MARSHFIELD, Mass. – The Elms College women’s basketball team was picked to finish seventh in the New England Collegiate Conference this season, the league announced on the eve of the season-opener. The Blazers will host Wentworth at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday to begin the 2018-19 campaign.
Elms received 52 points in the poll of the league’s 10 head coaches. The Blazers return second team All-Conference selection Niah Pantry (Sr., F, New Haven, Conn.) who averaged a double-double with 12.3 points per game and 11.5 rebounds per game last season.
With 89 points, and four first place votes, Becker College has been picked to finish first in the poll. Becker is led by head coach David Bostick, who guided the Hawks to their first NECC Championship in 2017-18. Becker returns 13 players from last year’s squad, and all five starters, highlighted by guard Cassidy Harrison (Jr., G, Foxborough, Mass.). In her sophomore campaign, Harrison was a first team All-NECC performer, averaging 16.2 points per game, while leading the league in three-point field goal percentage at 32.2 percent.
Two newcomers to the NECC share the second spot, as Eastern Nazarene College and New England College both totaled 76 points. The Lions garnered three first place votes, and are hoping to have a strong presence in their first year in the league. Led by eighth-year head coach Sacha Santimano, Eastern Nazarene will look to sophomore Seniesha Sekaquaptewa (So., G, Scottsdale, Ariz.), to make a significant impact, as she paced the Lions with 10.8 points per game, while shooting 34.3 percent from beyond the arc last season.
New England College tallied two first place votes, and will be under the direction of seasoned head coach Erica Ledy. The Pilgrims return the North Atlantic Conference’s (NAC) top scorer from a season ago, Rene Hudson (Jr., G, Gallatin, Tenn.), who averaged 19.2 points per game on her way to second team All-NAC honors.
Last season’s regular season co-champion, Newbury College, comes in at the fourth spot with 70 points. The 2017-18 NECC Coach of the Year, Marc Taney, will be back on the sidelines for the Nighthawks, after leading them to 14 conference wins a season ago. The Nighthawks will also return the 2017-18 NECC Rookie of the Year, Jaymesha Sanders (So., F, West Haven, Conn.) who averaged a double-double in her rookie campaign, scoring 14.5 points per game, and pulling down 13.5 boards per game, second in the league.
Dean College has taken the fifth spot with 61 points, and the final first place vote. The Bulldogs are coming off a season in which they took a share of the NECC regular season title. Dean will be under new leadership, as head coach Alycia Gervais will take the reigns. Dean returns the 2017-18 NECC Defensive Player of the Year, Jamaya Cleveland (Jr., G/F, Greensboro, Ga.), who was the leader of a Dean defense that only allowed conference opponents to score 49.7 points per game a season ago. Cleveland picked up 40 thefts in conference play (2.9 steals per game), good for third in the conference.
Mitchell College comes in right behind Dean in the sixth spot with 58 points. Second year head coach Courtney Burns will rely on returning third team All-NECC performer Francesca Pinard (Sr., F, Arlington, Mass.) to lead the Mariners. Pinard averaged 8.7 points per game and 7.7 rebounds per game last season.
Southern Vermont College (29), Lesley University (26), and Bay Path University (13) round out the poll.
2018-19 Women’s Basketball Preseason Coaches Poll
1. Becker College – 89 (4)
T2. Eastern Nazarene College - 76 (3)
T2. New England College - 76 (2)
4. Newbury College - 70
5. Dean College - 61 (1)
6. Mitchell College - 58
7. Elms College - 52
8. Southern Vermont College - 29
9. Lesley University - 26
10. Bay Path University - 13