Princeton, WV – With five returning starters, including the reigning WVIAC Player of the Year, Fairmont State has been selected as the league’s preseason favorite as voted on by the WVIAC coaches.
The Falcons (18-10, 14-8) were listed first on 11 ballots while garnering 218 total points to lead the field. Glenville State (23-7, 18-4) picked up one first-place vote en route to 190 points and the No. 2 spot. West Liberty (15-15, 11-11) received a first-place vote and 174 points for third place. Concord (23-6, 18-4) garnered the remaining two first-place votes and was fourth at 167.
Defending WVIAC Champion and NCAA Tournament participant West Virginia Wesleyan (24-7, 18-4) was fifth with 152 points. Shepherd (20-11, 15-7), a WVIAC semifinalist a season ago, is sixth with 149. Davis & Elkins (14-14, 12-10) was seventh with 134 points, just ahead of Pitt-Johnstown (14-13, 12-10) with 133.
Seton Hill (11-18, 10-12) got 127 points for the No. 9 spot with the University of Charleston (12-15, 11-11) rounding out the top 10 with 107 points.
Rounding out the poll are West Virginia State (11-16, 8-14), Wheeling Jesuit (5-22, 2-20), Alderson-Broaddus (6-21, 4-18), Ohio Valley (9-20, 6-16) and Bluefield State (7-22, 6-16).
Fairmont State will be led by reigning WVIAC Player of the Year Kaitlin Snyder, a second-team NCAA Division II All-American who accounted for 21.5 points, 4.4 assists and 2.7 steals a game a season ago. The experienced Falcons also return a trio of double-figure scorers in Hailey Garrett (14.3 ppg), Tiffany Nicholson (10.5 ppg) and Emily Lohr (10.3 ppg) along with returning starting guard Briana Welch (5.3 ppg). Head coach Steve McDonald’s five returning starters combined for 83.5 percent of the Falcons’ scoring last year.
Glenville State advanced to the WVIAC Finals for the second straight year and led the nation in scoring (94.3 ppg) under Bunky Harkleroad’s up-tempo style of play. Ginny Petties (11.8 ppg), Kenyell Goodson (9.6 ppg) and Jelena Elez (8.6 ppg) return to lead a balanced attack which should once again have the Pioneers pushing for success in the postseason.
West Liberty is on the rebound after dealing with an abundance of injuries last season. This season, the Hilltoppers return second-team all-WVIAC guard Hillary Southworth (16.1 ppg)and senior post player Emily Blevins (11.6 ppg, 7.4 rpg). Head coach Lynn Ullom also welcomes back 2011 starters Meghan Wiseman and Jordan Stacey, who missed all of last season with medical redshirts. Combined with a strong incoming class, the Hilltoppers should challenge for the conference title.
Concord advanced to the WVIAC semifinals before dropping an overtime thriller to Glenville State. The Mountain Lions return second-team all-conference performer Andrea Bertrand (13 ppg, 7.2 rpg). Head coach Kenny Osborne’s line-up will also include returners Amanda Smith (9.3 ppg) and Tanisha Williams (4.0 ppg).
West Virginia Wesleyan won the regular-season title and the league tournament a season ago en route to its NCAA Tournament appearance. The Bobcats lost their top two scorers to graduation but return a core group for their title defense. Brittany Maxey garnered 9.6 points and 7.1 rebounds a game while leading the team with 62 steals last year and is ready for the spotlight. Kerry Conroy and Brittany Williams combined to play 22 minutes a night and proved to be solid contributors.
Shepherd made a nice postseason run a year ago before falling to the Bobcats in the WVIAC semifinals. The Rams return several key pieces from that squad, including leading scorer Emily Daniel (12.4 ppg), a second-team all-WVIAC selection, and impressive newcomer Gabby Flinchum (8.2 ppg, 5.5 rpg), a member of the WVIAC All-Freshman Team.
Davis & Elkins won its first WVIAC Tournament game in a decade last March and head coach Jason Asbell is aiming for bigger and better things. The Senators will be led by second-team all-WVIAC standout Page Turner (12.4 ppg) and honorable mention all-WVIAC pick Jorden Lykes (12.3 ppg, 8.2 rpg). Steady Amy Turner (6.6 ppg) averaged more than 30 minutes a night.
Pitt-Johnstown sends a talented and experienced team into the 2012-13 campaign. Leading the way is first-team all-WVIAC guard Kaitlynn Fratz (17.2 ppg), the WVIAC Freshman of the Year. Backing the stellar sophomore are Nicole Carman (10.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg) and perimeter sharp shooter Kelsey Sleighter (8.4 ppg), who drained nearly 40 percent of her three-point tries a year ago.
Seton Hill has four of its top five scorers back from a season ago. Leading the way is second-team all-conference selection Paige Alviani. A year ago, she poured in 15.5 points a night and dished out 110 assists. Tiara Stossel’s 11.9 points a game and 3.5 assists per night also return. Katie Gattuso tallied 9.3 points and a team-high 6.9 rebounds last year. Clare Berenato also returns, having started every game a season ago.
Charleston is under the direction of first-year head coach Adam Collins. The Golden Eagles advanced to the tournament quarterfinals in 2012 and return a core group ready to keep the team near the top of the league standings. Top returners include Chrissy Keir (10.4 ppg), who led the team with 93 assists a season ago and LeAnne Ross (5.1 ppg). Tiani Kelly will also provide the team with another experienced player.
West Virginia State is led by first-year head coach David Smith, who has 575 victories under his belt for seventh place on the all-time NCAA Division II list. He inherits a team that returns three of its top five scorers. Leading point producer Jasmine Blanton (15 ppg) also dished out a team-high 96 assists. Asia Greenleaf is coming off a solid all-around season (9.8 ppg and 7.1 rpg) while Jordan Brock (9.3 ppg) is also a proven scoring threat.
Wheeling Jesuit returns a core group that gained valuable experience last year. All-freshman team performer Emily Robinson (13.1 ppg) should lead the Cardinals into the 2012-13 campaign. Taneka Lewis and Alex Anderson combined for 10.9 points and 11 rebounds a game.
Alderson-Broaddus has an experienced squad returning. The Battlers are led by honorable mention all-conference standout Amanda Peoples (12.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg). Cayla Rhodes (6.4 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Erica Brooks (5.0 ppg) should see their roles increased this year.
Ohio Valley boasts a line-up that has seen a lot of playing time in the WVIAC. Junior Shelby Way’s 12.1 points and team-high 72 assists are back. Senior Tara Benedict (7.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg) played well in the paint a season ago. The Fighting Scots should also benefit from Jasmine Gibson, a 6’3” transfer from Delaware, who could cause match-up problems for league foes.
Bluefield State won six league games a year ago and will look to continue climbing in the WVIAC standings. The Lady Blues’ back court should be the driving force of the team once again. Honorable mention all-conference selection Charlene Diggs (15.9 ppg) and Dragana Tomic (10.2 ppg, 1.9 spg) lead the way.
The complete 2012-13 WVIAC women’s basketball coaches’ poll follows: