MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — The University of Rio Grande has been picked second overall and second in the River States Conference East Division according to the RSC Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Preseason Poll released by the conference office on Wednesday.
The RedStorm, who finished 19-13 overall and 10-6 in the RSC last season, tallied one first-place vote and 127 total points in the balloting of the league’s 13 head coaches.
Nine players – four of whom were starters last year – return this season, including sophomore forward Lexi Woods (Waverly, OH), who was among those named as preseason all-conference selections.
Woods averaged 14.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.6 assists per game last season, while also ranking second in the league in overall field goal percentage (53.1%) and ninth in free throw percentage (79.7%).
In the East Division voting, Rio Grande – which is slated to open its regular season schedule at Lawrence Tech (Mich.) University on Oct. 28 – grabbed one first-place vote and 54 points. West Virginia University-Tech led the way with 11 first-place nods and 66 points.
WVU-Tech also was the favorite in the overall poll after earning all 12 of the possible first-place votes and 144 total points.
The Golden Bears, who are the league’s defending East Division and regular season champions, were 25-7 overall and 16-0 in the RSC last year and have won 29 straight conference regular season games dating back to 2018.
WVU Tech made the NAIA Division II National Championship last season and pulled an upset of No. 10-ranked Morningside (Iowa) in the first round before the coronavirus pandemic cancelled the remainder of the tournament.
Behind Rio Grande, the next five teams in the poll were separated by just 14 points with RSC West Division favorite Asbury (Ky.) University in third overall with 100 points. Indiana University Southeast was fourth with 97 points, with Indiana University East in fifth at 92 points, Indiana University Kokomo sixth with 90 points and Midway (Ky.) University in seventh with 86 points.
All of those schools – three of which were 20-win programs – were playoff teams last year and were bunched up in the standings of their respective divisions.
Ohio Christian University won the RSC Championship last year with an amazing playoff run and is picked eighth this preseason with 81 points. The Trailblazers made their first NAIA national tournament at 21-12 overall and 8-8 in the RSC.
The rest of the poll included Point Park (Pa.) University in ninth with 64 points followed by Alice Lloyd (Ky.) College in 10th with 49 points, Brescia (Ky.) University in 11th with 39 points, Carlow (Pa.) University in 12th with 24 points and conference newcomer Oakland City (Ind.) University in 13th with 21 points.
In the East Division, IU East was chosen third and then Ohio Christian fourth. The Trailblazers also garnered a vote for first-place.
The RSC West polling had the first-place votes spread to four different schools.
Asbury (20-11, 8-8 RSC) was the divisional favorite with five first-place votes and 62 overall. IU Kokomo (17-13, 8-8 RSC) was close behind with 61 points and three for first-place. Midway (22-9, 9-7 RSC) was chosen third with 55 points and three first-place nods. IU Southeast (20-12, 9-7 RSC) was tabbed fourth with 52 points and two for first-place.
The RSC Preseason All-Conference Team named 10 players. Returning All-RSC first-teamers from last year were automatically included. Returning second-teamers were voted onto the team this preseason.
Back this year from the all-conference first team are WVU Tech guard Brittney Justice, IU Kokomo forward Tia Chambers, Midway forward Jill Enix, Alice Lloyd guard Haley Hall, Asbury forward Zaria Napier and Point Park guard Michelle Burns.
In addition to Woods, those who were voted onto the preseason team were WVU Tech guard Alexandria Gray, Point Park forward Taylor Rinn and Asbury guard Autumn Herriford.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.