Women's Basketball Ranked First in NEC Preseason Coaches' Poll

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2012-13 NEC Women's Basketball Preseason Poll
All-Northeast Conference Preseason Team

HAMDEN, Conn. – The Quinnipiac University women's basketball team has been selected to finish first in the Northeast Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll. The poll was announced by the league office on Tuesday, October 23 at its first-ever Media Day held at the new Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Bobcats finished the 2011-12 season in second place in the NEC standings with an 13-5 record in conference play and a 22-10 overall record. Quinnipiac clinched a spot in the NEC Tournament for the 12th consecutive year.

Following the Bobcats in the 2012-13 conference polls was Sacred Heart, who was tabbed second with four first-place nods. Monmouth followed in third, while Saint Francis (PA) and Robert Morris carried the fourth and fifth positions in the census. LIU Brooklyn was the coaches' sixth choice, followed by Mount St. Mary's in seventh, Central Connecticut in eighth, Bryant in ninth, while Fairleigh Dickinson, St. Francis (N.Y.), and Wagner rounded out the poll.

2012-13 Northeast Conference Women's Basketball Preseason Poll
(First-Place Votes)

1.   Quinnipiac (7)
2.   Sacred Heart (4)
3.   Monmouth (1)
4.   Saint Francis (PA)
5.   Robert Morris
6.   LIU Brooklyn
7.   Mount St. Mary's
8.   Central Connecticut
9.   Bryant
10. Fairleigh Dickinson
11. St. Francis (NY)
12. Wagner

2012-13 Northeast Conference Women's Basketball Preseason All-NEC Team

1. Felicia Barron (Quinnipiac)
2. Alli Williams (Saint Francis (Pa.)
3. Artemis Spanou (Robert Morris)
4. Alysha Womack (Monmout)
5. Gabrielle Washington (Sacred Heart)

Season Outlook
The Quinnipiac University women's basketball program begins its 2012-13 season with 12 returning letter-winners and four starters from last year's squad; a team that finished second in the Northeast Conference standings en route to a first-round clash with Temple in the WNIT Tournament.

Entering her 18th season as head coach of the Quinnipiac University women's basketball team; Head coach Tricia Fabbri knows that her 2012-13 squad has something special. A solid group of returners and a highly touted recruiting class may be just the right pieces the Bobcats need to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament, and Fabbri cannot help but be excited to get started.

"We have many reasons to be optimistic about the 2012-13 season," said Fabbri. "What truly has me excited is our team chemistry. Our coaches, players, managers and trainers are all on board to obtain the ultimate goal – A Northeast Conference Championship."

The Bobcats return two all-conference honorees - headed by NEC Defensive Player of the Year and All-Conference First-Team selection Felicia Barron. Add 2011-12 All-Rookie Team selection Jasmine Martin to the mix, and Quinnipiac enters the 2012-13 season with arguably the most potent backcourt in the Northeast Conference.

"We have weapons," Fabbri said enthusiastically. "Felicia Barron and Jasmine Martin are tremendous players with their toolboxes full of offensive talent. Knowing at the end of the game that the ball will be in one their hands gives us an enormous advantage. Both should be in contention for All-NEC accolades at the end of the season. 

Barron, a 5-7 guard from Springfield, Mass., returns for her final year of eligibility after a breakout year last season. Barron averaged 16.5 points, 4.2 steals, 2.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game in 2011-12 and earned her first career NEC accolade. Furthermore, her 133 steals was a nation-best, while her 16.5 points had her ranked fifth in the Northeast conference. Barron's season was highlighted by a record-breaking performance against Bryant (12/3), where she surpassed the NEC and QU marks for most steals (12) in a game. Fresh off one of the finest campaigns in Quinnipiac history, Barron also has the potential to be named NEC Defensive Player of the Year for a second-consecutive season; a feat accomplished only one other time in program history (Brianna Rooney in 2007-08 and 2008-09). 

Back for her second season and joining Barron in the Bobcats' backcourt is Jasmine Martin. A 5-8, guard from Sicklerville, N.J., Martin returns after a tremendous freshman campaign which also concluded with NEC laurels. She averaged 11.2 points per game and finished second among rookies in scoring within the Northeast conference. Martin added 3.4 rebounds per game, led the team with a .330 shooting percentage from long range and boasted a .742 shooting percentage from the charity stripe.

Gillian "Boo" Abshire, a 5-8, sophomore from Washington, D.C., and Lisa Lebak, a 5-7, senior from Robbinsville, N.J., shared the point guard position for the Bobcats in 2011-12. Faced with a challenging task of running the point as a true freshman, Abshire started in all 32 games and averaged a team-best 3.2 assists to go along with 2.8 rebounds and 2.7 points per game. She crossed the 100-assist plateau in her final game to solidify a 1.42 assist-to-turnover ratio, good enough for fourth in the NEC. Lebak provides three years of experience, which includes 90 career games, over 200 assists and a 1.3 assist-to-turnover ratio. She appeared in all 32 games last season, averaging 1.5 points and 1.9 assists per game.

"By far the most underrated players on our roster from the outside looking in are our point guards – Boo, Lisa and Shaina Earle," said Fabbri. "All of them have excelled in directing the NEC's leading scoring offense, all while sustaining a terrific assist-to-turnover ratio last year. In 2011-12 compared to 2010-11, we scored 262 more points and turned the ball over 44 fewer times; a major reason for our success last season."

Also joining the Bobcats' perimeter will be a slew of dynamic guards. Shaina Earle, a 5-5, sophomore from South Orange, N.J., and Ellen Cannon, a 5-6, senior from West Chester, Pa., return after chipping in with solid minutes off the bench in 2011-12. Earle averaged 1.8 points and one assist per outing in 30 appearances, while Cannon saw action in 13 games. Look for newcomers, Adily Martucci and Maria Napolitano to make an immediate impact as well. Martucci led her high school team to a 21-3 season record that concluded with an ECC Championship, while Napolitano was an Ohio All-State selection after a terrific career at Saint Ursula Academy.

Front Court
The Bobcats' front court will feature perhaps the premier post-player trio in the Northeast Conference in junior Brittany McQuain, senior Camryn Warner and sophomore Samantha Guastella. Last season, Quinnipiac led the NEC in total rebounding (42.1) and defensive rebounding (28.1) which were due in large part to the players mentioned above. In addition to rebounding, the Bobcats finished fourth in blocked shots (4.3) and fifth in offensive rebounding (14.1).

"Our front court is fierce, versatile, long, strong and greatly improving their scoring efficiency around the hoop," said Fabbri. "What makes them all so dangerous is their ability to shoot the ball. Next to Felicia, Sam is our best three-point threat. Katie Carroll, Camryn and Brittany all have the ability to face the basket and knock down a jumper or drive to the hoop. This shows their versatility and separates them from most other post players in the NEC. They are so strong on both ends of the floor, on defense and rebounding, that a missed shot is sometimes our best offense; either in transition or fighting for second-chance points."

McQuain, a 5-11, forward from Independence, Mo., nearly averaged a double-double last season, bringing in 10.2 points, 9.5 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per game. McQuain made her mark in the NEC, ranking third in double-doubles (11) and fourth in rebounding; a season highlighted by a 20-point, seven-rebound outburst against Monmouth in the NEC semifinals.

Warner returns for her third season with the Bobcats after showing tremendous strides in 2011-12. The 6-2, forward from Keene, N.H. averaged 6.4 points and 4.9 rebounds per game, finishing second on the team in rebounding. Possibly the biggest improvement in her game was on the defensive side of the ball. Warner finished fifth in the Northeast Conference with 42 blocks (1.42 per game), moving her into fourth place all-time in QU Division I history.

Returning for her second season will be Samantha Guastella, a 6-1, forward from Red Bank, N.J., who showed flashes of great things to come as a freshman. She averaged 6.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.3 rebounds per game, and especially made an impact in the back half of the season. Guastella recorded double-figures in six of the final 12 games, including an average of 12 points through the playoffs. Furthermore, her 40 blocks as a freshman is the most by a rookie in the Division I era.

Joining the paint for the Bobcats will be four others to complete a loaded front court for Coach Fabbri.

Shelby Sferra, a 6-1 senior from Lagrangeville, N.Y., and Nikoline Ostergaard, a 5-10 sophomore from Vedbaek, Denmark, conclude the list of returners for Quinnipiac. Sferra averaged 1.4 points and 1.5 rebounds in 13 games last season, while Ostergaard averaged 1.7 points and 1.8 rebounds in 31 appearances.

Sophomore Jaci Oskam and freshman Katie Carroll wrap up the roster for the Bobcats, each looking to contribute off-the-bench. Oskam, a 5-10 forward from Glenmont, N.Y., missed last season with an injury, but will be sure to make an impact this time around. As for Carroll, a 6-1 forward from Westlake, Ohio, she begins her career in hopes of continuing her winning-ways at the collegiate level. She endured a remarkable high school career that concluded with two championships in her final two seasons.

The Schedule
A challenging 29-game regular-season schedule, which includes two in-season tournaments and a home game against 2012 NCAA Sweet 16 contender St. John's, is in store for the Quinnipiac University  women's basketball team for the 2012-13 season.

"Once again, I think our non-conference schedule is a daunting one," said Coach Fabbri. "Our non-conference philosophy has always been to test ourselves and prepare us in the best way possible for the conference schedule. The college experience should be about challenging yourself as a student-athlete. We did just that last year in California, beating Minnesota and a tough host team, St. Mary's. It was a defining moment for us and proved to us how good we were. We hope playing teams from traditionally strong conferences will again bring out our best."

Quinnipiac, coming off a spectacular 22-win season and a second trip to the Women's National Invitational Tournament (WNIT), opens its campaign on Sunday, Nov. 11 with James Madison in Harrisonburg, Va. The Dukes concluded a remarkable campaign in 2011-12, compiling 29 wins and a trip to the WNIT Championship game. James Madison met Oklahoma State in the finals and fell eight-points shy of a national postseason title.

As December strolls around, Quinnipiac heads to Providence, R.I. to compete in the first of two in-season tournaments at the Brown Bear Classic. Along with the Bears, the Bobcats will join Rider and New Hampshire in the four-team invitational. Quinnipiac will endure back-to-back games on Saturday (Dec. 1) and Sunday (Dec. 2), with the two winners set to play for the title on Sunday afternoon.

Quinnipiac then enters the most difficult portion of its schedule six days later. The Bobcats play host to Holy Cross (Dec. 8) at the Bank, before traveling 30 miles north to the University of Hartford (Dec. 16) for a showdown against former UConn standout and Head Coach Jennifer Rizzotti. It certainly doesn't get much easier after that, as the Bobcats welcome Big East power St. John's to the Bank on Saturday, Dec. 22. The Red Storm made a run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, but had their quest for the NCAA Title cut short by the 2nd seeded Duke Blue Devils.

After a brief break for the holiday season, the Bobcats wrap up non-conference play with their second in-season invitational at the Florida International University Tournament. QU will join the Panthers, Northeastern and Georgia Tech in Greater Miami, Fla. on Saturday (Dec. 29) and Sunday (Dec. 30). FIU was alongside the Bobcats in the 2012 WNIT, while Georgia Tech was a Sweet 16 Contender in last year's NCAA Tournament, before being ousted by #1 seed Baylor University – the eventual 2012 NCAA Champion.

The all-important Northeast Conference schedule starts five days into the New Year, beginning with a three-game home-stand at the Bank. The Bobcats welcome 2012 NEC Semifinalist LIU Brooklyn on Saturday (Jan. 5), St. Francis (N.Y.) on Monday (Jan. 7) and 2012 Champion Sacred Heart (Jan. 12). Other notable home games include, 2012 NEC finalist Monmouth on Monday, February 11, and Senior Day against Bryant on Monday, February 25. Both match-ups are set for 7 p.m. at the TD Bank Sports Center.

The 2013 Northeast Conference Tournament will once again feature the league's top eight teams in a single-elimination playoff. The tourney opens on Saturday, March 9 with the quarterfinals, followed by the semifinals on Tuesday, March 12 and the finals on Sunday, March 17.

Contact: Bethany Buckholz; bethany.buckholz@quinnipiac.edu