KANSAS CITY, Mo. (LyonScots.com) – After spending the entire 2012-13 basketball season ranked in the Top 25, Lyon College finds itself in the familiar surroundings as the Scots open the 2013-14 season ranked 24th in the NAIA Division I Women's Basketball Preseason Coaches' Top 25 Poll, which was released Tuesday by the national office.
The Scots, who were ranked three weeks during the 2011-12 season and finished 28-5 a year ago, join three other American Midwest Conference teams in the elite poll. League newcomer Freed-Hardeman University begins the year ranked sixth after finishing 34-2 last season, Columbia College, the AMC co-champion with Lyon last year, sits in the 13th spot after posting a 27-7 record last season. William Woods University, which posted a 26-7 record last season, is ranked 19th.
Lyon College, which recorded the institution's first-ever undefeated mark on the road last season with a 14-0 record, will be on the road for the first five games of this season. The Scots' schedule also includes nine games against squads ranked in the national preseason poll and another receiving Top 25 votes.
The Scots, who return just one starter off of last year's squad, open the season with a pair of games in New Orleans this weekend, taking on Southern University at New Orleans on Friday at 7 p.m. The Lady Knights are receiving votes for the NAIA Preseason Poll after coming off a 19-5 campaign a year ago, including an 11-3 record in the Gulf Coast Athletic Conference. Lyon will battle Loyola University (11-16 last season) on Saturday at 2 p.m.
On Nov. 19 the Scots will travel to Shawnee, Okla. to take on Oklahoma Baptist University, which is ranked 23rd. Lyon also hosts 25th-ranked LSU-Shreveport (La.) on Dec. 17 and 11th-ranked Shawnee State University on Dec. 19 in the Lyon College Classic.
Vanguard (Calif.) kicks off the 2013-14 season as the No. 1 team in the NAIA Division I. The Lions, who reached the quarterfinals of last year's NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship, received four first-place votes and 243 points en route to their 29th top mention dating back to the 1999-2000 season.
Vanguard, the reigning Golden State Athletic Conference (GSAC) Tournament champion, is predicted to win its 11th GSAC title under the leadership of three-time NAIA Coach of the Year Russ Davis. First team NAIA All-American Nicole Ballestero headlines the returners for the Lions. Ballestero's 21.4 points per game last season led the team and ranked third in the NAIA. She also was one of the national leaders in 3-point field goal percentage a season ago, converting 42.6 percent (58-of-136) to rank sixth in the NAIA.
Perennial powerhouse Oklahoma City – a quarterfinalist at last year's national championship – claims the No. 2 position with three first-place votes and 238 points. The Stars have not been ranked outside of the top 10 since being No. 12 on March 11, 2009 – a span of 50-straight polls. Oklahoma City, who finished 28-4 last season, returns three seniors – Autumn Huffman, Kayla MacKenzie and Cara Pugh – all of which saw time in all 32 games last season. The Stars have won or shared every regular-season Sooner Athletic Conference crown since 2009.
Defending national champion Westmont (Calif.), led by 2013 NAIA-Women's Basketball Coaches' Association (WBCA) Coach of the Year Kirsten Moore, collected 231 points to earn the No. 3 position. Despite losing last year's WBCA Player of the Year Tugce Canitez, the Warriors return a strong squad led by Esther Lee and Kelsie Sampson. Sampson was second on the team in scoring at 12.4 points per game, followed closely by Lee's 11.5 points per game average.
Rounding out the top five are No. 4 Georgetown (Ky.) and No. 5 Westminster (Utah) with 223 and 222 points, respectively. The Tigers also received one first-place vote. This is the first top five rating for Georgetown since Jan. 11, 2005, while Westminster ranked among the top five in 12-of-13 polls last season.
No. 6 Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) received the poll's remaining two first-place votes. The Lady Lions fell in the national championship semifinals to Westmont, 59-49.
The Mid-South Conference with five – Georgetown, No. 7 Cumberland (Tenn.), No. 9 Campbellsville (Ky.), No. 11 Shawnee State (Ohio) and No. 21 Cumberlands (Ky.) – boasts the most teams among the Top 25. The AMC is second with four programs – Freed-Hardeman, No. 13 Columbia (Mo.), No. 19 William Woods (Mo.) and No. 24 Lyon (Ark.).
Georgetown made the biggest improvement from last year's Postseason Poll – a nine-spot jump. Freed-Hardeman, Cumberland and No. 22 Wiley (Texas) fell the furthest, dropping three places each.
Cumberlands, No. 23 Oklahoma Baptist and No. 25 LSU Shreveport (La.) were the newcomers to the poll. Cumberlands and LSU Shreveport were both ranked during last year, while Oklahoma Baptist is receiving its first Top 25 mention since Oct. 25, 2010.