)||155|
|2||Morrisville State College (4)
|3||Bryn Athyn College (2)
|5||Lancaster Bible College (1)
|7||College of Saint Elizabeth||101|
|10||Penn State Abington
|11||Penn State Berks||45|
The 2016-17 NEAC women’s basketball season will begin next Tuesday, November 15, with a full season schedule being available on the NEAC website here. Be sure to follow all the action throughout the season using the free NEAC mobile app, Front Row, which can be downloaded here.
The preseason poll rankings were conducted by the NEAC women’s basketball coaches, with each coach ranking out all teams but their own using a staggered points system (13 points for a first-place vote, 12 points for second, etc.). No self-voting was allowed. This is the second year the NEAC has held preseason polls and they will now become a staple of all 18 conference-sponsored sports moving forward.
The North Eastern Athletic Conference has fourteen NCAA Division III member institutions which include: Bryn Athyn College, Cazenovia College, College of St. Elizabeth, Gallaudet University, Keuka College, Lancaster Bible College, Pennsylvania College of Technology, Pennsylvania State University - Abington, Pennsylvania State University - Berks, SUNY Cobleskill, SUNY Morrisville State College, SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Wells College, and Wilson College. Associate members are: Cedar Crest College (W Swimming), D’Youville College (M Volleyball), Hilbert College (M Lacrosse & M Volleyball), Medaille College (M&W Lacrosse & M Volleyball), Penn State Altoona (M Volleyball) and Rutgers University - Camden (M Golf). The North Eastern Athletic Conference has partnered with the North Atlantic Conference in the sports of field hockey and men’s and women’s tennis.