Nov. 3, 2010

Courtesy of Arkansas Tech Athletics

Arkansas Tech Womens Basketball has been tabbed as the No. 1 team in the Preseason USA Today/ESPN WBCA Division II Coaches Poll that was released on Wednesday.

With it No. 1 preseason ranking, Tech becomes the first Gulf South Conference school to sit atop the USA Today/ESPN WBCA Preseason D-II Coaches Poll since the organization began the preseason rankings for Division II prior to the 1996-97 season. In addition, it is also the first time Tech has ever been ranked No. 1 in the WBCA Poll as the Golden Suns previous highest rating was No. 2 in the final poll of the 1998-99 season.

It is the second time this preseason that Tech has been ranked No. 1 as the Womens Division II Bulletin Top 25 Poll put the Golden Suns at No. 1 in its preseason poll that was released on Oct. 5.

The USA Today/ESPN WBCA Coaches Poll is voted on weekly by a panel of 30 head coaches at NCAA Division II institutions and all the coaches are members of the WBCA (Womens Basketball Coaches Association). This season, Tech Head Coach Dave Wilbers will once again serve as a voter in the poll.

Tech, who enters the 2010-11 season as the third all-time winningest NCAA D-II womens basketball program with 819 victories, returns four starters, including senior First-Team All-American guard Jenny Vining (Marshall, Ark.) and nine letterwinners from last seasons 31-3 team that advanced to the NCAA D-II Elite Eight and won its first Gulf South Conference Championship since 2003. Tech was one of two GSC teams mentioned in this years preseason poll and one of six schools from the South Region.

Joining Vining as returning starters this season are senior guard Laura Beth Anderson (Springdale, Ark.), junior forward Natalia Santos (Sao Paulo, Brazil) and sophomore forward Jessica Weatherford (Bonnerdale, Ark.). Anderson averaged 8.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game last season, while Santos, who was named the MVP of the GSC Tournament, averaged 16.1 points and 7.9 rebounds per game in 2009-10 and Weatherford, who was named to the Division II Bulletin All-Freshman Team and was named the South Region Most Outstanding Player last season, averaged 12.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game.

In addition to Tech, Delta State (27-4), who Tech defeated 73-62 in last seasons D-II South Regional final at Tucker Coliseum, was tabbed second in the Preseason WBCA poll. In addition to Tech and Delta State, other South Region teams ranked in the WBCA Preseason poll are Fort Valley State (26-3) and Tampa (26-5) at 20th and 25th respectively, while Florida Southern (26 votes) and Rollins (4 votes) both received votes in the preseason poll.

Tech, who ended last season ranked sixth in the final USA Today/WBCA D-II Coaches Poll, received 15 first place votes and 671 points to headline the preseason poll, while Delta State earned four first place votes and 621 points for the No. 2 spot in the rankings. Tusculum (23-10) is at No. 3 as they earned two first place votes and 569 points, while Lander (27-4), who earned one first place vote and Holy Family (30-3) round out the Preseason Top 5 at Nos. 4 and 5 respectively.

The next five in the poll begins with defending NCAA D-II National Champion Emporia State (30-5) at No. 6 as the Lady Hornets received six first place votes. Following ESU in the preseason poll is West Texas A&M (30-4) at No. 7 and Seattle Pacific (27-4) at No. 8. Washburn (27-4) opens the season at No. 9 and Indianapolis (26-4) rounds out the Top 10 at No. 10.

California-San Diego (25-5) headlines the next 10 at No. 11 and they are followed by Fort Lewis (35-4), the defending D-II National Runners-up, at No. 12 and Alaska-Anchorage (24-5) at No. 13. Franklin Pierce (32-2), who ended Techs season with a 77-62 loss in last seasons Elite Eight quarterfinal game, opens at No. 14, while Gannon (37-1) is at No. 15 and Drury (28-7) is ranked 16th. Michigan Tech (28-2) is ranked 17th and they are followed by Wayne State [NE] (26-5) at No. 18, California [PA] (24-8) at No. 19 and Fort Valley State at No. 20.

The final five of the preseason poll begins with Clayton State (24-7) at No. 21 and they are followed by Northeastern State (28-7) at No. 22 and Grand Valley State (18-10) at No. 23. Bentley (19-11), who received the final first place vote, opens the season at No. 24 and Tampa rounds out the preseason poll at No. 25.

Tech will open its 33rd season of competition on Sunday, Nov. 14 at home against St. Gregorys. Tip-off for the season opener is set for 2 p.m. at Tucker Coliseum.

Click here for the full preseason Top 25