With the start of the women’s basketball season right around the corner, the Missouri Valley Conference has released its annual preseason poll of the league’s coaches, sports information directors and media.
Valparaiso University was picked to finish ninth in the poll with 131 points, ahead of Loyola (105) and narrowly behind eighth-place Evansville (132).
Drake was tabbed as the preseason favorite, receiving 31 of the 40 first-place votes to finish ahead of second-place Missouri State and third-place UNI in the poll. The Bulldogs finished 28-5 overall and 18-0 in Valley play a year ago on their way to winning the league’s regular season and tournament titles.
Missouri State’s Liza Fruendt was named the MVC Preseason Player of the Year, leading an all-conference team that also includes Drake’s Sammie Bachrodt, Southern Illinois’ Kylie Giebelhausen, Drake’s Becca Hittner and UNI’s Ellie Howell.
Valpo senior Dani Franklin had the highest 2016-17 scoring average of any player in the Missouri Valley Conference this season, averaging 18.0 points per game. She owns 1,236 career points, which already ranks sixth in program history. The Crusaders have four starters back and will look to build upon a strong finish that saw them go 4-4 over the final eight regular season games before winning in the first round of the league tournament.
Valpo will host Saint Francis (Ill.) in an exhibition game on Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 7 p.m. before opening the regular season on Thursday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. against IU Kokomo at the Athletics-Recreation Center. The first season of Valpo in The Valley will officially get underway on Friday, Dec. 29, when the Crusaders visit preseason favorite Drake for the first conference contest of the year.
2017-18 PRESEASON POLL
Rank Team (1st-place votes) Points
PLAYER, TEAM POS. CL. HT. HOMETOWN (HIGH SCHOOL)
Sammie Bachrodt, DU G Jr. 5-10 Wichita, Kan. (Kapaun Mt. Carmel)
*Liza Fruendt, MSU G Sr. 5-10 Batavia, Ill. (Batavia)
Kylie Giebelhausen, SIU F Sr. 6-1 East Peoria, Ill. (East Peoria)
Becca Hittner, DU G So. 6-0 Urbandale, Iowa (Dowling Catholic)
Ellie Howell, UNI G Jr. 5-9 Manson, Iowa (Manson Northwest Webster)
*Preseason Player of the Year