(HALIFAX, N.S.) The UPEI Panthers have been selected as the pre-season favorites to capture the AUS banner again in 2019-20 according to the AUS women's basketball pre-season coaches poll released today.
This marks the fifth year for the AUS pre-season coaches' poll, which is voted on by the league's eight head coaches, who rank the other seven teams and are not permitted to vote for their own teams.
This is the second year in a row that head coach Matt Gamblin and his Panthers squad are the pre-season choice among coaches. UPEI, looking for their first AUS title since 1997-98, received five first-place votes and 46 total points in the polling.
The Panthers finished in second place last season with a 17-3 regular season but lost their semifinal matchup to eventual champion Acadia 88-84 at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax.
First team all-star Jenna Mae Ellsworth (16.7 ppg) and two-time AUS defensive player of the year Carolina Del Santo (8.8 ppg, 13.3 rpg, 2.4 bpg) are both back along with 2017-18 AUS rookie of the year Reese Baxendale (13.3 ppg).
The Acadia Axewomen and Cape Breton Capers finished tied for second in the voting with each team receiving a first-place vote and 39 total points in the voting.
The Axewomen posted a 13-7 record last season to finish in third place, but went on to win three games in three days at the AUS championship tournament to claim their second consecutive conference banner.
Fourth-year guard and team leading scorer Haley McDonald (23.3 ppg) is back, along with AUS rookie of the year and second team all-star Jayda Veinot (15.0 ppg). McDonald will look to follow up an impressive 2018-19 campaign in which she finished second in league scoring, was named a first team all-star, a second team all-Canadian and her 51-point effort in the AUS semifinal broke the all-time conference record for points scored in a game.
The Cape Breton Capers finished in first place in 2018-19 with an 18-2 record but fell to the Memorial Sea-Hawks 90-82 in semifinal play at the Scotiabank Centre.
Head coach and reigning AUS coach of the year Fabian McKenzie returns for his 21st year on the sidelines. League MVP Hannah Brown has graduated but McKenzie will have first team AUS all-star Monique Calliste (18.1 ppg) back, along with MacKenzee Ryan (9.9 ppg).
The Capers are the most recent team other than the Axewomen to claim an AUS banner, taking home the league championship in 2016-17.
The UNB Reds round out the top four vote-getters in the pre-season poll with one first-place vote and 34 points.
The Reds posted a 12-8 record in conference play last season to finish in fourth place before falling to the Memorial Sea-Hawks 79-70 in quarterfinal play at the AUS tournament.
UNB's leading scorer and second team all-star Mikaela Dodig (15.7 ppg) is back as are seniors Eva Tumwine (11.7 ppg) and Grace Simpson (11.7 ppg).
The Saint Mary's Huskies and Memorial Sea-Hawks tied for fifth in the coaches' poll with 23 points apiece.
The formerly dominant Huskies look to get back on top after missing the playoffs last season. Saint Mary's previously won four consecutive AUS championships from 2013 to 2016.
The Sea-Hawks look to build on last season's playoffs success. After entering the AUS championship as the fifth see, the Memorial squad fought their way to Sunday's final only to fall to the Axewomen in the championship game.
The StFX X-Women and Dalhousie Tigers rounded out the poll in seventh and eighth place.
The 2020 Subway AUS Basketball Championships presented by Keep it Social will once again be hosted at Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, N.S.
This year's championships will take place Feb. 28 to March 1.
The AUS women's and men's champions will advance to the 2020 U SPORTS women's and men's Final 8 basketball championships. These two national championships are being hosted concurrently by Carleton University and the University of Ottawa March 5-8 between two venues—TD Place and the Ravens' Nest.
The Atlantic conference will have one berth apiece in the women's and men's national championships. These berths will be awarded to the AUS champions.
2019-20 AUS Women's Basketball Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. UPEI (5), 46 pts.
T2. Acadia (1), 39 pts.
T2. Cape Breton (1), 39 pts.
4. UNB (1), 34 pts.
T5. Saint Mary's, 23 pts.
T5. Memorial, 23 pts.
7. StFX, 12 pts.
8. Dalhousie, 8 pts.
The 2019-20 regular season gets underway in Charlottetown Friday evening when the UPEI Panthers host the Saint Mary's Huskies at 6 p.m., followed by all eight teams seeing action on the weekend.
This upcoming schedule for this week is as follows:
Fri. Nov. 1 - Saint Mary's at UPEI, 6 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 2 - UNB at Memorial, 6 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 2 - StFX at Dalhousie, 6 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 2 - Cape Breton at Acadia, 6 p.m.
Sat. Nov. 2 - Saint Mary's at UPEI, 6 p.m.
Sun. Nov. 3 - UNB at Memorial, 12 p.m.
Sun. Nov. 3 - Cape Breton at Acadia, 2 p.m.
For the full 2019-20 AUS women's basketball schedule, click here.
All games will be webcast live at www.AUStv.ca.