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Duquesne Women Picked Tied for 4th In A-10; Bazelak, Sole Honored

Duquesne Women Picked Tied for 4th In A-10; Bazelak, Sole Honored

Monday afternoon the Atlantic 10 released its women’s basketball preseason polls and conference teams as voted upon by its 14 head coaches and Duquesne tied for fourth place with Davidson and Fordham, receiving one first-place vote in the process while also receiving one first-place vote.

“Polls are polls,” Duquesne’s eighth-year coach Dan Burt said in a university-issued press release. “We believe we are capable of winning the league if we maintain a strong mental resiliency. Our talent has great depth and we have size and versatility at every position. We can play both small and big depending on the situation.”

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VCU placed first in the poll earning 10 of the 14 possible first-place votes and 185 points overall. Dayton placed second and amassed 176 points. Saint Louis was picked third, also earned a first-place vote and totaled 171 points.

Duquesne senior guard Libby Bazelak was one of six players selected in the Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Conference First Team after scoring 13.2 points and grabbing 6.5 rebounds a game. She also was one of five selected to the Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Defensive Team. Bazelak started all 31 games last season, battling through injury to take a leadership role both on and off the court.

“Libby richly deserves being recognized as an A-10 first-team member,” said Burt. “Her on-court play and leadership last year was outstanding and we expect even more this season. We believe she is the best pure point guard in the A-10.”

Additionally graduate student center Laia Sole was selected to the Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Conference Team. Sole averaged 11.8 points a game including 38 points in an overtime win over Saint Francis. Sole started 30 of 31 games a season ago, with her only non-start coming on senior night where she still scored 20 points on a 7-of-9 shooting performance from the field in a victory over Fordham.

“Laia is the best offensive post player in the A-10,” stated Burt. “Laia has raised her level of play over the summer and we are expecting a big year from her.”

Duquesne fell to Fordham in the Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinals a season ago and finished the season with a 20-11 record. It was hopeful to have a WNIT berth before COVID-19 ended both the men’s and women’s respective college basketball seasons.

Below is the full preseason poll and conference honors as voted on by the coaches.

Atlantic 10 Women’s Basketball Preseason Poll

1. VCU (10) 185

2. Dayton (2) 176

3. Saint Louis (1) 171

T4. Davidson 140

T4. Duquesne (1) 140

T4. Fordham 140

7. Massachusetts 118

8. Richmond 81

9. George Washington 78

10. La Salle 70

11. Rhode Island 65

12. St. Bonaventure 42

13. Saint Joseph’s 41

14. George Mason 23

 

Preseason All-Conference First Team

Suzi-Rose Deegan Davidson

Erin Whalen Dayton

Libby Bazelak Duquesne

Sam Breen Massachusetts

Ciaja Harbison Saint Louis

Tera Reed VCU

 

Preseason All-Conference Second Team

Katie Turner Davidson

Laia Sole Duquesne

Kendell Heremaia Fordham

Claire Jacobs La Salle

Asianae Johnson St. Bonaventure

Taya Robinson VCU

 

Preseason All-Conference Third Team

Sarah Donovan Davidson

Araion Bradshaw Dayton

Kyla Whitehead Dayton

Anna DeWolfe Fordham

Neila Luma George Washington

Rachel Kent Saint Louis

 

Preseason All-Defensive Team

Araion Bradshaw Dayton

Libby Bazelak Duquesne

Brooke Flowers Saint Louis

Ciaja Harbison Saint Louis

Taya Robinson VCU


Pittsburgh Sports Now
‘s Zachary Weiss has his preseason nods and picks below.

1. VCU- The A-10 has always been a very upperclassmen dominated league where with seasoning teams tend to find more success. This group took plenty of lumps freshman season, which included seven wins, just one of which was on the road, but those growing pains have been worth it in recent years and having a senior class which includes Taya Robinson and Tera Reed makes the Rams the early favorite. It also helps that if this season does advance that VCU will host the Atlantic 10 Championships, something Dayton was able to cash in a season ago. In each of the last two seasons, VCU has been the runner up in the championship and perhaps this is the season where everything comes together.

2. Dayton- Last year’s conference champions, Dayton returns four of its six top scorers in Erin Whalen, Araion Bradshaw, Kyla Whitehead and Jenna Giacone. Bradshaw excels on the defensive end and teams who did not scout Whitehead learned the hard way in March. Additionally Dayton is a taller team this year with 6-foot-5 Tenin Magassa from France, 6-foot-3 Nadjy Taylor and six-foot Maliya Perry. Though there is some inexperience there, the potential for a repeat is certainly there.

3. Saint Louis- Saint Louis is very sound on the defensive end and that is further evidenced by both Brooke Flowers and Ciaja Harbison comprising two of the five spots on the preseason all-conference defensive team but the Billikens will be looking to be more effective on the offensive end. In addition to Flowers who started in her freshman season and Harbison, a fixture on the court, Rachel Kent, Myia Clark and Myriama Smith Traore all have been starters that have excelled. Additionally, Julia Martinez will be improved this season and Peyton Kennedy will be able to find the basket.

4. Duquesne– No this is not homecooking, really there seems to be more known about Duquesne both in the health and depth department than the two teams directly below it, who just so happened to tie for the position in the coaches poll. Duquesne has the ability to be a talented team this season with depth which may allow for shorter leashes or allow players who played nearly complete games to take a breath which will help keep them fresh as the season continues, especially if things get jam packed towards the end due to COVID-19. Somehow Libby Bazelak was underrated a season ago, playing through an injury to be a difference-maker on both sides of the ball. Laia Sole has an opportunity to identify herself as the most dominant post offensively, something that her placement in the preseason all-conference team provides, though it is preseason. A lot of players have taken jumps which should be interesting to see how that will translate on the court.

5. Fordham- People may be surprised that Fordham is where it is based on a season ago, but gone is Bryson Cavanaugh who came out as transgender will forego his senior season which means additional players led by Kendell Heremaia and Anna DeWolfe will need to take a further jump and that this quite possibly could be a Fordham team which already prides itself on its defensive mentality may have to be even more tenacious on that end. The incoming freshmen will be asked to contribute, potentially right away.

6. Davidson- Davidson has the potential to have a program-defining season but it all depends on health. Katie Turner will continue to be a leader on this team and players such as Chloe Welch who took jumps last season will be asked to do the same. For Suzi-Rose Deegan and Sarah Donovan, who have received conference honors for their respective performances throughout their careers have both been dealing with injuries. Deegan had ankle surgery and will return to campus from Australia and Donovan missed a significant portion of last season with a concussion and her availability is unknown.

7. Rhode Island- To be honest, this may not be giving Rhode Island enough respect. This season has the opportunity to be a great follow up to a season where coach Tammi Reiss left off. Though she inherited her team, she made the most of what she had on court and being without guard Marta Vargas who is back and ready to assume a leadership role. The Rams transfers also offer lots of potential as well including Emmanuelle Tahane, a Missouri transfer, Marie-Paule Foppossi and Johanna Muzet, the latter two of whom have French National Team experience. Reiss now has a team that matches her preferred style of play and all five positions will need guarded.

8. Massachusetts- Massachusetts has been on the rise as a program under coach Tory Verdi going from nine wins to last year tying a program best with 20 triumphs. Gone is Hailey Leidel who will go down as one of the best players to wear a Minutewomen uniform but Sam Breen, a Penn State transfer excelled in her half season a year ago and Destiney Philoxy has great offensive ability that not enough eyes are on. Maeve Donnelly returns and commands attention defensively. Verdi also is excited about newcomers including Siena transfer Maddie Sims, Ber’Nyah Mayo and Makennah White, a Farrell, PA native who had a successful high school career at West Middlesex.

9. George Washington- George Washington will have Neila Luma back which will bring a proven post presence who can put the ball in the basket and also provide challenging defense that can challenge opponents. Additionally Pitt transfer Jasmine Whitney will be eligible for play in January and her abilities from the guard position will certainly help this team which after some growing pains last year has veterans in place such as Sydney Zambrotta, Maddie Loder and Mayowa Taiwo. The last time GW had veterans in place it won the A-10 Championship.

10. La Salle- La Salle certainly showed improvement last season and that could certainly continue this season. Personally there are a lot of teams in a similar boat and La Salle has a little bit less experience which definitely this placement is more about not knowing and the absence of Shalina Miller who had game-changing ability on the defensive end. Both Amy and Claire Jacobs should be expected to show improvement and it will be interesting to see if Kate Hill who keeps the ball moving on offense this year will call her number more this year.

11. Richmond- Richmond is in a similar position to La Salle as Jaide Hinds-Clarke graduated a season ago and the Spiders have Alex Parson who will continue to find her shot and pressure defenders but it will be interesting to see how the rest of the team fares under second-year coach

12. St. Bonaventure- It seems clear that the Bonnies will start turning a corner. St. Bonaventure returns four starters and will add more size this season, namely Star Fitzgerald-Greer and I’yanna Lops who both are 6-foot-3. Also Tori Harris a transfer from James Madison is expected to come in and put the ball in the basket. Asianae Johnson and Deja Francis both have received conference awards with the former on a preseason all-conference team.

13. Saint Joseph’s- Saint Joseph’s plain and simple had trouble putting the ball in the basket last season. Former Pitt player Alayna Gribble could help solve that problem and team up with Katie Jekot and Lula Roig. From a post standpoint returner Gabby Smalls has shown improvement, transfer Olivia Ramil can stretch defenses and another transfer Alexis Santarelli provides a different look as a left-handed shooter. If the offense improves and the defense can continue to frustrate opponents, the Hawks will make a good jump in the conference.

14. George Mason- Gone are Nicole Cardano-Hillary and Jacy Bolton the two clear leaders on last year’s team. Though Bolton is now a member of the Patriots staff, this year will be about building and trying to get back to what was a good taste of success during 2017-18. Look for Marika Korpinen to take a jump in her game and the same can be said for Camarie Gatling if she can stay healthy.

 

All-Conference First Team

Libby Bazelak Duquesne

Tera Reed VCU

Suzi-Rose Deegan Davidson

Sam Breen Massachusetts

Ciaja Harbison Saint Louis

Kendell Heremaia Fordham

 

All-Conference Second Team

Erin Whalen Dayton

Katie Turner Davidson

Laia Sole Duquesne

Claire Jacobs La Salle

Neila Luma George Washington

Taya Robinson VCU

 

All-Conference Third Team

Asainae Johnson St. Bonaventure

Rachel Kent Saint Louis

Anna DeWolfe Fordham

Kyla Whitehead Dayton

Marta Vargas Rhode Island

Sarah Donovan Davidson

Sandy Schall, Coldwell Banker
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