NEWBERG, Ore. – With NCAA Division III Second Team All-American 6-5 center Hannah Munger back for her senior year along with two other starters, the George Fox University Bruins have been picked as the No. 2 team in the nation for the 2012-13 season, according to the 25 members of the D3hoops.com women’s basketball polling panel.
The Bruins, who went 32-1 last year en route to their second NCAA national championship game, received six first-place votes and 560 points in the balloting. It is the highest pre-season ranking ever for the Bruins, who were picked third last year before the season started.
After winning both the Northwest Conference regular season and tournament titles in 2011-12, George Fox made its sixth straight national tournament appearance and seventh in the last eight years. With home-court wins over California Lutheran University and Lewis & Clark College and away wins over Bowdoin College and unbeaten Mary Washington University, the Bruins returned to the ‘Final Four’ for the second time (the 2008-09 team went 32-0 and won it all).
A semi-final win over undefeated and defending national champion Amherst College put the Bruins in the finals, and they got off to a 9-0 start against Illinois Wesleyan University. Munger went down with a torn ACL seven minutes into the game, however, and did not return, opening the door for a Titans comeback and eventual 57-48 win.
Munger underwent off-season surgery in the spring and her rehabilitation is progressing nicely, but it is no secret that her presence (or absence) will be a significant factor in the Bruins’ fortunes this year. Nevertheless, the Bruins will not lack for talent as they return 11 letter winners, including starting forward Megan Arnoldy, point guard Hayley Cusick, and “super sub” Jami Roos, the team’s third-leading scorer.
The Bruins must replace two key pieces, however, in wings Arianna Mohsenian and Keisha Gordon. Mohsenian was honorable mention All-Conference and graduated as the team’s all-time leader in games played (127). Gordon, the Bruins’ all-time leader in points (1,753) and steals (297), was NWC and West Region Player of the Year and a First Team All-American. She will be an assistant coach with the Bruins this year.
Directing the Bruins once again will be Michael Meek, now in his third year with the program after going 57-7 in his first two seasons. He was the NWC Coach of the Year and the NCAA Division III National Coach of the Year as chosen by D3hoops.com in 2011-12.
Calvin College (28-2 in 2011-12), which was eliminated by Illinois Wesleyan in the ‘Elite 8’, is projected as the No. 1 team after garnering nine first-place votes and 592 points. The University of St. Thomas (31-2) is No. 3 with two firsts and 536 points, followed by DePauw University (27-2) with two firsts and 515 points, and Illinois Wesleyan with five firsts and 451 points. The University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (24-5) got the final first-place vote and 365 points to place seventh.
The only other Northwest Conference team listed was Lewis & Clark (25-4), which received 270 points and is ranked No. 11. All four of the Pioneers’ losses last season came at the hands of the Bruins, twice in the regular season, once in the NWC Tournament finals, and again in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
The complete D3hoops.com pre-season women’s basketball poll may be found on their web site at http://www.d3hoops.com/top25/women/2012-13/preseason.