Trojan women selected third, men picked fourth in Conference Carolinas polls
By Rudy Coggins
Published in Sports on October 21, 2011 1:48 PM
MOUNT OLIVE -- Mount Olive's run as the Conference Carolinas women's basketball tournament runner-up in three of the last four seasons just might end this winter.
Or will it?
The Trojan men, if they stay healthy, may finally have the pieces to rebound from a 14-13 campaign and a .500 finish in conference play a year ago.
The league coaches certainly think Mount Olive will factor into the race for the regular-season championship. The women were picked third in the annual preseason poll, while the men were tabbed fourth.
"I like this group," said MOC women's head coach Wendy Lee after the team's Green-White game earlier this week. "Their attitudes are good and I think we've got a lot of work left ahead of us. It's a work in progress with nine new people out of 16 (on the floor).
"We're trying to figure out who we are, what we're good at (on the floor) and what we need to work on."
Four starters graduated off last year's team that posted 21 wins and fell to NCAA Division II tournament participant Barton in the conference tournament final. All-Conference Carolinas forward Andrea Jones, who ranked seventh in the league in scoring (14.7 points/game) last season, returns along with Alyssa Luebs and point guard Destinee Webb.
Coaches picked Barton to claim a fourth consecutive league title, which would equal the record set by Belmont Abbey from 1998-2001. The Bulldogs collected eight of the 12 first-place votes and 117 points, but finished just six points ahead of second-place Limestone (S.C.) College in the poll.
Pfeiffer University was picked fourth behind MOC. Belmont Abbey is fifth, followed by Queens University-Charlotte, Erskine, King (Tenn.), North Greenville (S.C.), Coker, Lees-McRae and Converse.
Preseason accolades have been rolling in for the Trojan men's basketball team. Senior point guard Derek Staton has garnered recognition from The Sporting News and the NCAA Division II Bulletin. Senior forward Craig Hayes, who returns after a medical redshirt season, earned preseason honors from The Sporting News.
Staton missed the team's Green-White game with a foot injury.
"I really like this group," said Trojan men's head coach Joey Higginbotham. "We've got some pieces. I'm very excited about our freshman class and our two transfers are going to help us. It was good to see Craig back on the floor and he looked like his old self.
"Kason (Cheeks), if we can get him through the whole year, we'll be good. We've got some depth that we haven't quite had the past couple of years."
Limestone drew the preseason nod as No. 1 after logging a 23-7 worksheet and advancing to the Division II Southeast Regional last season. Queens, the reigning regular-season champion, is No. 2. Each team received five first-place votes.
Barton is third, followed by MOC. League newcomer King College is fifth and Belmont Abbey is sixth. Rounding out the league poll, in order, are Coker, Pfeiffer, North Greenville, Lees-McRae and Erskine.