The Union University Lady Bulldogs will start a season for the second straight year as the defending NAIA National Champions. Last season Union added a third NAIA National Title (1998, 2005, 2006) to their trophy case. Only two other current NAIA teams (Southern Nazarene-7 and Oklahoma City-4) have won more NAIA Women’s Basketball National Titles. Southwestern Okla., a current NCAA DII school, won five NAIA titles.
Union lost three seniors from last season, two of which were starters. Tiffany Fisher and Jennifer Henson combined for just 15.4 ppg last season but their leadership will be greatly missed. In Union’s combined 11 losses over the past two seasons, Henson was not in the starting lineup in six of those losses. Union returns the top five scorers from the 2006 national title team; Josephine Owino (12.3), Ena Daniels (11.7), Natanya Smith (11.3), Merideth Richardson (9.4), and Crystal Eason (8.3). Union also adds All-State player, Kaitlin Dudley to the mix. Union head coach Mark Campbell, the NAIA’s winningest active coach with a .863 (226-36) percentage, leads this group in what hopes to be another outstanding season.
The three seniors this year have a great deal of talent. The most notable returner, Ena Daniels, decided to return for her final semester of eligibility. Daniels, an All-American, two-time NAIA All-Tournament and last season’s leader, will play for Union during the second semester of this season. Natanya Smith returns as Union’s third leading scorer from a year ago. LaTorya Fuller returns as a player with starter ability for the Lady Bulldogs.
The junior class is made up of four players, three of which are returning. Merideth Richardson started slow in 2005-06, but came on strong especially in the national tournament in which she was named an All-Tournament player for the second straight season. Crystal Eason is another returner that has become one of the best three point shooters in the country and will have more opportunities this season to show that ability. D.J. Sissoko returns to provide a quality athletic forward for the Lady Bulldogs. Nikita Taylor, a junior college transfer from Mississippi, will redshirt this season for the Lady Bulldogs.
Both of Union’s sophomores return from very impressive freshman seasons. Josephine Owino and Jessica Graves both were named to the TranSouth All-Freshman team, while Owino was named to the NAIA All-Tournament team. Both will be asked to play important roles this year for the Lady Bulldogs.
Once again, the Union Lady Bulldogs have added some outstanding freshman to the roster. Four players join the Union team this year led by All-State performer, Kaitlin Dudley of Gibson County. Lindsay Flynn of Jackson, will add depth at the guard position for Union this season. Laura Crittendon of Martin, and Beatrice Awino, from Kenya, will both redshirt this season.
Union has been picked by the coaches in the TranSouth to win the conference this season. Dating back to the 1996 season, the Union Lady Bulldogs have won nine of the past 11 regular season titles and eight of the past 11 conference tournament titles.
Head Coach Mark Campbell has several returning players, but also will be relying on two very young players to play important roles throughout this season, especially with Daniels not playing until the second half of the season. But with Campbell’s ability to get the most from his players, this adjustment has the hopes of coming about in a productive way.