BY Nina benich, staff writer
The Xavier women’s basketball team is starting off their season on Wednesday, and they return many veteran players.
This is the second season under Head Coach Melanie Moore, and senior forward A’riana Gray returns as the active career leader in the Big East, with 750 rebounds and 982 points.
The Butler Bulldogs, who finished last year’s season 19-11 overall, will bring back seven letterwinners and two of their top three scorers, Oumou Toure with 9.1 ppg and Genesis Parker with 9.0.
The Bulldogs will also add Okako Adika and Tenley Dowell, who each played a single game in the 2019-2020 season before suffering season-ending injuries. Kristen Spolyar and Kat Strong have departed, while Okako Adika enters as a newcomer.
The Creighton Bluejays will replace Big East Player of the Year Jaylyn Agney, who earned the most points in last year’s season ,averaging 23.1 points per game.
The team will return with nine letterwinners and welcome 6-foot forward Mallory Brake, who has scored over 2,600 points over the course ofhercareer.TheBluejays led the conference in both 3-point shooting (.363) and assist-turnover-ratio (1.4) in the Big East a year ago.
The DePaul Blue Demons hold a 106-20 record over seven Big East seasons. This includes six crowns in the general season as well as five tournament titles.
Twelve letterwinners return this season, including starter Lexi Held, who holds the Big East Most Outstanding Player title. DePaul finished second nationally in points per game (85.0), three-pointers (363), assists (664) and turnover margin (8.39) in the 2019-2020 season.
The Georgetown Hoyas welcome back starter Anita Kelava as well as seven letter winners and Princeton grad transfer Taylor Baur, who averaged 6.9 points and 6.1 rebounds with the Tigers.
Georgetown’s previous 2-16 Big East record included single-digit losses in three of the last six games and a three-point setback in the tournament’s first round.
The Marquette Golden Eagles will have Selena Lott return after her average of 15.0 points and 5.9 assists, and welcome newcomer Liza Karlen.
The Providence Friars bring back rebounder Mary Baskerville, who averaged 11.8 points and 7.6 rebounds last year, Julia Fabozzi and Grace Efosa-Aguebor, who averaged 24.5 points.
Last year, they won a Big East Tournament game for thesecondstraightyearand for the first time since the 1994-95 season.
St John’s Red Storm will bring newcomer Rayven Peeples as well as their top two scorers, Leilani Correa, and Qadashah Hoppie. Correa is the reigning Big East Sixth-Women of the Year, while Hopple is the conference’s active career leader with over 1,100 points.
The Red Storm averaged 72.3 points in last year’s season, its most since 1994-95. Point guard Tiana England will depart and sophomore UniqueDrakewilltakeher spot.
The Seton Hall Pirates, having advanced to last year’s tournament semifinals for the first time since 2016, will see the departure of their top two scorers, Shadeen Samuels and Barbara Johnson.
The Pirates will also see Desiree Elmore return, a player who averaged 13.0 points and 7.2 rebounds last year, and will welcome 6-foot-1 guard and forward Mya Bembry, as well as two transfers from Trinity Valley’s NJ-CAA All-American Curtessia Dean.
The Villanova Wildcats welcome back Big East’s Freshman of the Year Maddy Siegrist, who averaged 18.8 points over 31 games last year.
The team will also bring in a new head coach, Denise Dillon, who formerly spent 17 years down the road with the Drexel Dragons. Mary Gedaka will graduate while two transfers, senior Sarah Mortensen from Miami, FL, and sophomore Noga Peleg Pelc from Rutgers, will join the team.
A notable challenge in this season will be the involvement of the Connecticut Huskies, who will play in their first Big East conference since 2012-13.
The team will bring in a young roster,featuring three juniors, two sophomores and six freshmen, including Christyn Williams and top-ranked Paige Bueckers.
In UConn’s last season in the Big East, they were the runner-up in the Big East Tournament, finishing 14-2.