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Southern Maine Chosen As Women's Basketball Preseason Pick

Southern Maine Chosen As Women's Basketball Preseason Pick

NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. –The University of Southern Maine has earned the top billing in the 2012-13 Little East women's basketball preseason coaches' poll, according to the annual preseason survey released by the conference office this afternoon. The Huskies were nearly a unanimous selection as the preseason favorite, earning seven of the eight first place votes and 63 total points.

Western Connecticut State University (47) edged Rhode Island College (45) by two points to debut at No. 2 in the 2012-13 edition of the preseason coaches' poll. The University of Massachusetts Dartmouth received the final first place vote and 43 total points to complete the top-half of the eight-team projected field.

Southern Maine is making its 10th appearance as the conference preseason favorite and first since 2008. Under the guidance of Gary Fifield, the Huskies posted a record of 21-7 in 2012, marking the 31st time in the past 32 years Southern Maine has reached the 20-win milestone. Fifield led his charges to the No.2 seed in the Little East Women's Basketball Championship after completing the conference circuit with an 11-3 mark. Southern Maine made the program's 24th appearance in the conference tournament championship game after defeating Keene State in the semifinals. The Huskies received one of the 20 possible at-large bids into the NCAA Division III tournament, where Southern Maine met intra-state rival Bowdoin College.

Fifield will welcome 10 student-athletes, including three starters, back into the fold from the 2012 squad. Senior forward Haley Jordan (Falmouth, Maine) is the Huskies' top scoring threat after averaging 14.9 points per game. Last winter, Jordan ranked among the conference leaders in field goal percentage (4th, .476), free throw percentage (4th, .757), and scoring (6th, 14.9). Southern Maine will open its 2012-13 schedule when the Huskies face Maine-Farmington in the opening round of the UMass Dartmouth Tip-Off Classic on Nov. 16.

Under the watchful eye of Kim Rybczyk, Western Connecticut has raised the conference championship trophy three times in program history, including capturing back-to-back titles in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, the Colonials opened the season with a seven-game winning streak en route to an overall record of 17-10. Western Connecticut went 8-6 in conference action to earn the No. 4 seed in the Little East Women's Basketball Championship. The Colonials defeated UMass Dartmouth, 65-57, to advance to the conference semifinals at Rhode Island College.

Rybczyk will return four starters and a total of eight players from last season. Senior guard Carly Murphy (Wolcott, Conn.) is the Colonials top-returning scorer after producing 10.3 points per game as a junior. Murphy also pulled in 6.9 rebounds per game and shot 68.1 percent from the charity stripe. Western Connecticut will host Oneonta State at 7 p.m. on Nov. 15.

The Little East will sponsor a double round-robin format with each team playing a total of 14 conference contests. Each of the eight teams will advance to the 2013 Little East Women's Basketball Championship with the quarterfinal round scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Feb. 19. The four quarterfinal winners will advance to the final four at the highest remaining seed. The semifinal round will be played on Friday, Feb. 22 with the championship game the following afternoon. The champion of the 2013 Little East Women's Basketball tournament will earn the automatic qualifier into the NCAA Division III tournament.

Completing the annual preseason coaches' survey in projected order of finish in the regular season standings are Eastern Connecticut State University (31), Keene State College (25), University of Massachusetts Boston (24), and Plymouth State University (10).

Formed in 1986, the Little East serves as New England's premier athletic conference for public institutions in NCAA Division III. Featuring 19 championship sports, the Little East sponsors quality competition in every season for our student athletes. Our eight state colleges and universities dedicate themselves to an ongoing fulfillment of the Division III mission of passion, responsibility, sportsmanship, and citizenship.

2012-13 Little East Women's Basketball Preseason Coaches' Poll
Rank Institution First Place Total Points
1 University of Southern Maine 7 63
2 Western Connecticut State University   47
3 Rhode Island College   45
4 University of Massachusetts Dartmouth 1 43
5 Eastern Connecticut State University   31
6 Keene State College   25
7 University of Massachusetts Boston   24
8 Plymouth State University   10