YORK, Pa. - When a conference has two returning championship teams, and several other teams that have advanced to, and won, the conference championship game in recent years, there’s one predictable result in a coaches’ preseason poll - a close vote.
Marymount University, led by two-time CAC Player of the Year and DIII News national Preseason Player of the Year Katelyn Fischer, is the defending CAC Champion. The Saints are ranked among the top 25 in every preseason national Division III poll.
Christopher Newport, one of three new members in the CAC this year, won the USA South Athletic Conference crown in 2012-13 on the way to an appearance in the Elite 8 - after defeating Marymount in the national championship tournament second round. CNU, which won the USA South title four of the last five years, is ranked #3 in the country by D3hoops.com.
Mary Washington went down to the wire with MU last year in the battle for the regular-season CAC title, and has played in the conference championship game two-straight years, winning the crown in 2012. York has also traditionally been a top challenger, won the title in 2011 and has a veteran squad that was the backbone of the program’s NCAA Sweet 16 appearance in 2012.
Those teams emerged as the top four in the preseason voting among CAC coaches, with CNU gaining six of a possible nine first-place votes and leading the way with 78 points.
Marymount secured three first place votes and finished second in the preseason poll with 70 points.
Mary Washington, which received the final first-place vote, totaled 66 points to edge York (61) for third place in the preseason poll, in which the coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.
Salisbury compiled 49 points in the voting, followed by St. Mary’s (33), CAC-newcomer Penn State Harrisburg (29), Frostburg State (23), Southern Virginia (21) and Wesley (18).
The Eagles come into the season returning three starters in juniors guard Sam Partonen and forward Aubrey Howland, and senior forward Aby Diop. UMW will look to have big years from Claire Haeuptle and Brieneke Matthes. Partonen led the Eagles a year ago with a 12.1 points per game average. Diop led the CAC in field goal percentage a year ago at 50.9%.
Partonen will be the leader on offense and defense, as she enters her fourth year at starting point guard. Along with her 12.1 ppg average, Partonen added 102 assists and 105 rebounds. The senior from Burke, Va. also led the Eagles with 1.7 steals per contest.
Joining Diop returning for the Eagles are Claire Haeuptle, Amanda Witmer, and Erin Drumheller. The trio will look to add to the Eagles attack this year. Haeuptle led the team with an 80% free throw percentage last winter. Drumheller shot a scintillating 31.2% from three, while Witmer average 3.1 ppg, shooting 70.2% from the charity stripe. Sophomore Caitie Geoghegan will look to add to her role for 2013-14.
Freshman Breanne Comden will come in looking to make an impact for the Eagles this year. She is joined by fellow freshmen Megan King and Molly Garthwaite, and sophomores Megan Green and Sarah Listenbee.