Women's basketball polls & preseason team announced
Courtesy: Southern Conference
Release: 10/25/2017
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Mercer's Susie Gardner and Kahlia Lawrence
Courtesy: Southern Conference

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – The Mercer Bears have been named the preseason favorite to win the Southern Conference women’s basketball title for the 2017-18 season, according to a vote by the league’s head coaches. Mercer senior guard Kahlia Lawrence was named the SoCon Preseason Player of the Year. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams or student-athletes as part of the balloting. The league’s media predicted Mercer to win the SoCon in 2017-18, as well.

Following a 25-7 record in 2016-17, Mercer head coach Susie Gardner lost just one senior from a squad that finished Southern Conference play with a 12-2 mark and narrowly fell in the SoCon Championship title game. The Bears return their top nine scorers from last season, including Lawrence and preseason all-conference team selections KeKe Calloway and Sydni Means. Lawrence, the two-time defending player of the year, was the second-leading scorer in the conference last season, averaging 18.0 points as the Bears earned the league’s automatic bid to the WNIT.

The SoCon’s highest-scoring offense a year ago, Mercer picked up seven first-place votes and 49 total points in the coaches’ poll, to finish nine points ahead of reigning SoCon tournament champion Chattanooga. The Bears earned 100 points and nine first-place votes in the media poll.

The Mocs, who earned their fifth straight SoCon tournament title in 2016-17, are coming off a 21-11 record and a postseason loss to Louisville in the NCAA tournament. Chattanooga, which earned 94 points and four first-place votes to finish second in the media poll, placed sophomore guard Lakelyn Bouldin and senior guard Keiana Gilbert on the preseason all-conference team. 

Second-year head coach Trina Patterson and UNCG took third place in the coaches’ poll (34) and fourth in the media poll (65), securing the other first-place vote in the coaches’ poll. ETSU followed close behind, claiming 33 points to take fourth in the coaches’ poll. The Bucs were voted third in the media poll with 67 points. 

Furman took fifth place (28 points coaches, 56 poins media) and while Samford took sixth (20 points coaches, 35 points media) in both polls. Wofford (12/27) and Western Carolina (8/24) were picked seventh and eighth, respectively, to round out the poll.

Seven of the eight teams were represented on the 10-member SoCon preseason all-conference team, with Mercer and Chattanooga leading the way with five total student-athletes included. UNCG’s Nadine Soliman, the reigning SoCon freshman of the year, was named to the preseason team along with 2016-17 first-team selection Tianna Tarter (ETSU). Furman’s Cierra Carter, Samford’s Hannah Nichols and Wofford’s Chloe Wanink, all recipients of postseason awards last season, rounded out the preseason squad.

Five of the eight Southern Conference teams will take the floor on Friday, Nov. 10, to start the regular season. The 2018 Southern Conference Championship presented by General Shale will be held March 1-4 at the U.S. Cellular Center in Asheville, North Carolina.  

2017-18 Preseason Southern Conference Coaches Poll

Team (1st-Place Votes) Total

1. Mercer (7) 49

2. Chattanooga 40

3. UNCG (1) 34

4. ETSU 33

5. Furman 28

6. Samford 20

7. Wofford 12

8. Western Carolina 8

2017-18 Preseason Player of the Year

Kahlia Lawrence, Sr., G, Mercer

2017-18 Preseason All-Southern Conference Team

Tianna Tarter, Sr., G, ETSU

Cierra Carter, Sr., G/F, Furman

KeKe Calloway, Jr., G, Mercer

Kahlia Lawrence, Sr., G, Mercer

Sydni Means, Sr., G, Mercer

Nadine Soliman, So, G, UNCG

Hannah Nichols, Sr., G, Samford

Lakelyn Bouldin, So., G, Chattanooga

Keiana Gilbert, Sr., G, Chattanooga

Chloe Wanink, Jr., G, Wofford

2017-18 Preseason Southern Conference Media Poll

Team (1st-Place Votes) Total

1. Mercer (9) 100

2. Chattanooga (4) 94

3. ETSU 67

4. UNCG 65

5. Furman 56

6. Samford 35

7. Wofford 27

8. Western Carolina 24

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