It comes as no surprise that Francis Marion is picked in a poll of Peach Belt Athletic Conference women's basketball coaches to win the conference.
Last season, the Lady Patriots won the Peach Belt regular season title, advanced to the NCAA Division II "Sweet Sixteen" and finished with a 27-3 record. Francis Marion returns all 11 letterwinners off last year's squad, including two-time PBAC Player of the Year Jennifer Brabson and two-time first-team all-PBAC selection Chiffonia Adderson.
Also expected to contend for the PBAC title are Columbus State and Kennesaw State. The Lady Cougars, who finished 25-7 last year, return three starters including all-PBAC second-team selection Sylvia Allen. However, Columbus State will miss the outside shooting of Reagan Housch, who led Division II with 127 3-pointers last season.
The Lady Owls finished last season at 28-4 with a No. 6 ranking and a showing in the Division II Elite Eight. Senior guard Rima Brazenas, one of three returning starters, led the country last year in assists (8.5 a game) and finished fourth in steals (4.0 a game).
Also around the PBAC: Lander won the PBAC Tournament last season. The Lady Senators return six seniors, including three of their top four scorers.
Georgia College and State lost all-PBAC center Quintina Harris, who led the team in scoring and rebounding. The Lady Bobcats do, however, return guards Beth Hayer and Brett Haggard and four other players.
North Florida, which began the year 15-1 before ending with an 18-10 record, returns five players who saw significant playing time.
UNC Pembroke returns its top five leading scorers, including last year's PBAC Freshman of the Year guard Ginnell Curtis. However, the team will have to adjust to new coach Sandy Mitchell as Suzanne McBride resigned over the summer.
Armstrong Atlantic State will have to replace last year's leading scorer Demetria McClouden. Sophomore shooting guard Lexie Martin (10.7 ppg) will be key to the Lady Pirates' offense.
Clayton State could be the PBAC's sleeper team. The Lady Lakers have a new coach in A.C. McCullers but return its top two scorers in Mandy Cowan and Augusta's Joya Collier along with its top two 3-point shooters.
USC Spartanburg will look to turn its fortunes around with new coach Gene Cook and eight newcomers. The Lady Rifles will be led by newcomers, point guard Sarah Jansen and power forward Teneisha Phillips.
|Peach Belt women's preseason poll|
1. Francis Marion (10) 120
2. Columbus State (2) 107
3. Kennesaw State 100
4. Lander 87
5. Ga. College and State 83
6. North Florida 72
7. UNC Pembroke 49
8. Armstrong Atlantic St. 48
9. Clayton State 44
10. USC Spartanburg 30
11. Augusta State 26
11. USC Aiken 26
NOTE: Ratings by league coaches who were not allowed to vote for their own teams (first-place votes in parentheses).