MIDDLETOWN, Ohio — The University of Rio Grande is the top pick in the East Division and the lead selection overall in the 2018-19 River States Conference Women’s Basketball Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
The poll, along with the preseason All-Conference Team, was released on Wednesday as part of the league’s Media Day activities.
Veteran head coach David Smalley’s club tallied 144 points in the overall balloting of the conference’s 13 head coaches, while picking up 65 points in the East Division voting.
The RedStorm, who collected 10 first-place votes on both ballots, finished 30-4 last season, winning the league’s regular season and tournament championship en route to a trip to the NAIA DII national tournament.
Among Rio’s returning players are a pair of preseason All-RSC selections – junior guard Sydney Holden (Wheelersburg, OH) and senior forward Jasmine Smith (Canal Winchester, OH).
Smith averaged 13.0 points and 5.5 rebounds per game last season, while Holden averaged 12.1 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.7 steals per contest.
Rio Grande was picked ahead of the conference’s two other national tourney qualifiers from a year ago – Indiana University East and Alice Lloyd College – who were second and third, respectively, in the overall balloting.
IU East was picked behind the RedStorm in the East Division, and Alice Lloyd was tabbed first in the West Division.
IU East, which was 22-11 overall and 13-4 in the RSC last year, garnered 122 total points and received one first-place vote. The Red Wolves have been to three straight national tournaments and are once again picked highly in the conference despite graduating three star seniors.
Alice Lloyd finished last year at 24-6 overall and 15-3 in the RSC. The Eagles, the RSC Tournament runner-up in 2017-18, received 112 points in the preseason poll and are led by All-RSC preseason pick Hayley Hall.
The RSC West Division was very close at the top as Alice Lloyd, IU Southeast and IU Kokomo all garnered first-place votes.
ALC earned 67 points within the division to edge out IU Southeast by one point as the divisional favorite. IU Southeast (18-12, 10-8 RSC) was picked fourth in the overall RSC poll.
IU Kokomo, which was 16-13 a year ago, was picked third in the RSC West with 64 points within the division. The Cougars were chosen sixth in the overall and attracted one first-place vote as a conference favorite.
Point Park (Pa.) University was picked fifth overall and fourth in the East Division. The Pioneers (17-11, 12-5 RSC) were a playoff team last season and received one first-place vote toward the overall poll and within the division.
WVU Tech was picked seventh overall and third in the East. The Golden Bears were RSC Tournament semifinalists last year and, like Point Park and Rio Grande, placed two players on the preseason all-conference team.
Brescia (Ky.) University, Cincinnati Christian University and Carlow (Pa.) University were tabbed eighth, ninth and 10th, resepectively, in the overall poll, with just two votes separating the three schools.
Midway (Ky.) University and Asbury (Ky.) University were next as one of the four teams that were predicted very close to the fourth-and-final playoff spot out of the West Division. Ohio Christian University was not far behind coming out of the East.
Along with Holden, Smith and Hall, the 10-player All-RSC preseason team included Point Park’s Sam Weir and Michelle Burns, WVU-Tech’s Savannah Shamblin and Brittney Justice, Emma Stille of Carlow, Midway’s Haleigh Yazell and Autumn Herriford of Asbury.
Randy Payton is the Sports Information Director at the University of Rio Grande.