Related link: OAC release
AUSTINTOWN, Ohio – The Ohio Athletic Conference released the 2015-16 women's basketball Coaches' Poll on Tuesday. Capital Women's Basketball is heavily favored to finish first by year's end after back-to-back appearances in the conference championship game.
Capital was voted to finish first by seven out of the 10 voting teams, leading the team to accumulate 79 points in this year's poll. This bettered defending OAC champion Baldwin Wallace University and the team that the Crusaders eliminated in each of the last two tournaments, Ohio Northern University, by 11 points. Rounding out the top-5 teams is John Carroll University (56) and Wilmington College (45).
In 2014-15, the Crusaders finished the year with an overall record of 17-11 and an 11-7 OAC record. After earning the fourth seed heading into last year's conference tournament, Capital easily dispensed Wilmington en route to a rematch with the Polar Bears. In 2014, Capital upset heavily-favored ONU in the OAC championship game to advance to the NCAA Division III Tournament and last year dashed the Polar Bears hopes once again with a come-from-behind victory to push the Crusaders into the conference championship game.
Capital will return four of its five regular starters from a season ago and add five freshmen to the team to add additional depth. Capital will return a solid group of senior guards that include Simonne Gage (Dayton, Ohio) at the point, Shelby Sigman (Bellbrook, Ohio), Nina Napolitano (Akron, Ohio) and Jenna Erwin (Springfield, Ohio). Coming back healthy and ready to roll is senior Kristen Thompson (Cincinnati, Ohio) who will serve as a key post player, along with sophomore Chelsea Pla (Macedonia, Ohio), who missed much of last season due to injury.
Other key reserves to add depth to the Crusaders bench include junior forward Colleen Fondessy (Fostoria, Ohio), junior guard Courtney Merritt (Cincinnati, Ohio), sophomore post Emily Moran (Shaker Heights, Ohio), and sophomore guard Annika Wachtman. Headlining the freshman class are forwards Sarah Juncker (Geneva, Ohio) and Erin Risner (Canfield, Ohio), and guard Emily Ondo (Pittsburgh, Pa.).
Last year, Capital averaged 72.5 points per game while allowing just 69.2 per contest. They shot near 40 percent from the field as a team, and kept four of their last five opponents under 60 points scoring.
Capital opens the 2015-16 season at the Eastern Mennonite University Tip Off tournament in Harrisonburg, Va. on Friday, Nov. 13. They will bring the show to The Capital Center on Saturday, Nov. 28 when they host Wittenberg University at 3 p.m.