1) Temple Lady Owls
Record Last Season: 19-10, 11-5 in A-10 (3rd)
Head Coach: Dawn Staley (2nd season)
Plays GW: Jan. 18 at GW
After being last season’s surprise team in the A-10, the Lady Owls will not catch any team by surprise this year. In her first year as head coach, Dawn Staley, a WNBA All Star this summer, led Temple to its first winning season since 1989-90. This season, the Lady Owls have one season with Staley under their belt and 11 returning varsity players.
Stacey Smalls, a 5-foot-5 junior guard, is one of three Lady Owls who averaged in double figures scoring last year. Smalls led the team with 11.2 points a game. Senior 6-foot-1 forward Athena Christoforakis follows Smalls in scoring, averaging 10.8 points and 8.5 rebounds a game. Six-foot-one center Lisa Jakubowicz rounds out the impressive threesome with 10.6 points and 6.7 rebounds a game.
Supporting Smalls in the back-court is junior Regan Apo, who ranked 6th in the conference in three-point field goal percentage shooting 39.3 percent.
An All-Star coach and a deep roster should add up to a run at the A-10 title for the Lady Owls, which, unlike last year, would be no surprise.
2) St. Joseph’s Hawks
Record Last Season: 15-14, 9-7 in A-10 (t-4th)
Head Coach: Cindy Anderson-Griffin (1st season)
Plays GW: Jan. 20 at GW
Rookie head coach Cindy Anderson-Griffin, previously a point guard and three-year captain for the Hawks from 1987-92, inherits a team on the rise.
Six-foot-one senior forward Susan Moran, an All-American candidate, was ranked fifth in the nation in scoring with 22.6 points a game and led the Hawks with 7.4 rebounds a game. She is on pace to break the school record for points in a career (2,077) and could become the first player in school history to lead the team in points and rebounds for all four seasons.
Left-handed center Irina Krasnoshiiok, who averaged 7.4 points and 3.5 rebounds a game as a freshman last year, will also be a threat. At 6-foot-5, Krasnoshiiok also shot an impressive 34.1 percent from behind the arc.
Five-foot-eight sophomore guard Amra Mehmedic will most likely be the Hawks solution to their biggest problem, replacing Angela Zampella and her 8.1 assists a game. Mehmedic, an A-10 All-Rookie Team member, averaged 7.7 points and started all 28 games last season. If she can pick up the slack, the Hawks could fly far in the A-10.
3) Rhode Island Rams
Record Last Season: 11-18, 4-12 in A-10 (9th)
Head Coach: Belinda “Boe” Pearman (3rd season)
Plays GW: Feb. 22 at URI
Coach Boe Pearman’s third season looks to be her most successful as the Rams hope their experience and talented young players will combine for a winning season. Five-foot-ten forward senior Yatar Kuyateh represents the experience. She led last year’s team in points (13.7) and rebounds (7.5). Feeding her the ball will be senior Neda Djuric, who led Rhode Island in assists and steals.
Sophomore guards Lindsay O’Neil (5-foot-8) and Shayla Johnson (5-foot-10) averaged 9.2 and 8.7 points a game respectively. Both are dangerous shooters who should force teams to honor shooting from downtown.
While expectations are not exceedingly high, the combination of experience veterans and energetic newcomers this season should be a step in the right direction for the Rams.
4) Massachusetts Minutewomen
Record Last Season: 12-17, 6-10 in A-10 (8th)
Head Coach: Joanie O’Brien (11th season)
Plays GW: Feb. 24 at UMass
After a disappointing 2000-01 season, the Minutewomen look to improve behind the leadership of junior Jennifer Butler. The 6-foot-3 center leads all returning players in scoring and averaged 9.6 rebounds a game last year, including her A-10 leading four offensive boards a game. Just as impressive were the team-high 58 steals, an unusual feat for a center.
Perhaps the most intriguing player on the Minutewomen is junior Amber Sneed. At 6-foot-0, she plays both the guard and forward positions, providing versatility for coach Joanie O’Brien. After a strong sophomore campaign in which she averaged 8.9 points and 5.3 rebounds a game, Sneed and Butler could make a formidable tandem.
5) Fordham Lady Rams
Record Last Season: 5-23, 2-14 in A-10 (11th)
Head Coach: Jim Lewis (2nd season)
Plays GW: Jan. 7 at GW
With 8 returning varsity players, including three starters, experience looks to be Fordham’s biggest strength as the Lady Rams try to improve on a basement finish. But the Rams are adding youth along with experience, with six freshmen. Kyshawn Ruff, who at 6-foot-6 is the tallest player in the Atlantic 10, leads the group of recruits.
6) St. Bonaventure Bonnies
Record Last Season: 7-21, 3-13 in A-10 (10th)
Head Coach: Jim Crowley (2nd Season)
Plays GW: Feb. 1 at St. Bonaventure
Jim Crowley’s second season as head coach might be his worst. Crowley lost his top scorers to graduation and may have lost Eva Kadlecova, a top junior-college transfer, to an injury. Kadlecova led the NJCAA in scoring last season but tore her ACL over the summer.
On the positive side for the Bonnies, guard Courtney Mattingly returns ready to build last year’s 11.3 points and 2.6 assists a game.