(HALIFAX, N.S.) - The U SPORTS No. 3-ranked Acadia Axewomen are the 2017-18 women's basketball favourites according to the pre-season coaches' poll released today.
This marks the third year for the AUS pre-season coaches' poll, which is voted on by the league's eight head coaches, who rank the other seven squads and are not permitted to vote for their own teams.
The Axewomen received seven first-place votes and 49 points to come in at the top of the poll. Acadia, with Paloma Anderson and Chanel Smith returning, will look to claim their first AUS title since the 2011-12 season. Anderson, the 2015-16 AUS MVP, led the Atlantic conference in scoring last season with 22.8 points per game, assists with 3.3 per game and steals with 2.9 per game.
The UNB Varsity Reds finished second in the voting with 38 points. The V-Reds posted a 15-5 record last season to advance to the AUS championship as the second seed before losing 56-52 in semifinal play to the eventual champion Cape Breton Capers.
Saint Mary's, winners of four of the last five AUS banners, came in third with 34 points. The Huskies finished in first place in 2016-17 with a 15-5 regular season record, but lost to Acadia 77-71 in semifinal play at Scotiabank Centre. Saint Mary's will be led by seniors Kennisha-Shanice Luberisse and Shanieka Wood. Head coach Scott Munro heads into his 10th season and is the two-time reigning AUS coach of the year.
The UPEI Panthers picked up the only other first place vote from the coaches and ranked fourth overall with 33 points. The Panthers were 11-9 last season and finished the season in fourth place. Forward Kiera Rigby (13.9 ppg) is back for a fifth season while Jane McLaughlin (10.4 ppg) heads into her fourth year. AUS rookie of the year and second team all-star Jenna Mae Ellsworth (14.1) also returns.
Cape Breton, the defending champions and last year's pre-season favourite, came in fifth with 30 points. The Capers lose second team all-star Colleen Keane, but league MVP Alison Keough returns for a fifth season. In four years of play with CBU, Keough has scored 1,351 career points and trails only Kelsey Hodgson (1,588) and Janice Moseychuck (1,498) in school history heading into the 2017-18 campaign.
The Memorial Sea-Hawks picked up 20 points in the poll to rank sixth. The Sea-Hawks posted an 11-9 regular season record last year to finished sixth, but lost 55-53 to Cape Breton in quarter-final play at the AUS championship. First team all-star Sydney Stewart finished third in league scoring in 2016-17 with 15.6 points per game and is back for a fourth season.
The Dalhousie Tigers came in seventh with 13 points and the StFX X-Women round out this year's rankings with seven points. Both squads missed the playoffs last year and will look to return to the AUS championship at Scotiabank Centre in March.
2017-18 AUS Women's Basketball Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Acadia (7), 49 pts.
2. UNB, 38 pts.
3. Saint Mary's, 34 pts.
4. UPEI (1), 33 pts.
5. Cape Breton, 30 pts.
6. Memorial, 20 pts.
7. Dalhousie, 13 pts.
8. StFX, 7 pts.
The 2017-18 regular season gets underway Wednesday night in Halifax when the Dalhousie Tigers host the StFX X-Women at 6 p.m., followed by all eight teams seeing action this weekend.
This week's upcoming schedule is as follows:
Wed. Nov. 1 - StFX at Dalhousie, 6 p.m.
Fri. Nov. 3 - UPEI at Saint Mary's, 6 p.m.
Fri. Nov. 3 - Cape Breton at UNB, 6 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 4 - Cape Breton at UNB, 1 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 4 – Dalhousie at StFX, 6 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 4 – UPEI at Saint Mary's, 6 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 4 – Memorial at Acadia, 6 p.m.
Sun. Nov. 5 – Memorial at Acadia, 1 p.m.
For the full 2017-18 AUS women's basketball schedule, click here.
All games will be webcast live at www.AUStv.ca.