(Montgomery, Ala.) After winning the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) Tournament title for the second-straight season last year, the Loyola University New Orleans women’s basketball team was picked second in 2016-17 SSAC Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Preseason Poll, as announced by the league office on Tuesday afternoon.
The Wolf Pack collected 113 votes (three first place) in the poll, to finish just five votes behind defending regular season champion Bethel University (118) for the top spot.
Martin Methodist received 99 votes to finish third while Mobile (81) and Faulkner (72) rounded out the top-five spots in the poll.
Loyola finished the 2015-16 season with a 23-8 overall record, highlighted by a nine-game winning streak that stretched from Dec. 18-Jan. 23.
Starting the season ranked No. 13, the Wolf Pack spent the entire year either ranked or receiving votes in the NAIA DI Women’s Basketball Coaches’ Top 25 Poll.
Ending the year with a 15-4 conference mark, the Wolf Pack entered the 2015-16 SSAC Championship as a two seed.
Zoie Miller set the tone for the whole tournament in Loyola’s opening round matchup against Mobile by pouring in a career-high 23 points in the Wolf Pack’s 75-62 victory over the Rams.
In the semifinals, Adrianne Sloboh collected a double-double and Jackie Anderson chipped in a career-high 12 points to power Loyola past (RV) Auburn Montgomery 66-62 and punch the Wolf Pack’s ticket to the finals.
Loyola would be pitted against (RV) Martin Methodist in the finals, a team the Wolf Pack split with during the year with each team winning on its home court. Sparked by a 23-point performance by Caroline Gonzalez and a near 20-point advantage in bench scoring, Loyola defeated the Redhawks 69-59 to claim its second-straight SSAC Tournament title. After averaging 14 points and 5.6 rebounds in the three games, Gonzalez was named the tournament’s most valuable player.
The Wolf Pack then turned their attention to the NAIA National Championship in Independence, Mo. Tabbed as the sixth seed, Loyola faced off against No. 3-seed The Master’s College in the opening round in a matchup that proved even better than advertised. Down by two points with just a minute remaining, Kylah Jones sank two free throws to tie the game at 57-57. With the game still knotted at 57-57, the Master’s College was able to sink a layup with just under a second remaining to grab the 59-57 advantage. Loyola was unable to get the ball in bounds on its following possession and a five-second violation sealed the 59-57 defeat at the Silverstein Eye Centers Arena.
Entering the 2016-17 season, the Wolf Pack bring back their leading rebounder and Second Team All-SSAC selection Meghan Temple (7.8 boards per game), along with SSAC All-Freshman Team honoree Megan Worry. Miller (10 points per game) is the top-returning scorer from last year’s squad following the graduation of NAIA All-American Honorable Mention, First Team All-SSAC and LSWA All-State Honorable Mention guard Briana Oglesby. Loyola adds four freshman in 2016-17 to a team that features five seniors on the roster.
After becoming the winningest women’s basketball coach in program history in 2015-16, head coach Kellie Kennedy (169) is just five victories away from passing Jack Orsley as the winningest basketball coach in Loyola history.
The Wolf Pack start the season with an exhibition game at Southeastern Louisiana University on Nov. 3 in Hammond, Louisiana at 6:00 p.m.
Bethel – 118 (8)
Loyola – 113 (3)
Martin Methodist – 99
Mobile – 81
Faulkner – 72
Blue Mountain – 69
Brenau – 53
William Carey – 44
Coastal Georgia – 38
Middle Georgia – 27
Brewton-Parker – 12