In 2008-09, the Missouri Valley Conference was once again one of the stronger, more competitive leagues and is once again looking to succeed this season.
Last season, the MVC ranked 10th among Div. I conferences in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) and three of its teams made it to post-season play.
The MVC has had three or more teams compete in post-season tournaments for the past 11 straight years.
Throughout the conference, there are 33 returning starters and 57 other returning players who averaged more than 10 minutes per game on the floor. Five of the top-10 scorers and five of the top-10 rebounders will also return.
CREIGHTON BLUEJAYS (14-4 MVC, 22-12 OVERALL)
Creighton received the most first-place votes in the preseason poll with 34. The Bluejays are coming off of a 22-win season and their sixth post-season birth in the last eight years.
They will be returning more than 80 percent of their offensive production from last season, including four starters, three of which were all-conference players; reigning MVC Defensive Player of the Year Megan Neuvirth, Chevelle Herring and Kelsey Woodard.
Neuvirth is the active leader in two statistical categories: rebounds with 714 and steals with 211. She is also in the top five in four more categories: scoring (fifth), free throws made (fifth), assists (fourth) and blocks (fourth).
ILLINOIS STATE REDBIRDS (15-3 MVC, 27-8 OVERALL)
Illinois State is coming off of its furthest run in the post-season in school history and a season that tied for the second most victories in the history of the program with 27.
The team will be led by three returning players, Maggie Krick, Ashleen Bracey and Nicolle Lewis, who will have to try to fill the void left by the loss of the three-time Jackie Stiles Player of the Year, Kristi Cirone.
Krick is the Redbirds’ returning leader in scoring, assists and 3-pointers. Bracey wasn’t too far behind, shooting more than 50 percent from the floor last season.
Lewis was a second team all-Valley selection after leading the team in blocking and rebounding. She also set the single-season record for blocked shots and became the school’s all-time leader in the category.
DRAKE BULLDOGS (12-6 MVC, 19-12 OVERALL)
Drake will be returning three starters, including six of its top seven scorers from last season.
The Bulldogs’ second leading scorer, Kristen Turk, who averaged 10.5 points per game, is returning to the lineup this season.
The team’s leading scorer, and all-MVC guard, Jordann Plummer, will also be returning to the team. Plummer posted double-digit points in 23 of her 31 games last season.
Returning senior Monique Jones, will be the centerpiece to the Bulldog defense while a member of the MVC all-Freshmen team Rachael Hackbarth will likely be the major threat in the paint.
NORTHERN IOWA PANTHERS (9-9 MVC, 11-19 OVERALL)
Northern Iowa is going to be strong this year, returning all five of their starters from last season. They are also returning more than 95 percent of the team’s total offensive production from a year ago.
Last season’s MVC Newcomer of the Year, Kim Wypiszynski, will likely be the big offensive weapon for the Panthers, after averaging 14.8 points just a season ago.
UNI will also welcome back sophomore Jacqui Kalin, who was the 2007-2008 Freshman of the Year, but had to sit out last year due to an injury.
With the youth and depth of this team, UNI will be a strong threat this season and for years to come.
INDIANA STATE SYCAMORES (10-8 MVC, 14-16 OVERALL)
Indiana State has four returning starters from last season, anchored by leading scorer Kelsey Luna. Luna was also an all-MVC pick last year. She is the Sycamores’ active career leader in five statistical categories: points, assists, 3-pointers, rebounds and steals.
Luna will be joined by returning starters, and one of the best inside-out pairs in the MVC, sophomores Brittany Schoen and Shannon Thomas. Also, the team will be returning starter Kelsie Cooley, who is a force on the defensive side and is an aggressive offensive player.
BRADLEY BRAVES (11-7 MVC, 21-10 OVERALL)
Under MVC Coach of the Year Paula Buscher, the Braves are looking to continue their success after winning a program-record 21 victories last year.
The Braves are a young team, with returning veterans Sonya Harris and Michelle Lund. Harris is the Braves’ returning leading scorer, averaging 9.3 points per game last season and led the MVC in blocked shots. She also was in the top three in rebounding in the MVC.
Lund hit 75 shots from beyond the arc, which was good enough to finish second in threes attempted per game and 3-point field goal percentage.
The Braves have a multitude of young players, giving the team a good outlook following the success of last year’s team.
MISSOURI STATE BEARS (6-12 MVC, 10-20 OVERALL)
After finishing near the bottom of the MVC a year ago, the Bears will be looking to rebound this season.
The Valley’s reigning Freshman of the Year, and third in the nation among all freshmen in points per game, Casey Garrison will be returning to the squad this season.
Accompanying Garrison will be fellow sophomores Jaleshia Roberson, Jasmine Malone and Lacey Boshe, all of whom will make up a majority of the Bears offense this season. Last year, these four accounted for 68 percent of the teams total scoring.
EVANSVILLE PURPLE ACES (4-14 MVC, 15-19 OVERALL)
After a shocking run that led the Purple Aces to the 2008-09 State Farm MVC Championship title game, the Purple Aces will only be returning two starters and will need to replace much of the offense they had last season in losing their top-three scorers.
Their top scoring threat will be senior Amy Gallagher, who averaged just over 10 ppg last season.
Gallagher will be joined by junior Stephanie Bamberger, and senior Hannah Singleton to try to lead a young team to the MVC title game once again.
WICHITA STATE SHOCKERS (4-14 MVC, 13-18 OVERALL)
Wichita State will likely be the youngest team in the conference this season, with eight newcomers on the roster. The Shockers will only be bringing back two starters from the who posted more than 10 wins for the first time since 2006.
The Valley’s assist leader from last season, senior point guard Marisah Henderson, will be the lifeblood of the team’s offensive production this season.
Senior Ashley Gladden is the only returning frontcourt threat in the Shocker locker room, and will likely be one of the leaders of such a young team trying to build itself up to a higher level this season.
SOUTHERN ILLINOIS SALUKIS (5-13 MVC, 9-19 OVERALL)
Southern Illinois will be welcoming back two starters from last year’s squad, along with six other letter winners.
The Salukis’ top two scorers, junior Katrina Swingler and sophomore Olivia Lett, will be returning under a new head coach, Missy Tiber, in what will be a transition year for the program.
Senior guard Christine Presswood and junior forward Adrianne Griffith will be playing major leadership roles in what will be a young team that will be trying to rebuild after a losing season last year.