KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Union College garnered 11 votes in the NAIA Division II Women's Basketball Coaches' Top 25 Preseason Poll, the NAIA announced Monday.
The Lady Bulldogs (20-11 overall in 2008-09) is ranked 37th overall in the NAIA Poll, three fewer than No. 34 Menlo (Calif.) College and two behind Indiana University Southeast and Madonna (Mich.) University, who tied for 35th.
Coming off a national title in 2009, Morningside College (Iowa) has been tabbed as the No. 1 team in the NAIA Top 25 Preseason Poll. The Mustangs tallied 15 first-place votes to earn 436 points. Fellow Great Plains Athletic Conference foe, Northwestern College (Iowa) is No. 2, followed by No. 3 Davenport University (Mich.), No. 4 Hastings College (Neb.) and No. 5 Shawnee State University (Ohio).
The GPAC boasts five nationally-ranked teams, including three of the top five in Morningside, Northwestern, Hastings, No. 15 Sioux Falls (S.D.) and No. 22 Concordia (Neb.). The Mid-Central Collegiate Conference has four ranked teams: No. 8 Bethel (Ind.), No. 14 Indiana Wesleyan, No. 16 Saint Francis (Ind.) and No. 23 Taylor (Ind.).
Morningside has spent the past 13 polls as the nation's top-ranked team, dating back to the 2008-09 preseason poll. Heading into the 2009-10 season, the Mustangs bring back three starters from last year's undefeated national championship team and All-GPAC performers Laura Nelson (second team), Brittany Williamson, (second team) and Leslie Foral (honorable mention). Morningside must replace All-American guard and 2009 NAIA Division II Women's Basketball Player of the Year Dani Gass and All-American guard Autumn Bartel.
After a semifinal appearance, Northwestern lands as No. 2 in the preseason poll with 413 points. The Red Raiders were forced to rebuild during the 2008-09 season after losing five seniors off of 2008's national championship team. Last season Northwestern opened at No. 14 in the preseason poll and finished at No. 6 with a 26-8 record. Aiming even higher in 2009-10, the Red Raiders return eight of their top-10 players and their top-five scorers from last year, including junior guard and First Team All-American Becca Hurley.
Davenport earned 409 points and one first-place vote to come in at No. 3. The Panthers advanced to the quarterfinals of the national tournament in 2009, falling to Northwestern 76-66. Davenport returns all five starters from a year ago after a 31-3 campaign. Leading the Panther charge will be First Team All-American Kallie Benike. The junior guard was also named Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference Player of the Year as a sophomore. Also returning for Davenport are All-WHAC honorees Kristi Boehm (second team), Carrie Grubius (third team) and Brittany Lyman (third team).
Last season's national runner-up behind the guidance of first-year head coach Jeff Dittman, Hastings enters 2009-10 ranked fourth with 389 points. The Broncos return all but two key players from a 27-8 squad and bring three starters back to the court. Among those back in 2009-10 are two-time All-American Lindsay Ducey and All-Tournament pick Kim Faimon. Hastings entered the national tournament ranked No. 18 after starting out as No. 2 in the preseason poll.
Shawnee State rounds out the top-five teams with 381 points. After closing out 2008-09 ranked second, the Bears were only able to advance to the second round of the national tournament before losing to Hastings, 77-69 in overtime. The loss was the only one of the season for Shawnee State, closing out the season with a 31-1 mark. First Team All-American Mideast Conference selection and Third Team All-American Mallory Albers will look to lead the Bears back to the national tournament in 2009-10. Along with Albers, fellow senior and Third Team All-AMC pick Allison Meyer and All-AMC Freshmen member Bianca Barton will need to fill the holes left by the graduation of three players.
The poll was voted upon by a panel of head coaches representing each of the conferences. The first regular-season poll will be announced on Nov. 30.
Union will open the 2009-10 season on Nov. 3 when it plays host to Asbury (Ky.) College at 7 p.m.
To view the entire NAIA Top 25 Poll, click here.