NCAA Women: 2014/15 Season Preview - a blend of old and new

The 2014/15 NCAA Division I season is almost upon us. Michael De Lacy previews the Aussie women in action this season, and quickly identifies that the talent level is at an all-time high.

The Usual Suspects

Idaho Vandals' Stacey Barr last season played spectacularly well, averaging a team-best 18.7 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game in leading her team to back-to-back Western Athletic Conference titles and a trip to the NCAA Tournament. It was an outstanding year for the junior, gathering many accolades including 2013/14 WAC Tournament MVP, WAC Conference Player of the Year and The Pick and Roll Aussie player of the year.

Barr scores against Montana - Courtesy University of Idaho Athletics

Barr is expected to again put up big numbers in the upcoming 2014/15 season; don’t be surprised to see the Vandals go for a 3-peat thanks to their star Australian guard. Recently, Barr was honoured by being selected as Big Sky Conference Pre-Season Player of the Year.

At the Vandals, Barr is joined by three incoming Australian team-mates this season. 6'2" South Australian forward Tayla Corrigan will hold a significant roster spot after averaging 8.1 points and 6.1 rebounds per game for Mineral Area College. Vandals Head Coach John Newlee had this to say about Corrigan;

"Tayla is a great sign for us. She is extremely long and runs the floor very well. She has excellent range on her jump shot and good offensive skills down on the block. Tayla is going to be a defensive presence for us as well. She will be able to use her length to alter and block shots in the paint. I cannot wait to coach Tayla and have her join our Vandal family."

Another Vandals addition is 6'0" Victorian forward Geraldine McCorkel who most recently played for the Dandenong Rangers Big V team where she grabbed 14.9 points per game and was honoured with the team’s 2013 MVP award. 6'0" junior forward Renae Mokrzycki is another Victorian who joins the Vandals after playing with North Idaho College and averaging 5.5 points per game.

Fresno State Bulldogs' Alex Sheedy enjoyed a very good season last year in delivering 12.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game despite enduring a foot injury that forced her to miss 10 games. The Bulldogs have been picked to finish fourth in the Mountain West conference this season, with Sheedy being named in the All-Mountain West pre-season team.

This year’s Bulldogs squad will look a whole lot different with the departure of fellow Australian team-mates Jacinta Vandenberg (transferred to Oregon), Courtney Gaze (departed) and Bree Farley (graduated). Sheedy will be the lone Aussie playing for the Bulldogs also happened to take an off-season trip to Australia where they played 4 games. Sheedy had a rare opportunity to share the Australian culture with her team mates and to show them her hometown of Moe, Victoria. Coach White had this to say about the Australia trip.

"Everyone gets along so well now that it's been easy to come into practice and work really hard. We're much more competitive now at practice than we were last year and that's really making a difference."

Nicole Seekamp, the 5’10’’ South Australian experienced her best year to date last season playing for South Dakota. She led her team with 15.3 points alongside 4 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.8 steals per game while making 87.4% from the charity stripe. Ranked fifth in scoring in the league last year, Seekamp has been named in the All-Summit league pre-season team.

North Dakota State expects big things in the paint from the 5’11” forward Marena Whittle. This undersized rebounding machine will show no mercy to her opponents in the upcoming season and continue to contribute big numbers in the double-double department. After averages of 13.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 steals last season, we are looking for a big increase in her performance, perhaps even double-digit rebounds.

Same Face Different Place

6’ 6” centre, Jacinta Vandenberg will red-shirt the upcoming 2014/15 season. After coming off a strong season with Fresno State she managed to lead her team on the defensive-end in blocks. The center will have plenty to look forward to in the 2015/16 season.

Maddison Allen transferred from Cal Poly – her status was not yet available at the time of publishing.

Expecting Big Things

Utah State guard Stephanie Bairstow is looking for an increase in minutes and production after emerging as a big presence midway through 2013/14 season for the Aggies. she ended the season with averages of 7.5 points and 4.6 assists per game. We are predicting big things from Bairstow who is the sister of recently drafted Chicago Bull Cameron. Moving into the new season, Bairstow will have plenty to work on after shooting 41.9% from the field and a low 62.5% from the charity stripe.

Vanessa Panoussis in control against Florida - Courtesy Virginia Tech Athletics

5’7” Virginia Tech guard Vanessa Panousis showed as a freshman that she was a force to be reckoned with in the Atlantic Coast Conference, finding open teammates while breaking presses, the flashy guard broke the Virginia Tech single-season freshman record in assists with 121 in the season. The Aussie also snagged 58 three-pointers which also ranks her fifth on the all-time single-season record list. She managed to appear in all 30 games last season, so expect Panousis to put up big numbers in the assists department this season.

5’4” Tasmanian Guard Grace Lennox signed with Eastern Illinois to begin her college career as a Panther. She is expected to make a contribution immediately, with Coach Debbie Black providing a glowing assessment of her new Australian addition;

"Grace plays as a combination guard but will be more of a point guard at the college level. She is a tough, hard-nosed competitor that has played at the International level. She is from Tasmania and helped lead her team to the championship last season."

Double-Trouble: Top Freshman Prospects

Southern Methodist University signed talented Froling twins 6’2’’ Alicia and 6’3’’ Keely. Recently the twins competed for North Queensland’s under 18 team, leading them to their first National Championship. Alicia averaged 16 points and 13.5 rebounds a game while Keely grabbed 19 points and 11 rebounds per game, both providing an imposing presence in the paint. Expect these two to make an immediate impact for the Mustangs this season and to see them in the Opals squad sooner rather than later.

2014/15 Pre-Season Awards

With every new season comes new predictions. While it is was too early and without a basketball yet to be even bounced, I take my obligatory crack at selecting the end of season award winners.

All-Australian Pre-Season Team

Guard | Vanessa Panousis, Virginia Tech Guard | Nicole Seekamp, South Dakota Forward | Stacey Barr, Idaho Forward | Alex Sheedy, Fresno State Forward | Marena Whittle, North Dakota State

Player of the Year

Stacey Barr, Idaho

Look Out for these players in the coming season

Eilidh Simpson, St Francis Bianca Babic, Murray State Mollie McKendrick, Boston

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