Lady Eagles open season in Preseason WNIT


The Lady Eagles were selected to play in the Preseason WNIT to start the season, beginning their season in the same tournament that their season ended.

A year ago, the Lady Eagles won 25 regular season games and made a run in the WNIT to the quarterfinals, where they lost to Michigan, 69-60. The Lady Eagles return only one starter from last season’s squad that finished as the runner- up the last two seasons in the Conference USA Championship.

The 16-team field tournament guarantees three games for each team. The Southern Miss side of the bracket consists of Texas-Arlington, Baylor, Alabama State, Jacksonville, South Florida, Dartmouth and Drexel.

Alabama State is returning eight players this season and are led by senior Jasmine Peeples. Peeples finished the 2014-15 as the Southwestern Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year.

The Lady Hornets (17- 15, 10-8 SWAC) won their exhibition match versus Faulkner, 81-46. Against Faulkner, the Lady Hornets showed their depth as their bench outscored the opposition, 32-15.

UT-Arlington finished their season (17-13, 11- 10 Sun Belt Conference) in the opening round of the Sun Belt Conference postseason tournament. The Lady Mavs have five veteranplayersreturning, including leading scorer, sophomore Rebekah VanDijk. VanDijk averaged 13 points per game last season and led all Division I freshmen in double-doubles with 15. Baylor finished 33-4 last season and made it to the Big Dance, where they fell to Notre Dame, 77-68, in the Elite Eight. The Lady Bears are the best team on paper in the bracket and face UT-Arlington in their first round game. The Lady Bears are now three seasons removed from the 2012 National Championship. Baylor returns eight letter winners and three starters off last season’s team.

Jacksonville ended their season in the semifinals of the Atlantic- Sun Tournament. The Lady Dolphins finished their 2014-15 campaign with an overall record of 12-17 and a conference record of 6-8.

Jacksonville returns seven letter winners and three starters from a year ago, including the A-Sun Freshman of the Year and Freshman Team All-Atlantic Sun selection, sophomore Kayla Gordon. Gordon averaged just over eight points per game. South Florida will be facing Jacksonville in the opening round of the tournament. The Lady Bulls ended their season, tying the single-season program record of 27 wins, while advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

USF returns all five starters and 12 letter winners from last season’s team that made the program’s second NCAA tournament appearance in three years. Senior Courtney Williams returns after leading the American Athletic Conference with 20.3 points per game last season.

Dartmouth ended their season at 14-14, 5-9 in the Ivy League. Dartmouth returns its two top performers from a year ago, junior Fanni Szabo and senior Lakin Roland.

Szabo was named to the All-Ivy League Second Team last season and averaged just over 16 points per game and nearly five rebounds. Szabo also had 59 steals as a sophomore. Roland is set to lead the team on the glass in her final season. She grabbed eight rebounds per game and averaged 12 points last season.

Drexel finished their season (20-11,14- 4 Colonial Athletic Association) with a loss in the opening round to Hampton 49-45.

Drexel returns four of its five starters from that team, including junior Sarah Curran and senior Rachel Pearson. Both players were named to Preseason All-CAA teams. The Lady Dragons will host Dartmouth in their opening round game.

If the Lady Eagles can win their opening round game versus the Lady Hornets and Baylor defeats UT-Arlington, the two teams will be pitted against one another.

The game will be played in Waco, Texas and in the only meeting between the two teams in 1979, the Lady Eagles defeated the Lady Bears 92-60.

Southern Miss will tipoff in the opening round of the Preseason WNIT, Nov. 13 at 11 a.m. against Alabama State.