PORTSMOUTH, Ohio – The Shawnee State women’s basketball program has been ranked as the No. 16 program in the country in the NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Preseason Top 25 Poll, as announced by conference officials on Tuesday evening.
The Bears, who grabbed 116 points in the poll, finished just one spot off of where the defending Mid-South Conference Tournament Champions finished last season as Shawnee State edged Lyon (Ark.) by one point and Langston (Okla.) by two points for the aforementioned position.
Overall, the Bears are one of four teams who represent the Mid-South in the Preseason Top 25 Poll. Campbellsville, who was rated as the preseason favorite in the Mid-South’s own preseason poll, heads the national poll as well, with the Tigers obtaining 219 points and eight of the nine first-place votes to start the season in the top slot.
Cumberland (Tenn.) follows the Tigers up as the Bulldogs advanced all the way from the receiving votes category at season’s end to the No. 12 position, placing 17 points ahead of Shawnee State in the process.
Following the Bears’ No. 16 ranking, Pikeville also makes an appearance in the rankings as the Tigers were given a total of 59 points en route to the nation’s No. 22 ranking.
In addition to the above quadrant of teams, Lindsey Wilson gave the Mid-South a team in the receiving votes category as the Blue Raiders obtained 10 total points to allow the MSC to place over 60 percent of its women’s basketball teams in either the Top 25 or receiving votes categories.
For the 2015-16 season, Shawnee State will return three players and two starters from a team that finished 25-10 and made an NAIA Second Round appearance.
This includes Ali Zieverink, who piled up a laundry list of accolades last season as her 19.4 points and 6.9 rebounds per contest allowed the Psychology major to rack up the Mid-South’s Player of the Year award as well as First-Team All-MSC honors, with the senior adding a Second-Team NAIA All-American honor to her name at the conclusion of the 2014-15 season.
In the backcourt, Abby Feuchter will head up the Bears’ attack once again as the Sport Management major holds the all-time mark for minutes averaged in a career (34.4) and is tied for the all-time lead in assist average for a career (4.4).
For her career, the senior has recorded 452 assists in 3,510 minutes over her playing career, which sit fourth and fifth all-time on the list. She brings back 8.9 points, 4.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.5 steals back to the table for Shawnee State.
Beside the pair of Cincinnati-area natives, Jen Arnzen will also return to this year’s roster. Arnzen, who hails from Portsmouth, had a breakout game against Rio Grande last season in putting up 18 points and seven rebounds in an 87-81 victory over the RedStorm on Dec. 3, winning the Dick Hyland Player of the Game honors as a result.
In addition to the aforementioned trio of players, Shawnee State also brings in a deep recruiting class as the Bears will welcome eight new members to the team this coming season.
This aforementioned recruiting class is headlined by Ashton Lovely, Jonessa Moore, and Madison Ridout, with Lovely and Moore being rated as three-star prospects out of high school by ESPN.com.
Lovely, who was rated out as an 89 overall grade, led Greeneview High School to a 47-7 record during her four years with the Rams and obliterated the school’s all-time scoring mark – girls or boys – with 2,041 points, adding 448 assists and 266 steals during her career for good measure.
As for Moore, the Cincinnati State transfer – who was rated as an 88 overall grade when the junior played at Mount Healthy High School – averaged 22.1 points and 11.6 rebounds per contest on 57.8 percent shooting while posting a double-double in 10 of the 14 contests that she played in for the Surge, with the 6-1 center being named a WBCA (Women’s Basketball Coaches Association) All-America Honorable Mention selection at season’s end.
Ridout, who hails from Jackson, Ohio, is a transfer from Kent State University. The guard, who played in 22 games for the Golden Flashes, averaged 3.4 points and 1.2 rebounds for the Mid-American Conference (MAC) program.
In addition to Lovely, Moore, and Ridout, five more contributors will join the Shawnee State women’s basketball program, as Jenna Brown, Hannah Miller, Maura Hackney, Abby Haislop, and Lydia Poe will also be featured on the Bears’ roster.
Shawnee State will open the 2015-16 basketball campaign with a home bout against Ohio-Chillicothe on Friday, Oct. 30 at 6 p.m. The Bears will begin up their conference slate 20 days later with another tilt at the Frank & Janis Waller Gymnasium as Shawnee State will host No. 1 Campbellsville at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 19.
In addition to playing each of their conference foes twice – which amounts to eight total contests between the teams that are ranked or receiving votes in the Mid-South – the Bears will also play the No. 22-ranked team in NAIA Division II, Asbury (Ky.), twice during the season, including a Dec. 12 affair at the Frank & Janis Waller Gymnasium as part of the Shawnee State Classic.
Additionally, Shawnee State will also play the No. 21-ranked team in the NAIA Division I ranks in Xavier (La.) on Thanksgiving Day as part of the Xavier Classic in New Orleans, La.
The Bears will also play three additional teams that are receiving votes in either the NAIA Division I or Division II polls, as Shawnee State will play Auburn University-Montgomery, Indiana University-Northwest, and Rio Grande at various points during the season.
Overall, Shawnee State will play 14 of its 30 contests against a team that was ranked or receiving votes in an NAIA Preseason Poll. The next edition of the Division I Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Postseason Top 25 Poll will come out on Dec. 8.