When it’s come to putting and keeping the Southland Conference on the women’s basketball map, Northwestern State’s pointed the way.
For the third straight year co-head coach’s Brook and Scott Stoehr guided the Lady Demons to not only the SLC’s postseason tournament championship, but the NCAA tournament as well, where they fell to Baylor last season.
The league’s coaches and sports information directors agreed this week Lamar was the team to beat this season in its preseason polls with Northwestern State second and McNeese State fourth.
Nicholls State was eighth, UNO 11th and Southeastern Louisiana 12th in the coaches’ poll.
“As a coach you know what you’re get from that group,” Brook Stoehr said of her returning veterans during Thursday’s SLC preseason teleconference. “They’re consistent and you don’t have to worry night in and night out who’s going to show up.”
Northwestern returns one of the league’s best guard combination in first-team preseason selection Janelle Perez, a senior, along with fellow senior Keisha Lee.
Lee, a former Denham Springs standout, has already scored in excess of 1,000 points during her career, earning second team All-SLC honors last season. She averaged 10.2 points, 3.4 rebounds and had 53 steals.
McNeese also got a taste of postseason play with a trip to the CBI postseason tournament, dropping a 63-58 decision at eventual champion UL-Lafayette.
The Cowgirls also return two of the league’s top guards in senior Allison Baggett (15.9 points) and Jalyn Johnson (13.7) from an 18-14 club.
“Our freshmen and sophomores got so much time last year,” McNeese coach Brooks Donald-Williams, now in her ninth season. “That’s going to benefit us and setting up a strong supporting cast for Jayln and Allison.”
Local players figure prominently in the plans of Nicholls State and UNO.
Coach DoBee Plaisance, who begins her eighth season, said having junior guard Taylor Morrison of St. Michael the Archangel back at full strength is certain to impact the team’s success.
Morrison, who averaged 5.8 points in 31 games as a freshman, saw her numbers drop to 3.6 points in 29 games, while battling a torn rotator cuff last season.
Plaisance said Morrison had surgery at the end of the season and is expected to return to practice in the next couple of weeks.
“She stepped up big as a freshman,” said Plaisance, who led Nicholls to a school-record third straight (17-13) winning season. “I have the utmost confidence that when she gets her mojo back, she’ll be fine.”
Zachary graduate Mariah Wright, who redshirted a year ago at UNO, is expected to step in this season and play one of the guard positions for the Lady Privateers, who were 8-19 a year ago.
“I’m excited to get her back on the court,” UNO coach Keeshawn Carter said. “She’s been driven and excited about getting back to the court.”