With six seniors among 10 players returning from last season's Southern Conference regular-season and tournament championship squad, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga women's basketball team was the obvious preseason pick to win the league this season.
The SoCon announced the preseason media and coaches' polls Wednesday, and UTC, which went 19-1 in the league last season and 29-4 overall, was picked to finish first in both. In addition, senior center Ashlen Dewart was the coaches' pick for preseason player of the year.
Joining Dewart on the 10-player All-SoCon team is senior forward Taylor Hall.
"It's definitely a big honor, but I'm not letting it mean too much to me -- it is a preseason pick," Dewart said. "While it is an honor and I'm definitely thankful for it, I still am looking toward the season and our team goals that we want to accomplish."
High expectations are nothing new for Lady Mocs coach Jim Foster, the 35-year coaching veteran that was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame this summer. He's had success at St. Joseph's, Vanderbilt and Ohio State, amassing 783 career wins.
UTC got nine of the 10 first-place votes among the coaches, who aren't allowed to vote for their own teams, essentially making it unanimous. In the media poll, the Lady Mocs received 15 of 16 first-place votes. Samford received a first-place vote in both polls.
Much improvement is expected of Samford, which finished tied for fifth in the SoCon last season with an 11-9 record and went 15-16 overall. Davidson was third and Appalachian State fourth in both polls.
Dewart led the Lady Mocs with 15.3 points and 7.2 rebounds a game last season, her first for UTC after transferring from Appalachian State. Hall, who was the star of the Lady Mocs' upset of Tennessee last season, finishing with 24 points and nine rebounds, averaged 9.2 points and 6.0 rebounds a game.
The Lady Mocs' only exhibition game is fast approaching. UTC will play Lee University on Nov. 4 at McKenzie Arena.
Contact John Frierson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6268. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/MocsBeat.