The start of the Valparaiso University women’s basketball season is right around the corner as the Missouri Valley Conference unveiled its 2018-2019 preseason poll on Thursday.
Defending conference champion Drake has been tabbed the preseason favorite based on a survey of the league’s coaches, sports information directors and media. The Bulldogs, who collected 35 of the 40 first-place votes, enter the season riding a 40-game conference winning streak. Drake’s Becca Hittner was named the MVC Preseason Player of the Year.
UNI was picked second in the poll and received four first-place votes, while Missouri State was picked third and collected one first-place vote.
Valpo was projected to finish eighth in the poll with 135 points, edging out nearby foe Loyola (127), which was picked ninth. Valpo is also ranked ahead of Evansville (76) in the poll.
Valpo finished Year 1 in The Valley with a 13-18 overall record (5-13 MVC), which marked the program’s highest win total since 2008-2009. Mary Evans was named the eighth head coach in program history on April 13, 2018 and inherited a team that returns nine of its top 10 scorers from last season.
Senior Meredith Hamlet (McBain, Mich. / McBain), the team’s leading returning scorer at 11.6 points per game, enters this season already ranking 18th in program history in points and seventh in 3-point field goals made.
Valpo will open up the regular season on Wednesday, Nov. 7 at UIC before hosting North Dakota on Sunday, Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. in the home opener. Conference play begins on Sunday, Jan. 6 when Valpo heads to Loyola.
2018-19 PRESEASON POLL Rank Team (1st-place votes) Points
2018-19 MVC PRESEASON ALL-CONFERENCE TEAM
PLAYER, TEAM POS. CL. HT. HOMETOWN (HIGH SCHOOL)
*Becca Hittner, Drake G Jr. 6-0 Urbandale, Iowa (Dowling Catholic)
Megan Maahs, UNI F Jr. 6-1 Epworth, Iowa (Western Dubuque)
Nicole Martin, Southern Illinois F Jr. 6-1 Jefferson City, Mo. (Jefferson City)
Sara Rhine, Drake F RJr. 6-1 Eldon, Mo. (Eldon)
Alexa Willard, Missouri State G Jr. 6-2 Lebanon, Mo. (Stoutland)