Bradley women’s basketball was well-represented in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason polls announced Tuesday morning. The Braves are picked to finish second in the conference behind Missouri State, with junior Lasha Petree and senior Gabi Haack named to the preseason all-conference team.
Ahead of her third season, Petree was named the MVC Preseason Player of the Year.
“I think it was big news hearing it because nobody at Bradley has ever gotten that before,” Petree said of the honor. “But I don’t think it really changed anything on how I’m looking at this season and what we’re here to do.”
Haack has been a part of a significant turnaround for the Bradley program. The Braves finished 13-18 during her freshman campaign but have won 20 or more games in both seasons since. The recent success has altered the talking points around the program, something Haack is proud of.
“This program has really changed since I was a freshman,” Haack said. “I don’t even know if we won half our games … and then we were just kind of on the rise every year, our goals changed, every year we worked a little harder.”
The second-place ranking is the highest that Bradley has been ranked in program history. It continues to be a consistent ascent for the Braves, ranked sixth entering the 2018-19 season and fourth entering 2019-20.
“It just says a lot about our players and our program and what they’ve been able to do,” Gorski said. “Just to maybe garner some attention, some respect in The Valley, you know that’s super important. But, really to me and I think to the staff, the preseason polls are more for the fans – it’s not going to change anything how we’re approaching anything.”
Gorski credited her players and team for their role in earning the honors.
“When you finally have individual recognition, it comes because the team has been successful,” Gorski said. “It’s really a team acknowledgment that the league respects our team because we’re not getting two all-conference selections if we don’t have the entire team behind us.”
Entering the season, which is tentatively scheduled to begin on Nov. 25, Gorski cited the experience within the program as a key strength for the Braves.
“We were just talking about it as a staff, we’re going to go into our opening game – if the schedule doesn’t change – without an exhibition, without a closed scrimmage,” Gorski said.
“I’ve never done that in my career, going into a season without some kind of tuner … I feel like, while it’s unprecedented, this is the team that can handle that for sure.”
The Braves are picked to finish behind Missouri State, with Northern Iowa, Drake and Illinois State rounding out the top-five. Missouri State’s Brice Calip and Jasmine Franklin and UNI’s Karli Rucker comprise the rest of the all-conference team.