Women's Basketball Tabbed Eighth in Preseason Coaches' PollOctober 18, 2012
Diaz, Shannon and Simpson Named Preseason All-SAC
ROCK HILL, S.C. – The Anderson women’s basketball team has been picked to finish eighth in the South Atlantic Conference by the league’s coaches, while a trio of Trojans garnered Preseason All-Conference honors, as released by the conference office on Thursday.
The Trojans return all nine letterwinners, including every starter from last season’s 10-17 campaign. Head Coach Jim Brunelli has added five newcomers to the squad, while redshirt sophomore guard Kimberly Major is expected to battle for playing time after sitting out last season due to injury.
The Trojans had a league-high three student-athletes earn spots on the Preseason All-Conference Team, including first-team guard Alissa Diaz.
Diaz, a second-team All-Conference honoree at the conclusion of last season, led the team in scoring with 14.6 points per game and handed out a team-high 2.7 assists per game. The 5-foot-10 guard ranked third in the SAC in free throw percentage, seventh in the league in field goal percentage and 3-point field goal percentage and eighth in the conference in scoring. A senior, Diaz posted a 12-game double-figure scoring streak from mid-December through late January and led the team in scoring on 14 occasions and rebounding four times. She drained a career-high five treys at Wingate en route to a career-best 29-point performance versus Wingate last season.
“I am very happy and proud of Alissa,” said Brunelli. “She has worked hard and has been dedicated to making herself and her teammates better. Alissa is most deserving of her first-team honor.”
Senior Breonda Shannon earned second-team accolades after seeing action in all 27 games last season and getting a starting nod in 24. The 5-foot-10 forward led the team with more than eight rebounds per game, which was good enough for sixth in the league. Shannon is currently eighth in AU’s record books with 499 career rebounds and was second on the team with 8.2 points per game last season. She posted four double doubles last season, including a season-high with 20 points in the home win past LMU in mid-January.
“I am super excited for Breonda and her second-team honor,” added Brunelli. “She is an unsung hero on this team. Breonda does a lot of the dirty work that contributes to the team’s success. I'm so proud of her accomplishment.”
Sierra Simpson, also a second-team selection, was a member of the South Atlantic Conference All-Freshman Team last season after starting all 27 games and ranking eighth in the league with 48 steals. The 5-foot-6 sophomore was second on the team with 71 assists and averaged more than six points per game. Simpson led the team in scoring twice and rebounding on three occasions, while scoring a season-high 16 points at Erskine. She grabbed nine rebounds at Catawba in early January.
“Sierra has made a huge impact on this team and within the conference,” said Brunelli. “She is very poised young lady and does an excellent job of running the point guard position. Sierra is most deserving of this second-team honor.”
Newberry, which was voted No. 3 in the preseason coaches’ poll, is the only team to place multiple players on preseason All-SAC First Team. 2011-12 SAC Freshman of the Year Haylee Lepaio, who finished fourth in scoring and third in rebounding in the conference last year, is a first-team pick, as is senior guard Neicey Lewis.
Joining the Newberry duo on the preseason first team are 2011-12 All-Conference Second Team selections Kendal Baxter of Tusculum and Whitley Culler of Lenoir-Rhyne.
Baxter averaged 13.7 points per game last year and set a SAC single-season record by shooting 91.5-percent from the foul line, while Culler averaged 13.8 points and eight rebounds.
Catawba sophomore forward Chloe Bully, a member of the 2011-12 SAC All-Freshman Team, rounded out the preseason All-Conference First Team. Bully averaged 13.5 points per game and led the conference by shooting 38.2-percent on three-pointers last season.
They are joined by Wingate’s Janitsha Williams, Tusculum’s April McCann, Mars Hill’s Armeka Booker and Brevard’s Micheala Watkins.
The preseason All-SAC Team is voted on by the conference’s media relations directors.
The coaches have voted Wingate No. 1 in the league’s preseason poll, predicting the Bulldogs to repeat as conference champions in 2012-13.
Wingate was an overwhelming choice as the preseason No. 1, earning seven of the 10 first-place votes from the league’s coaches. The Bulldogs won both the SAC regular season and tournament titles in 2011-12, finishing 23-7 overall and 13-5 in the conference.
After earning the SAC’s automatic bid to the NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship, WU reached the Southeast Region Final, finishing one win shy of a trip to the Elite Eight.
Lenoir-Rhyne is second in the preseason poll, receiving one first-place vote. The Bears finished tied for third in the 2011-12 SAC standings at 11-7 and went 19-9 overall.
L-R returns 2011-12 All-SAC Second Team selection Whitley Culler, who is coming off a season where she averaged 13.8 points and eight rebounds per game.
Newberry, which will be led by 2011-12 SAC Freshman of the Year and All-SAC Second Team pick Haylee Lepaio, was voted No. 3 in the poll. The Wolves received one first-place vote.
With the return of sharp-shooting 2011-12 second-team All-Conference guard Kendal Baxter, Tusculum is fourth in the poll. The Pioneers earned an at-large selection to last year’s NCAA Division II Women’s Basketball Championship.
After finishing second in last season’s SAC standings, and earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, Catawba received one first-place vote and is ranked No. 5 in the preseason poll.
The Indians were also runners-up at last year’s SAC Tournament.
Lincoln Memorial is No. 6 in the poll, followed by No. 7 Carson-Newman and No. 8 Anderson.
Rounding out the preseason poll is No. 9 Mars Hill and No. 10 Brevard.
Anderson opens the season with three consecutive exhibition contests, at Wake Forest (Oct. 29), at Clemson (Nov. 2) and at South Carolina on Nov. 4.
SAC Women’s Basketball Preseason Coaches’ Poll
Team Points (1st-Place)
1. Wingate 78 (7)
2. Lenoir-Rhyne 66 (1)
3. Newberry 58 (1)
4. Tusculum 54
5. Catawba 51 (1)
6. Lincoln Memorial 40
7. Carson-Newman 39
8. Anderson 37
9. Mars Hill 15
10. Brevard 11
Preseason All-SAC First Team
Kendal Baxter, Tusculum*
Whitley Culler, Lenoir-Rhyne*
Alissa Diaz, Anderson*
Haylee Lepaio, Newberry*^
Chloe Bully, Catawba^
Neicey Lewis, Newberry
* 2011-12 All-SAC Second Team
^ 2011-12 SAC All-Freshman Team