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The GW Hatchet


The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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Women’s Atlantic 10 Preview

The Atlantic 10 may be at the strongest point in its history in women’s basketball.

A record five teams from the conference made the postseason last year, including three teams that made it to the NCAA Tournament.

In the past, GW has been the backbone of the league, but this season, a strong supporting cast should help the conference gain even more respect on the national stage (in order of predicted finish):

West Division

1) George Washington

While GW remains a cut above the rest of the A-10, the gap is narrowing.

GW (20-10, 12-4 A-10) lost no players off a team that made the second round of the NCAAs and won the A-10 regular-season title. Behind junior point guard Elisa Aguilar and senior Noelia Gomez – two shoo-ins for first team All-Conference – the Colonial women should go far. Look for them to win a sixth straight A-10 regular-season title, earn an A-10 Tournament title (which they haven’t won since 1996), and make some noise in this year’s NCAAs.

“When you win, you’ve got an `X’ marked on your back,” GW head coach Joe McKeown said. “You’re the biggest game on a lot of their schedules.”

2) Virginia Tech

The defending A-10 champions were a bit of a surprise last season, but they won’t sneak up on anyone this year.

Most of the pieces from the team that won the A-10 title and made the second round of NCAAs are back this season. Sophomore forward Tere Williams, last season’s leading scorer (13.4 points per game, 7.7 rebounds per game), and freshman Amy Wetzel (10.6 ppg) lead the Hokies into the 1998-’99 campaign.

Virginia Tech (22-10, 11-5 A-10) beat the Colonial women three times last season and will pressure GW.

“They’re going to be good again,” McKeown said. “They really had our number last year.”

3) Xavier

The Musketeers lost just one player to graduation, return 10 players and will contend for the top spot in the division.

Xavier (17-12, 11-5 A-10) will be led by its top scorer and rebounder from a year ago, 6-3 sophomore Taru Tuukkanen. She averaged 11.6 ppg and 6.2 rpg. The Musketeers also return Nicole Levandusky, a sophomore guard who averaged 9.9 ppg and tied the school record with 81 steals last season (2.79 steals per game).

Three quality freshman guards also join the squad that earned a spot in the Women’s National Invitational Tournament.

4) Dayton

Things could be looking up for the Flyers with a new head coach, new arena, and many of its key players from last year back.

Dayton (10-17, 6-10 A-10) finished last in the conference a season ago, but returns leading scorer Christi Hester (13.7 ppg) and Anitra Perry (12.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg), who was named the conference’s Most Improved Player and Sixth Player of the Year.

New coach Jaci Clark comes to Dayton after compiling a record of 135-65 (.675) at Bowling Green University.

5) Duquesne

The Lady Dukes return four starters and a total of nine letter winners this season but have one hole that will be hard to fill.Duquesne graduated Korie Hlede, a first-round pick in the WNBA and two-time A-10 Player of the Year, who averaged 27.1 ppg and 6.5 rpg. The returning starters and bench players accounted for 46 points a game, which means someone will have to step up and provide some offense for Duquesne (19-9, 10-6 A-10). That player could senior Kelly Eberhardt (12.8 ppg, 5.2 rpg), who was 22nd in the nation in free-throw percentage last season (85.7 percent).

Last season was the Lady Dukes’ first winning campaign since 1984.

6) La Salle

The Explorers are going to have to replace four starters for the second year in a row, so don’t expect too much out of them this season.

The team’s roster includes just one junior, four sophomores and three freshmen on scholarship. La Salle (15-13, 8-8 A-10) does return its leading scorer, sophomore Jen Zenszer (11.3 ppg).

East Division

1) Massachusetts

With three of its top four scorers back, the defending division champion should repeat in the A-10 East.

Senior Tez Kraft (14.2 ppg) and junior Allison MacFarland (10.1 ppg) lead the Minutewomen into the season, looking to make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, where they lost in the first round at the end of last year.

UMass (19-11, 11-5) also features a strong recruiting class and will return sophomore Kelly Van Huisen, who sat out much of the season after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament in December. When she wasn’t sidelined, she led the team at 15.2 ppg and ranked in the top 10 in the nation in three-point field goal percentage.

2) St. Joseph’s

A WNIT participant last season, St. Joe’s is the other team that will vie for the division title.

The Hawks (19-12, 10-6 A-10) are hoping to post their 19th consecutive winning season behind last year’s leading scorer and All-Rookie Team selection Angela Zampella (15.0 ppg). Three-point specialist Melissa Coursey (12.9 ppg) gives St. Joe’s a tough backcourt.

St. Joe’s will have to grow up fast, as it travels to Knoxville to play coaching-legend Pat Summit and the University of Tennessee, the defending national champion, in its first game.

3) St. Bonaventure

The Bonnies (16-14, 7-9 A-10) will go as far as all-conference player Hilary Waltman can take them.

Waltman is a 5-9 guard who is St. Bonaventure’s top returning player in almost every major statistical category, including her averages of 20.2 ppg and 5.2 rpg. If she scores 344 points this season, she will become the program’s all-time leading scorer.

4) Rhode Island

All-Rookie team selection Amber Jansen hopes to have a strong sophomore year to lead the Rams to a successful A-10 campaign.

Jansen led URI (6-21, 4-12 A-10) in four categories last season: scoring (13.4 ppg), rebounding (6.5 rpg), field goal percentage (51.5 percent) and free-throw percentage (80.3 percent).

The Rams also hope sophomore Ela Lapciuk (10.6 ppg) will remain healthy all season after stress fractures slowed her last year.

5) Temple

Things look bleak for the Owls who lost two starters, including leading scorer Jen Ricco (18.7 ppg).

No returning player for Temple (10-17, 3-13 A-10) averaged double figures last season. The Owls will look for a significant contribution from Natalia Isaac, a recruit who had to sit out last season because of NCAA academic restrictions.

6) Fordham

The Lady Rams lost no seniors from last year’s squad, but that is little consolation, as Fordham won just five games.

Fordham (5-22, 3-13 A-10) returns seniors Malyssa Thorngren (13.2 ppg) and Kim Cook (12.0 ppg).

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