CHATTANOOGA (UTC) -- Despite a third place finish last year, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team was selected to regain the Southern Conference crown this season over regular season champion Appalachian State.
The Lady Mocs received nine of the 11 first place votes and 99 points overall, 11 points ahead of second place Appalachian State who received the remaining two votes and 88 points. Elon was selected third by the league coaches and SoCon Tournament champion Samford was picked fourth.
Chattanooga returns four starters this season including all-conference selections senior Whitney Hood (Meridian, Miss.) and junior Kayla Christopher (Oliver Springs, Tenn.) as well as all-tournament selection junior Kylie Lambert (Etowah, Tenn.). Senior point guard Tenisha Townsend (Antioch, Tenn.) will be on hand to guide the Lady Mocs in their mission to claim an 18th regular season championship.
Hood led the league in scoring last season with 18.8 points per game. Her 584 total points ranked sixth best in a single season at UTC while her average ranked ninth best in school history for a single season. Hood scored 40 points against Wofford at the McKenzie Arena last season for the third most points ever scored by a UTC player and the most scored by any Southern Conference player in a single game last year.
Christopher netted a career-high 30 points last season against Furman in the Roundhouse. She was second on the team in scoring with 11.6 points per game and ranked 14th in the league. Christopher drained 63 3-pointers last season, ranking ninth most in a single season at UTC and entered the Lady Mocs' top 10 list with 119 treys, ranking eighth.
Lambert was the Lady Mocs' sole selection to the SoCon All-Tournament team after turning her third double-double of the year with 17 points and 14 rebounds against Samford in the semifinals. She had 12 double-digit games including a 7-for-7 performance at Cal State Northridge for a career-high 21 points and recorded double-doubles at Appalachian State and Western Carolina in the regular season.
Also returning for the Mocs this season will be redshirt juinior Capriee Tucker (Ft. Payne, Ala.) and sophomores Taylor Hall (New Tazewell, Tenn.) Alex Black (Memphis, Tenn.) Meghan Downes (Newnan, Ga.) Destiny Bramblett (Radcliff, Ky.) and Lynette Harris (Providence, Ky.). Six-foot-3 redshirt sophomore transfer Faith Dupree (Knoxville, Tenn.) will join the Lady Mocs in December following fall semester exams.
Chattanooga's roster is rounded out by the addition of freshmen forwards Ashley Southern (Tuscumbia, Ala.) and Kayla Freeman (Carlton, Ga.) as well as freshman guard Ka'Vonne Towns (Lilburn, Ga.). Junior Ashlen Dewart (Spartanburg, S.C.) will sit out the season due to NCAA transfer rules after moving to Chattanooga from Appalachian State. She will have two years of eligibility remaining.
The Mountaineers fell 57-54 to Samford in the SoCon Tournament finals and represented the SoCon in the WNIT where they fell to South Carolina in the first round. ASU returns three starters to its squad this season.
Elon was picked to finish third with 76 points. The Phoenix participated in the WBI last season advancing to the second round before falling to UAB, 59-50. Samford, the SoCon tournament champions and regular season runner-up, was picked to finish fourth and return three starters.
Davidson was picked fifth followed by Furman in sixth and Georgia Southern seventh. UNCG was picked to finish eighth with Western Carolina ninth, College of Charleston 10th and Wofford 11th.
Davidson's Sophia Alexandravicius was selected the Southern Conference preseason favorite for Player of the Year and is joined on the all-conference list by teammate Laura Murray, Anna Freeman of Appalachian State, Elon's Kelsey Evans and Ali Ford, Furman's Kaitlyn Murphy and Meredith Frye of Georgia Southern and Wofford's April Moorhouse.
Chattanooga was one of three teams with two selections to the all-conference list in Whitney Hood and Kayla Christopher.
The Lady Mocs will participate in the Memorial Tip-Off presented by Prater's this Saturday at Noon at the First Tennessee Pavilion. Chattanooga will host Lee University on Tuesday, Nov. 1 in an exhibition at 5 p.m. followed by the men's exhibition against Tennessee Wesleyan. The season will tip-off Friday, Nov. 11 at the Roundhouse in a preseason WNIT contest against UAB. The winner will advance to the second round on Sunday against either Baylor or Howard while the loser will move to the consolation bracket the next weekend.
Season and single game tickets are on sale as well as mini-packs at the McKenzie Arena box office, 423-266-6627 (MOCS) or online at GoMocs.com, the official website of Chattanooga athletics.
2011-12 SoCon Women's Basketball Coaches Preseason Poll
1. Chattanooga (9) 99
2. Appalachian State (2) 88
3. Elon 76
4. Samford 71
5. Davidson 67
6. Furman 55
7. Georgia Southern 51
8. UNCG 35
9. Western Carolina 27
10. College of Charleston 21
11. Wofford 15
2011-12 SoCon Women's Basketball Preseason All-Conference Team
Anna Freeman, Appalachian State
Sophia Alexandravicius, Davidson
Laura Murray, Davidson
Kelsey Evans, Elon
Ali Ford, Elon
Kaitlyn Murphy, Furman
Meredith Frye, Georgia Southern
Kayla Christopher, Chattanooga
Whitney Hood, Chattanooga
April Moorhouse, Wofford
SoCon Women's Basketball Preseason Player of the Year
Sophia Alexandravicius, Davidson
Information provided by UTC Sports Information and GoMocs.com