SAC predicts Lady Eagles to finish fourth in SAC

VIDEO: Mike Mincey Interview

ROCK HILL, S.C. – The South Atlantic Conference released its preseason coaches' poll Tuesday as Carson-Newman was picked to finish fourth for a second straight season.

"There are a couple goals that we haven't attained the last few years," Carson-Newman coach Mike Mincey said. "We feel like we have been talented enough to win our league. Our league is very strong. We do not have a win against [LMU] and [Wingate] so we have to get over that hurdle. Last year was probably our best year since I have been here in terms of scoring and not giving up a game to an opponent that we shouldn't. We have to get some W's against the top-tier teams."

The Lady Eagles return four of its five starters and five of its top six scoring options and 74 percent of the team's points after picking up winning 20 games for the 18th time in program history finishing with a 20-10 overall mark and a 16-6 record in SAC action.

Mincey's group finished the 2016-17 conference season with a 16-6 record marking the seventh time in the last nine years with a record above .500. In those nine seasons, the Lady Eagles have not finished below .500 in league play.

C-N has won at least 10 games in the SAC play four straight seasons and 13 times in school history. It matches the program record mark of consecutive double-digit win campaigns in the SAC set from 1989-90 to 1992-93.

The programs is looking for back-to-back 20-win campaigns since 1991-92 and 1992-93, a span of 25 years, when the school went 44-18 over the two-year span and qualified for the NAIA District 26 Tournament.

In 2016-17, Carson-Newman was sixth in the country out of 307 schools in scoring offense at 80.7, eighth in turnover margin at plus-seven and eighth in assist-to-turnover ratio at 1.27. The unit was 11th in assists per game at over 17 per night while shooting just shy of 45 percent, 22nd in the country.

Entering the season, the unit is led by preseason first-team all-league honoree Mika Wester (Newport, Tenn.). The 2016-17 all-region selection is the top returning scorer in the conference after putting up 18.6 points per game.

Joining Wester is a pair of fellow juniors in Haris Price (Gatlinburg, Tenn.) and Briana Smith (Nashville, Tenn.). Price was fourth in the league in steals per game with 1.93 while handing out 83 assists. Smith was third on the team with 10.8 points per game as a sophomore.

"I wouldn't expect Mika to be the leading scorer every single game," Mincey said. "I think we are going to have at least three, maybe four that can get into double figures on the year."

Wingate, the two-time defending SAC Tournament champion, was tabbed the league favorite with seven first-place votes. The Bulldogs earned the No. 2 seed in the Southeast Region and lost to Lincoln Memorial in the second round by 19 points. Two of Ann Hancock's players were named first-team all-league picks in the preseason in Danasia Witherspoon and Marta Miscenko.

Lincoln Memorial slots into the second spot after winning the league's regular season title and producing a program-best 28-5 record. The Railsplitters lost to Columbus State in the Southeast Region title game and needs to replace the league's Player of the Year, Megan Pittman.

Anderson (S.C.) picked up three first-place votes but sits in third in the preseason poll after nestling into the eighth position of the Southeast Region a year ago. The Trojans fell by 11 to top-seeded Columbus State in the opening round. 2016-17 second-team All-SAC honoree Heather Jankowy has graduated leaving a hole at point guard.

Newberry slides into the fifth spot after a fifth-place finish a season ago. Coach Sean Page returns preseason first-team All-SAC pick Meg Essex and second-team selection Nicola Handreck. Essex was sixth in scoring last season with 14.8 per game.

Catawba placed a pair of players on the preseason teams and is in the sixth spot in the poll. Terri Rogers was third in the league in scoring at 18 points per game and fifth in rebounds with just under nine.

The bottom half of the league poll begins with Lenoir-Rhyne at seventh. The Bears finished sixth in the SAC with a 13-9 mark in league action. L-R was almost unbeatable at home last season going 11-3 thanks to a defense that led the league in points per game at 55.4.

Tusculum was one of four schools that posted a 5-17 mark in SAC play a season ago and finds itself predicted to finish eighth. Honorable Mention All-SAC forward Kasey Johnson was fifth in the league in scoring at 15.8 scoring in double figures in all but two games.

Queens (N.C.) is ninth in the preseason poll but had one of the least effective offenses in the nation last year scoring 51.5 points per game, a mark that only five teams recorded a lower tally.

Coker returns the conference's leader in field-goal percentage in senior forward Iresha Cooper but is 10th in the preseason poll. Only nine teams turned the ball over more frequently than the 21.1 per game that the Cobras registered.

The final spot in the preseason poll was given to Mars Hill as the Lions saw their defense yield a 45 percent field-goal percentage from foes to rank 300th in the country.

The season begins tonight for C-N as the Lady Eagles visit No. 14 Tennessee for a 7 p.m. tip-off. Lock into and Mountain Country 106.3 (WPFT-FM, Sevierville) for the audio broadcast on the Eagle Sports Network.


School (First-Place Votes)



Wingate (7)



Lincoln Memorial (1)



Anderson (3)
























Mars Hill


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