Lady Eagles Picked 2nd In Division In Preseason Poll

NEW ORLEANS The North Texas Lady Eagles were picked runner-up in the West Division and senior center Vilma Grismanauskaite was voted honorable mention preseason All-Sun Belt Conference by the league's women's basketball coaches during Media Day on Tuesday.

Florida International University and the University of Denver were selected to win the divisional conference titles in 2003. The Golden Panthers, under the direction of 2002 Sun Belt Coach of the Year Cindy Russo, finished last season with a 27-6 record and won its first conference tournament crown in the Sun Belt. FIU will begin the 2002-03 season on Nov. 22 against Georgia State in the Florida State Tip-Off Tournament. The Pioneers, led by two-time Sun Belt Coach of the Year Pam Tanner, also begin the season on Nov. 22 at home against UTEP. The 2002-03 Sun Belt Conference Tournament will be held March 6-11 at Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky.

Florida International picked up eight first-place votes and 52 points in this season’s East Division coaches poll. Western Kentucky, semifinalist in the 2002 Sun Belt Tournament, grabbed two first-place votes and 41 points. The Lady Raiders of Middle Tennessee were selected to finish third with a first-place vote and 38 points. Arkansas State picked up 22 points, while Arkansas-Little Rock rounded out the poll with 12 points.

Denver earned seven first-place votes and 61 points to top the West Division coaches poll. North Texas, last year’s tournament runner-up, were a clear second with two first-place votes and 52 points. With continued improvement under head coach Rick Pietri, South Alabama picked up the remaining two first-place votes and 46 points. New Mexico State was selected to finish fourth with 35 points. New Orleans picked up 25 points, while Louisiana-Lafayette rounded out the poll with 12 points.

The coaches selected Florida International senior Cormisha Cotton as the Sun Belt Conference Preseason Player of the Year. Cotton, a 6-2 forward from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. averaged 13.8 points and 7.6 rebounds last season for the Golden Panthers’ team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Cotton is one of ten players selected to the 2002-03 Preseason All-Sun Belt Conference Team.

Joining Cotton on the preseason team are Jolie McKeirnan of Arkansas State, Ashley Atkinson of Denver, Mandy Shafer of FIU, Patrice Holmes of Middle Tennessee, Princess Moore of New Mexico State, Taneisha Russell of South Alabama, and the Western Kentucky trio of Shala Reese, Leslie Logsdon and Kristina Covington.

Five student-athletes received preseason honorable mention Denver’s Nicky Eason, Louisiana-Lafayette’s Sarah Richey, Middle Tennessee’s Jennifer Justice, New Mexico State’s Mari Sanchez and North Texas’ Grismanauskaite.

Preseason All-Sun Belt Team
Jolie McKeirnan, Sr., F, Arkansas State
Ashley Atkinson, Sr., G, Denver
Cormisha Cotton, Sr., F, Florida International
Mandy Shafer, Sr., F, Florida International
Patrice Holmes, So., G, Middle Tennessee
Princess Moore, Jr., G, New Mexico State
Taneisha Russell, Sr., F, South Alabama
Kristina Covington, Sr., G, Western Kentucky
Leslie Logsdon, Jr., G, Western Kentucky
Shala Reese, Sr., F, Western Kentucky
Honorable Mention
Nicky Eason, So., F, Denver
Sarah Richey, Sr., F, Louisiana-Lafayette
Jennifer Justice, Jr., F, Middle Tennessee
Mari Sanchez, Sr., G, New Mexico State
Vilma Grismanauskaite, Sr., P, North Texas

Sun Belt Conference Preseason Player of the Year
Cormisha Cotton, Sr., F, Florida International

2002-03 Sun Belt Conference Women’s Basketball Preseason Poll
() = First Place Votes

East Division (Points)
1. Florida International 52 (8)
2. Western Kentucky 41 (2)
3. Middle Tennessee 38 (1)
4. Arkansas State 22
5. Arkansas-Little Rock 12

West Division (Points)
1. Denver 61 (7)
2. North Texas 52 (2)
3. South Alabama 46 (2)
4. New Mexico State 35
5. New Orleans 25
6. Louisiana-Lafayette 12



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