Tech women expected to reign again

Wednesday, October 31, 2001

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Tennessee Tech has made a habit of being picked to win the Ohio Valley Conference women's basketball championship -- and this year is no exception.

The Eaglettes were selected as solid favorites to defend their regular-season title during Tuesday's annual OVC media day at the Kentucky International Convention Center.

Tech returns three starters from a squad that won its 14th OVC title last year by going 24-6 overall and 15-1 in the league. The Eaglettes received 11 first-place votes in balloting by the league's head coaches and sports information directors.

Leading the way for the Eaglettes is senior center Janet Holt, the OVC Preseason Player of the Year who is aiming for her third straight Player of the Year honor. Last year Holt led the conference in scoring (24.6 ppg) and rebounding (9.8 rpg) while ranking third and sixth nationally in those categories.

"I've got four seniors who have meant a lot to this program," said Tech coach Bill Worrell. "I look forward to this year because of the seniors."

The Eaglettes, however, are not expected to simply roll through the OVC in what figures to be an extremely competitive league from top to bottom. Thirteen of the conference's top 20 scorers return, as do six of the 10 players selected to the all-OVC first or second teams in 2000-2001.

"I thought the league was talented last year and that talent is back," Worrell said.

Austin Peay, which won last year's OVC Tournament to make the NCAA field, was picked second with five first-place votes. The Lady Govs, 17-14 overall and a third-place 10-6 last season, return four starters, including guard Brooke Armistead, the league's second-leading scorer a year ago (22.1 ppg).

"What's kind of nice is we have experienced the NCAA Tournament," said Lady Govs coach Susie Gardner. "Before, only the coaches had. But until you've been there, it's hard to convey."

Eastern Kentucky received one first-place vote and was picked third. The Lady Colonels, 22-6 overall and a second-place 14-2 last year, were upset in the first round of the OVC tourney. They return three starters.

Morehead State garnered the remaining first-place vote and was tabbed for fourth. The Lady Eagles return all five starters from a team that went 10-19 overall, tied for sixth at 5-11 and made the OVC tourney semifinals last season.

Southeast Missouri State University, 14-13 overall and a fourth-place 9-7 last year, was selected fifth. The Otahkians welcome back all five starters, including leading scorers Lori Chase (14.7 ppg) and Veronica Benson (12.1 ppg). Chase is a first-team all-OVC preseason pick while Benson made the honorable-mention list.

"I think we can have a good basketball team, but we're probably picked where we should be," said Southeast coach Ed Arnzen. "Media day is a good thing, but I don't put much validity in polls. Whoever is seeded eighth could be in the final four (OVC tourney semifinals).

"We return all our starters and that's a good thing, but everybody else has most of their team back. The conference was very young last year and it should be really well balanced this year. I can't remember it being more balanced."

Tennessee-Martin was picked sixth. The Skyhawks, 13-16 overall and a fifth-place 6-10 last year, return all five starters from a team that made the OVC tourney semifinals.

Murray State and Tennessee State shared seventh in the poll. They tied for sixth at 5-11 last year, Murray going 7-21 overall and Tennessee State 8-19.

Eastern Illinois was picked to repeat its last-place finish. The Lady Panthers were 7-20 overall and 3-13 in the league a year ago.

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