Valparaiso University's women's basketball team, fresh off their first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history, has been selected to finish in second place in the Mid-Continent Conference according to the annual preseason poll that is conducted by the conference's basketball coaches, SIDs, and selected media members. The Crusaders Katie Boone (Greenwood, Ind./Center Grove H.S.) and Suzie Hammel (Lafayette, Ind./Lebanon H.S.) were each selected to the Mid-Con's Preseason All-Conference Second Team.
Western Illinois is the preseason favorite after collecting 368 total points and 17 first place votes in the balloting. Valpo tallied eight first place votes and 351 points, while UMKC was selected third. Oakland, Oral Roberts, Southern Utah, Chicago State, IUPUI, and Centenary round out the poll.
The Crusaders are coming off of an 18-13 season overall and 8-6 in the Mid-Con, finishing in a second place tie during the regular season in 2002-2003. Valpo went on to win the Mid-Con Tournament title and earn the NCAA Tournament berth.
Boone, the Most Valuable Player of the Mid-Con Tournament was also an Honorable Mention All-Conference selection last season. The junior averaged 8.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.0 assists per game. She also recorded 54 steals on the year.
Hammel, a senior, tallied 11.0 points and 2.9 rebounds per game last season for the Brown and Gold, despite missing several games due to an injury. She added 32 steals and 52 three-point field goals.
Valpo will open the regular season on Nov. 15 at Oregon in the Women's Sports Foundation Classic, after playing an exhibition game against the Reebok Lady Stars on Nov. 2 at 2:05 p.m. at the Athletics-Recreation Center.
2003-2004 Mid-Continent Conference Preseason Poll-Women's Basketball
1. Western Illinois (17) - 368
2. Valparaiso (8) - 351
3. UMKC (2) - 262
4. Oakland (1) - 260
5. Oral Roberts - 219
6. Southern Utah - 176
7. Chicago State - 146
8. IUPUI - 136
9. Centenary - 92
(First place votes in parentheses)