Wofford, Furman picked in middle of SoCon women’s pack

College Sports

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – The Mercer Bears are tabbed as the preseason favorites to win the Southern Conference women’s basketball title for the 2021-22 season, according to a vote by the league’s head coaches. Samford junior guard Andrea Cournoyer was named the SoCon Preseason Player of the Year. The league’s media also predicted Mercer, the 2021 Southern Conference tournament champions, to win the SoCon title in 2021-22.

Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams or student-athletes as part of the balloting.

Mercer finished the 2020-21 campaign 19-7 and 10-3 in SoCon play, winning the Ingles SoCon Women’s Basketball Championship presented by General Shale Brick for the third time in four seasons. Susie Gardner’s squad returns four starters, three of whom earned spots on the preseason all-conference team, as senior forward Jaron Dougherty, senior guard Amoria Neal-Tysor, the Most Outstanding Player of the SoCon tournament in 2020-21, and fifth-year guard Shannon Titus, the defending Defensive Player of the Year, were chosen. Mercer picked up five of the eight possible first-place votes.

The Bears, also picked first by the media, earned 47 total points from the coaches, two ahead of Samford, the 2020-21 SoCon regular season champions, who picked up 45 points and the final three first-place votes. Samford also placed three players on the preseason all-conference team in senior center Natalie Armstrong, Cournoyer, the 2020-21 SoCon Player of the Year and the league’s leading scorer from last season (18.4 ppg) and junior forward Annie Ramil.

Wofford, which finished last season 13-11 and 7-7 in SoCon play and made an appearance in the SoCon championship tilt for the first time in program history, was selected third by the coaches after picking up 34 points. Junior forward Lilly Hatton is a preseason all-conference selection for the Terriers, who were tabbed fourth by the media (73).

Furman, selected fourth by the coaches for the second straight season, picked up 30 points. The Paladins were tabbed fifth by the media (65). Redshirt senior Tierra Hodges, a first-team all-conference selection by the coaches in 2020-21 after averaging a double-double (16.2 ppg, 10.4 rpg) and leading the league in rebounding, is a preseason all-conference selection for the Paladins.  

Chattanooga was picked fifth by the coaches with 24 points, but chosen third by the media (85), picking up one first-place vote from the latter. Junior forward Abbey Cornelius, who averaged 10 points and 8.4 rebounds in 2020-21, earned a spot on the preseason all-conference team.

UNC Greensboro took sixth in both the coaches poll (19) and media poll (59). Redshirt senior forward/guard Aja Boyd, a preseason all-conference pick a season ago before sitting out 2020-21 with an injury, earned a spot on the preseason all-conference team. She averaged 11.2 points and 7.1 rebounds for the Spartans in 2019-20.

ETSU took seventh in both the coaches (18) and media polls (37), collecting one first-place vote from the media. Western Carolina was picked eighth in both polls, earning seven points in the coaches poll and 31 from the media.

Six teams were represented on the 10-member SoCon preseason all-conference team, with Mercer and Samford each placing three on the team.

The league will conduct the Southern Conference Basketball Media Day presented by Ingles on Tuesday at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville, with interviews with each coach conducted by Pete Yanity airing on ESPN+ beginning at 10 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday.

The 2021-22 season gets under way on Tuesday, Nov. 9, with six teams in action. Samford kicks off its season on Thursday, Nov. 11, with Furman following a day later. The 2022 Ingles Southern Conference Championship will be held March 3-6 at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center – Asheville in Asheville, North Carolina.

2021-22 Preseason Southern Conference Coaches Poll

Team (1st-place votes)             Total

1. Mercer (5)                             47

2. Samford (3)                           45

3. Wofford                                34

4. Furman                                 30

5. Chattanooga                         24

6. UNCG                                  19

7. ETSU                                   18

8. Western Carolina                   7

2021-22 Preseason Player of the Year

Andrea Cournoyer, Jr., G, Samford

2021-22 Preseason All-Southern Conference Team

Tierra Hodges, R-Sr., G/F, Furman

Jaron Dougherty, Sr., F, Mercer

Amoria Neal-Tysor, Sr., G, Mercer

Shannon Titus, 5th, G, Mercer

Aja Boyd, Sr., G/F, UNCG

Natalie Armstrong, Sr., C, Samford

Andrea Cournoyer, Jr., G, Samford

Annie Ramil, Jr., F, Samford

Abbey Cornelius, Jr., F, Chattanooga

Lilly Hatton, Jr., F, Wofford

2021-22 Preseason Southern Conference Media Poll

Team (1st-place votes)             Total

1. Mercer (8)                             117

2. Samford (6)                           109

3. Chattanooga (1)                    85

4. Wofford                                73

5. Furman                                 65

6. UNCG                                  59

7. ETSU (1)                              37

8. Western Carolina                   31

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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