FORT MYERS, Fla. – The FGCU women’s basketball squad, led by Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Brittany Kennedy (Spokane, Wash./Lewis and Clark HS/Oregon State) and Preseason All-Conference choice Sarah Hansen (McKean, Pa./General McLane HS), earned top billing in the Atlantic Sun Conference preseason media poll and finished second in the coaches’ poll, the conference announced on Thursday.
In the media poll, the Eagles took 14 of 19 first place votes, with Stetson picking up the other five. This marks the fourth consecutive year that the media selected the Green and Blue to win the regular season crown and the second year in a row that the press has predicted FGCU to win the A-Sun Tournament championship.
In the coaches’ poll, FGCU took two of the 10 first place votes to finish second with 89 points, while Stetson received the remaining eight votes and finished first with 98 points.
"Being picked first in the media poll and second in the coaches’ poll is quite a compliment to our program,” said three-time A-Sun Coach of the Year Karl Smesko. “We have a lot of new players; hopefully, we will all work together to create a special season."
The Eagles return six players, including starters Kennedy and Hansen, from last year’s squad that finished with a 29-3 overall record and verified the conference’s third-ever unbeaten regular season (18-0) by cruising through the Atlantic Sun Tournament and taking the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Kennedy led FGCU in assists (3.5) and steals (2.4) and was second on the team in rebounds (4.8). The Oregon State transfer ranked second in the conference in steals (in A-Sun Regular Season games) and registered a theft in 20 of 24 games played, including eight steals at Lipscomb on Jan. 14. The senior showed her ability to be a lock-down defender during the season when she held A-Sun leading scorer Briana Williams (Mercer) to three points and seven points in their two meetings and forced 2012-13 A-Sun Preseason Player of the Year Victoria McGowan (Stetson) into 12 turnovers in two games. Kennedy also helped limit 2012 A-Sun Freshman of the Year Taylor Mills (Kennesaw State) to six points on 3-of-10 shooting and five turnovers in their A-Sun semifinal matchup (Mar. 2).
“Brittany is an excellent point guard and very deserving of her preseason accolades,” said Smesko. “She is the best on-ball defender that we have had at FGCU.”
Hansen, who earned her second spot on the College Sports Madness Preseason A-Sun first team earlier this week, excelled both athletically and academically in 2011-12, earning Full Court Mid-Major All-American Honorable Mention honors, the A-Sun and DI-AAA ADA Women's Basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, the A-Sun Tournament MVP, a Capital 1 Academic All-District 4 first team selection and FGCU’s first unanimous A-Sun All-Conference first team status in program history. The redshirt junior finished the season averaging a team-best 14.3 points and 6.3 rebounds and ranked second on the team in steals (2.0) and blocks (23). She also ranked in the top-15 in the A-Sun in six categories (points, rebounds, FG Pct., FT Pct., steals, blocks) and 18th in the nation in field goal percentage (.524). She has climbed to No. 7 on the school’s all-time scoring list with 884 points and sits fifth on the career rebounds list with 388 (153o-235d).
"Sarah has had two outstanding seasons for us,” Smesko said. “She worked hard this summer and during our preseason workouts, and is primed for an even better season this year."
For the second time in conference history, the A-Sun let the fans decide preseason awards via Facebook. Stetson’s Victoria McGowan was picked as the Preseason Player of the Year, while the Eagles were picked to win the regular season title and Kennedy was tabbed the fans’ Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
FGCU will open the program’s 11th season against Division II Warner on Saturday, Nov. 10 at Alico Arena.
FGCU season tickets can be purchased in person at the Alico Arena ticket office or by phone at 239-590-7145. The FGCU ticket office is open from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday.
Combined season tickets for both the men’s and women’s teams are available again for a combined 50 percent discount. Season tickets for either the men’s and women’s program range from $99-$279, while a combined season ticket (both teams) ranges from $149-$419 depending on the seat location and whether or not an individual is a renewal or new purchaser.
Fans can follow FGCU on Twitter (@FGCU_WBB) and Instagram (@FGCUWbb) and on Facebook by liking FGCU Women’s Basketball (www.Facebook.com/FGCUWbb).
Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Team
Destiny Mitchell, ETSU
Sarah Hansen, FGCU
Brittany Kennedy, FGCU
Jade Cargill, Jacksonville
Kristina Wells, Kennesaw State
Ry’Van Buchanan, Mercer
Tee’Ara Copney, USC Upstate
Victoria McGowan, Stetson
Shanasa Sanders, Stetson
Sasha Sims, Stetson
Preseason Women’s Basketball Coaches Poll
1. Stetson (8)
2. FGCU (2)
3. North Florida
6. Kennesaw State
T7. Northern Kentucky
T7. USC Upstate
Predicted 2013 Tournament Champions: Stetson (8 votes)
Preseason Women’s Basketball Media Poll
1. FGCU (14)
2. Stetson (5)
3. Kennesaw State
4. North Florida
7. USC Upstate
8. Northern Kentucky
Predicted 2013 Tournament Champions: FGCU (14 votes)
Preseason Women’s Basketball Facebook Fan Poll
4. Kennesaw State
5. North Florida
6. USC Upstate
9. Northern Kentucky