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Union Women Picked No. 2 in TranSouth Basketball

JACKSON, Tenn. - 10/19/2005 -


The TranSouth Athletic Conference women’s basketball coaches have selected Freed-Hardeman University Lady Lions to repeat as conference champions. Freed-Hardeman is the two-time defending conference champion. The Lions return their entire roster from last year’s NAIA Elite 8 team and have added NCAA D-1 transfer Kera Bergeron from Austin Peay State University. Freed-Hardeman coach Dale Neal has three NAIA All-Americans returning to support their run for a three-peat. Defending NAIA National Champion Union University has been selected to finish second. The Bulldogs lose NAIA Tournament MVP Stephanie Clark, but return seniors Jennifer Henson, Tiffany Fisher, and Ena Daniels. Also returning are sophomores Merideth Richardson and Crystal Eason both started last season as freshman. Trevecca Nazarene University has been voted to finish third after retuning four starters from a team that advanced to the NAIA Elite 8. The team features seniors Jackie Weaver, Jana Reed, Ashlie Gilland, and Kristin Scoggins-Bledsoe. Weaver, a transfer from NCAA D-1 Penn State was an All-American last year and Gilland made the NAIA All-Tournament team. Cumberland University reached the NAIA Sweet 16 and has been voted to finish fourth. The Bulldogs return three starters including senior Natasha Manis. Martin Methodist College is picked to finish fifth and is followed by Lyon College and Blue Mountain College.

It’s hard to imagine a conference that had four teams reach the NAIA Sweet 16, three reached the Elite 8 and the National Champion has improved, but that may be the case for the TranSouth conference in 2005-06. It seems nearly every team has upgraded its talent and the run for the title will be as highly anticipated as any in the history of the TranSouth conference. The seven team conference has seen its regular season champion crowned on the final weekend of play the last two seasons, and this year looks to be no different.

Only one team has a new coach and it’s a familiar face. Lyon College had hired Tracy Lange who is an alum and member of the Lyon College Hall of Fame.

Blue Mountain and Freed-Hardeman will start the season for the TranSouth as they play in the Freed-Hardeman Classic in Henderson, Tenn. All the other teams in the conference will suit up for the first time within the following week.

The TranSouth Athletic Conference has a new website and we welcome you to visit. (www.transouth.org )

Below the coaches poll you’ll find a capsule on ever team in the conference.

TranSouth Coaches Pre-Season Poll
Team Votes (First Place Votes)
Freed-Hardeman 33 (3)
Union University 33 (3)
Trevecca Nazarene 24
Cumberland University 18
Martin Methodist 8
Lyon College 7
Blue Mountain 0

Blue Mountain:
Blue Mountain College's 2005-06 Topper basketball team finds four returning players from last year's squad: Heather Bullock, Amber Hughes, Andrea Moore, and Magan Weeks. Eight new members are joining these young ladies. Three of the players are Northeast MS Community College recruits: Lauren Ford, Brittany Wilson, and Kelly Yates. Laketia Petty comes from Northwest MS Community College and April Reeder is a transfer from North Alabama. Freshmen players are Mallory Boehler, Lana Harris, and Bre Anna Heard. The "jelling" of these new players and the returning team members has created a sense of excitement about the possibilities of the upcoming and always challenging TranSouth conference season.

Cumberland University:
The Cumberland Women’s Basketball team will look to improve on their 2004-05 record of 25-10 and a Sweet 16 berth at the national tournament. Cumberland graduated five seniors, but return three starters and several reserves that played considerable minutes. Natasha Manis (Sr.) Renae Williams (So.), Kari Maddox (So.), and Ashley Cross (Jr.) will lead a balanced team along with three junior college transfers (Juliana Fernandes 5-11 guard, Isabelli Cunico 6-0 guard, and Mariel Ruis 6-4 post). The added depth along with the strong returnees should help the Lady Bulldogs to a very successful year.

Freed-Hardeman University:
The defending TranSouth Conference Champion Lady Lions return everyone from last year’s team that finished 30-7 and reached the Elite 8 at the national tournament. FHU’s roster is made up of five seniors, three juniors, four sophomores, and one freshman. The Lions will be led by three All-Americans in Ashlee Robertson, Julie Hayes, and Stacy Myers. Added to last year’s team is senior Kera Bergeron who transferred from NCAA D-1 Austin Peay State University and freshman Sara Andon who comes from Murfreesboro Riverdale High School. With a group of players having big game experience, the Lions are looking to make it a three-peat in the TranSouth and make a run at the national title.

Lyon College:
First year Head Coach Tracy Lange returns to her alma mater where she had a Hall of Fame career. Lange, who was head coach at NCAA D-1 Arkansas Little Rock, is a Batesville native and was a two-time all-conference and all-district player for Lyon College. Lange will have only one returning starter in senior Prescilla Mathias. Mathias was second on the team with 10.5 points per game. The Pipers were 16-14 last season and will rebuild after losing five seniors and leading scorer Andrea Sublett, who left the team for personal reasons. Also returning is senior Kim Edmondson (3.5 ppg) and Junior Nikki Baker (5.4 ppg) to a young team. Sophomore April Carter (7.9 ppg) and junior Orma Fisher (2.5 ppg) will be relied on for larger roles and a strong freshman class will provide support at every position.

Martin Methodist College:
Nikki Sullivan-Ficca enters her second year as head coach with the help of first-year assistant Chris Harris, who guided Houston Baptist University to the NAIA National Tournament during his time as head coach from 1998-2000. The two look to turn the program back toward a winning tradition with key returnees and a handful of newcomers. All-Conference senior Jessica Ezell (14 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and 2003-04 All-American Latoya Torian (18.9 ppg, 7.7 rpg) return for their senior seasons. Jennifer Villarin returns at the point, where she led the team in assists last season. The team will feature newcomers Ashley Nichols and Monica Westbrook, transfers from Motlow State Community College, Tara Black from Volunteer State and Shannon Morton from Columbia State.

Trevecca Nazarene University:
With a solid core group of returning players, the Trevecca women’s basketball team is in position to contend for the TranSouth title. First year head coach Gary Van Atta will lead a squad that features four seniors, including two all-Americans. Third Team All-American Ashlie Gilland and All-NAIA tournament player returns along with Second Team All-American Jackie Weaver, Kristin (Scoggins) Bledsoe, and Jana Reed composing perhaps the most talented senior class in Trevecca history. Returning juniors Jamie Luke and Amy Hutchins, and returning sophomores Mariska Reed and Candace McCool bring an additional element of leadership to a team that will also feature five newcomers, three of them freshmen. Motlow State transfer Amy Beavers and UT-Martin transfer Kristen Archie will boost the depth and quickness in the backcourt. The Trojans are coming off a season in which they reached the elite eight of the NAIA national tournament.

Union University:
The defending NAIA Women's Basketball National Champion Union University Lady Bulldogs graduated four seniors last spring, including first team All-American and national tournament MVP Stephanie Clark. Union has accumulated yet another very talented recruiting class to join a strong returning core. Sophomores Merideth Richardson and Crystal Eason both started last season as freshman. Richardson led the TranSouth conference in three pointers made. Other returning players who started at times last season include seniors Jennifer Henson, Tiffany Fisher, and Ena Daniels. Head Coach Mark Campbell has added several outstanding recruits including freshman Jessica Graves and junior Djeneba Sissoko will join two red-shirt players, Latorya Fuller and Josephine Owino. The Union Lady Bulldogs lost a great deal from their national championship run, however with a strong returning core, four seniors and another terrific recruiting class, hopes are for a return to the form of last season with sights on a second straight crown.


Steven Aldridge
Phone: (731) 661-5027
Sports Information
Fax: (731) 661-5182

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