CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (gomocs.com) --- The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women’s basketball team is receiving preseason recognition with a No. 22 ranking in the Athlon Sports 2015-16 Preseason Top 25.
2015 Southern Conference and Tennessee Sports Writers’ Association Coach of the Year Jim Foster returns nine players from the 2015 Southern Conference championship team including four starters. Senior Alicia Payne (Memphis, Tenn.), the 2015 SoCon Defensive Player of the Year, will lead the squad onto the court against four teams ranked alongside Chattanooga in the preseason poll.
The highlight of the schedule is a home matchup against 2015 National Champion Connecticut, ranked first by Athlon Sports, who will visit the McKenzie Arena on Monday, November 30. Also on the slate are Tennessee who ranks third on the Athlon poll, Stanford at 17th and South Florida who are just behind the Mocs at 23rd.
Also returning for UTC is leading scorer and rebounder Jasmine Joyner (Southaven, Miss.). The junior set a Southern Conference record for blocked shots with 132 last season and ranked fifth in the nation. In the Mocs’ win over Furman in the semifinal round of the Southern Conference Tournament, she recorded 26 points with 20 rebounds and three blocked shots.
Starters returning for the Mocs include Payne, Joyner, junior Chelsey Shumpert (Paducah, Ky.) and sophomore Keiana Gilbert (Pulaski, Tenn.). Gilbert’s sister, redshirt sophomore Aryanna who started all eight games before an injury sidelined her last season, will also be back in the lineup this year.
The center position will have three options. Behind Joyner will be redshirt sophomore Ansley Chilton (Trenton, Ga.) and redshirt freshman Ashlyn Wert (Lancaster, Pa.). Also returning will be juniors Sydney Vanlandingham (Hermitage, Tenn.) and Moses Johnson (Atlanta, Ga.) along with sophomore Anna Claire Noblit (Tuscumbia, Ala.).
Transfer Queen Alford (Decatur, Ga.) will highlight the newcomers. Alford was a two-time all-conference selection for Jacksonville and was the Dolphins first-ever Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year selection. She led JU in scoring with a double-figure average both seasons. Joining her will be freshmen Molly Melton (Knoxville, Tenn.) and Nakeia Burks (Huntsville, Ala.).
Transfer Shelbie Davenport (Murfreesboro, Tenn.) will sit out this season due to NCAA transfer rules.
The Mocs open the 2015-16 season with McNeese State in the Preseason WNIT at McKenzie Arena. The home slate features at least 13 home games that include Butler, Harvard and Belmont as well as seven SoCon matchups.
The Mocs highest preseason ranking was 16th by Street & Smith’s in 2004 following Chattanooga’s NCAA Tournament win over Rutgers the previous season. That team posted the school’s longest win streak at 27 games.