By Milton Posner
The Northeastern women’s basketball team placed sixth in the annual CAA preseason poll released Thursday. Unlike the men’s poll, in which coaches, media relations directors, and media members vote, the women’s poll asks only the coaches, who are barred from voting for their own team.
|Team||Points (First-Place Votes)|
|James Madison Dukes||81 (9)|
|Drexel Dragons||70 (1)|
|Delaware Blue Hens||59|
|William & Mary Tribe||32|
James Madison, the unanimous title favorite, showcases a formidable lineup headlined by Preseason Player of the Year Kamiah Smalls and three second-team members: Lexie Barrier, Jackie Benitez, and Kayla Cooper-Williams. Benitez earned Sixth Player of the Year accolades last season; Cooper-Williams led the conference in blocks and rebounds en route to winning Defensive Player of the Year.
The Dukes won a program-record 29 games last year, went 17–1 in conference play to notch the first seed, then were unexpectedly bounced in the tournament quarterfinal by ninth-seeded Hofstra, the first time a one seed had ever lost so early.
James Madison cast its first-place vote for Drexel, which features last year’s Player of the Year Bailey Greenberg and four other returning starters, including CAA All-Rookie selection Keishana Washington. Drexel boasted the best defense in the nation last year, but ultimately fell to Towson in the CAA title game. Towson returns four starters, including preseason first-teamers Kionna Jeter and Nukiya Mayo.
|First Team||Kamiah Smalls, James Madison|
|Bailey Greenberg, Drexel|
|Kionna Jeter, Towson|
|Nukiya Mayo, Towson|
|Nicole Enabosi, Delaware|
|Second Team||Lexie Barrier, James Madison|
|Jackie Benitez, James Madison|
|Kayla Cooper-Williams, James Madison|
|Samone DeFreese, Delaware|
|GiGi Smith, UNCW|
|Honorable Mention||Shannon Todd, Northeastern|
|Deja Ford, Charleston|
|Niki Metzel, Drexel|
|Victoria Reynolds, William & Mary|
|Lacey Suggs, UNCW|
Last season, led by guard Jess Genco and forward Gabby Giacone, Northeastern led the CAA in field-goal percentage (42.3) and three-point percentage (36.6). The Huskies fared well in non-conference play, posting an 11–3 record, but won only nine of their 18 CAA games to finish sixth. The program made its first ever WNIT but lost in the first round to Butler.
Head coach Kelly Cole will have to overcome the graduation of Genco — the program’s all-time third-leading scorer and its record holder in minutes, assists, and three-pointers — and Giacone. Shannon Todd, who averaged 11 points per game last year and earned preseason honorable mention, will be asked to do more offensively, as will Ayanna Dublin, Katie May, Stella Clark, and Kendall Currence.
Northeastern opens its season at home against South Dakota at noon ET on November 5.