By: Jack Dunn ~Staff Writer~
The Xavier women’s basketball team looks to continue improving, building on the success it had last year when it went 17-13 overall and 8-10 in conference.
After a promising start to the season, the Musketeers struggled with injuries and eventually ended their season on a seven-game skid.
“We did a lot of soul searching… I think some good has come out of it,” head coach Brian Neal said. “The team is much more engaged and much more focused on the basketball aspect.”
The team is returning two starters in senior guard Reashaun Gaffney and senior forward Maddison Blackwell. Both were in the top 30 in the conference in scoring. The Musketeers add three stellar recruits this season in freshmen guards Ashley Gomez and Na’Teshia Owens and forward Megan Christopher. Despite leading the conference in free throw percentage, Xavier finished in the bottom 10 nationally in three-point percentage and will look to improve its number. The Musketeers are currently ranked ninth overall in the preseason coaches’ poll.
Tied for the top spot in the preseason coaches’ poll are Creighton and DePaul. Despite going 17- 18 last season, Creighton made a good run in the Big East Title tournament last year, upsetting second seed Villanova and third seed Seton Hall.
The team is also returning all five starters from last season and will get back 2014 Big East Player of the Year Marissa Janning, who had to take a medical redshirt due to injury. Expect them to be one of the more experienced teams this season.
DePaul is coming off a 27-9 season, going 16-2 in Big East play, which ended in a Sweet 16 run. The Blue Devils will return three of their starters from last season. They also hold preseason player of the year winner in Jessica January. DePaul will look to continue its streak of 14 consecutive tournament appearances.
Ranked third overall in the poll is Marquette after going 14-16 overall and 9-9 in Big East play. The Golden Eagles are returning all of their starters from last season and will also host the Big East tournament this year.
Coming in at fourth in the poll is Villanova after going 20-12 overall and 12-6 in Big East play. The team expected to struggle last season after losing All-Big East forward Corline Coyer to injury, but rookie guard Adrianna Hahn surprised a lot of people and put up 17.5 points per game across the last four contests. The Wildcats will return three starters from last season.
Georgetown comes in at fifth in the preseason poll after going 16-14 overall and 9-9 in Big East play. It had the third best turnaround last season in Division I. The Hoyas will be returning the No. 2 and 3 Big East returning scorers in Dionna White and Dorothy Adomako.
St. John’s captured its third Big East Tournament title last season, going 23-10 overall and 11-7 in Big East play. It is ranked sixth in the preseason poll. The Red Storm, however, will be looking for others to step up as WNBA Draft picks Danaejah Grant and Aliyyah Handford are now playing professionally.
Seton Hall posted a 23-9 record overall on its way to a third consecutive 20-win season. The Pirates will once again look for others to step up as they will be only returning one starter for the second straight season.
At eighth in the poll, Butler struggled with injuries to post a 10-21 record overall and went 4-10 in Big East play. However, the Bulldogs only had two upperclassmen who received significant playing time and will look to build on their experience from last season.
Providence comes in at 10th in the preseason poll after struggling to get wins on its way to a 5-24 overall record and 1-17 in Big East play. New head coach Jim Crowley is looking to use the returning four starters to learn from their mistakes from last season to improve.