BENNINGTON — The New England Collegiate Conference picked Southern Vermont College to finish second in the standings this season, according to the preseason poll released on Wednesday.
SVC received one first-place vote to accumulate 85 points in the poll, just behind defending champion Regis College which racked up 96 points with eight of the 10 first-place votes. Mitchell College sits at third in the poll with 76 points while Elms College rounds out the top four with 72 points aided by the final first-place nod.
The rest of the conference poll was Wheelock, Newbury, Daniel Webster, Becker, Bay Path and Lesley.
Southern Vermont looks to improve upon its best and first-ever winning record set a year ago, a 17-11 mark that put the Mountaineers into the postseason for the first time in program history. Coach Mike Quinn, in his seventh season, brings back a solid core of his team that took the three seed with a conference record of 13-5; Southern Vermont then won two playoff games to make it into the league's championship round before falling to Regis.
"Last year was a very special and rewarding season for our program and players," commented Quinn. "At the beginning, little was expected of us, and the team took that as a challenge. We worked hard and together all season which put SVC in the Conference championship game. We are currently working to put ourselves in the same position as last year. Our nine returning players are very hungry to win the NECC Championship and make SVC women's basketball's first trip to the NCAA tournament."
Nine of Quinn's 13 players on this year's roster are returning players including senior captain Amber Flagg and junior captain Amber Dow. Flagg was named to the All-NECC first team for the second straight season in 2015, averaging 18.6 points per game to rank second in the league and shooting nearly 34 percent from distance. Dow registered 5.2 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.
Also returning for Quinn is senior forward Kala MacKenzie, the programs' all-time blocks leader who put up 1.8 per game last season to go with her 5.7 points and 5.7 boards per contest. Senior Turquoia Johnson nearly averaged a double-double last year, recording a team-leading 8.8 rebounds to go along with her 10.7 points per game.
Southern Vermont opens up the regular season this Saturday on the road at Lyndon State College before heading to Curry College next weekend to play in the Curry Tip-off Tournament November 21-22. SVC then visits The Sage Colleges November 30 prior to starting the NECC schedule with a December 1 game at Bay Path University. Southern Vermont holds its home opener on December 3 with a league matchup against Becker College at the Mountaineer Athletic Center.
The team concludes the non-conference slate with home contests against New England College (Dec. 8) and the University of Maine at Fort Kent (Jan. 10) sandwiching an away tip at Mass. College of Liberal Arts (Jan. 4). SVC visits Regis for a 2015 NECC Championship rematch on January 23 before hosting the Pride to finish the regular season on February 20 on Senior Day.