For the seventh consecutive season and the 17th time in the last 18 years, the Liberty women's basketball team has been tabbed as the preseason favorite to win the Big South Conference title, as voted upon by the conference's head coaches. Meanwhile, redshirt junior post player Ashley Rininger was named to the preseason All-Big South first team. The honors were announced at Monday's 2014-15 Big South Basketball Media Day, held at the Fairfield Inn & Suites in uptown Charlotte. Liberty received five of 11 possible first-place votes and topped a tight three-team race atop the standings with 113 total points. Headlined by Big South Preseason Player of the Year Kaylah Keys, reigning Big South regular-season champion High Point finished second in the poll, with three first-place nods and 110 points. Winthrop, which captured its first Big South Championship title in 2014, earned three first-place votes and 104 points for the third spot.
Campbell was picked fourth with 89 points, while the fifth through eighth-place teams were separated by only 10 points. Those squads include Big South Championship host Coastal Carolina (fifth, 64 points), Gardner-Webb (sixth, 56 points), UNC Asheville (seventh, 55 points) and Presbyterian (eighth, 54 points). Radford (ninth, 35 points), Longwood (10th, 30 points) and Charleston Southern (11th, 16 points) round out the poll.
Rininger earned numerous Big South honors as a redshirt sophomore in 2013-14, as the Canton, Ohio native was a first team All-Big South selection, the Big South Scholar-Athlete of the Year and a three-time Big South Player of the Week. She was Liberty's leading scorer (14.7 ppg) and rebounder (9.0 rpg) a season ago and racked up 16 double-doubles.
Rininger is one of four returning starters from last year's team, which went 20-11. Head coach Carey Green's squad will also welcome back redshirt senior post player Jasmine Gardner, who started 33 games in 2012-13 before missing last season due to injury. Additionally, redshirt senior guard Karly Buer joins the Lady Flames for her final season after starting 78 games at Missouri State.
Liberty is just over two weeks away from its 2014-15 season opener, a Nov. 14 matchup with Charlotte at the Vines Center. Liberty will travel to Radford on Dec. 6 for its first of 20 Big South Conference tilts.
Both the 2015 Big South Men's and Women's Basketball Championships will be played at Coastal Carolina's The HTC Center in Conway, S.C., for the third consecutive year. The women's tournament will span March 3-8, with the winner earning the Big South's automatic bid to the 2015 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Championship.
2014-15 Big South Women's Basketball Preseason Poll Team (First-place votes) – Points 1) Liberty (5) – 113 2) High Point (3) – 110 3) Winthrop (3) – 104 4) Campbell – 89 5) Coastal Carolina – 64 6) Gardner-Webb – 56 7) UNC Asheville – 55 8) Presbyterian – 54 9) Radford – 35 10) Longwood – 30 11) Charleston Southern – 16
2014-15 Big South Women's Basketball Preseason All-Conference Team First Team Kaylah Keys, High Point (Preseason Player of the Year) Stacia Robertson, High Point AJ Jordan, Coastal Carolina Ashley Rininger, Liberty Erica Williams, Winthrop
Second Team Kiera Gaines, Campbell Daeisha Brown, Longwood Schaquilla Nunn, Winthrop Paige Love, UNC Asheville Ayana Avery, Radford
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