ELMHURST, Ill. – South Dakota State was selected to capture the 2014-15 Summit League women's basketball championship after winning its third consecutive regular season title a year ago. The Jackrabbits collected 27-of-32 first-place votes and 513 points in a vote of the league's head coaches, SIDs and select media. Western Illinois' Ashley Luke was tabbed as the preseason Player of the Year.
South Dakota, last season's tournament champion, earned four first-place votes and 420 points to place second in the poll. Regular season runner-up IUPUI was in third place followed by Western Illinois in fourth with the final first-place tally. Denver, which finished second at the tournament a year ago, came in fifth while Fort Wayne placed sixth. Oral Roberts, which returns to the league for the first time since 2011-12, Omaha and North Dakota State rounded out the poll.
Luke becomes Western Illinois' first Preseason Player of the Year selection since former WNBA draft choice and Olympian Zane Teilane in 2005-06. The junior was named to The Summit League First Team and All-Tournament Team last season while averaging 20.8 points and 10.5 rebounds per game. She recorded 19 double-doubles a year ago, the most by a league player since 2008-09. Luke connected on 54.4 percent of her shots from the field and averaged 2.8 assists and 1.0 block per game. In addition, she earned Capital One Academic All-America Third Team distinction and was named to the Academic All-Summit League Team last season.
Joining Luke on the first team are reigning Newcomer of the Year in North Dakota State's Brooke LeMar (15.1 ppg, 5.3 apg), IUPUI's Nevena Markovic (11.0 ppg, 6.4 rpg), South Dakota's Nicole Seekamp (15.5 ppg, .885 FT%), Fort Wayne's Haley Seibert (16.7 ppg, .452 3FG%) and South Dakota State's Megan Waytashek (11.8 ppg, .918 FT%).
The second team is comprised of Denver's Paige Bradley (12.5 ppg, 4.9 apg), South Dakota's Raeshel Contreras (12.8 ppg, 1.5 spg) and Tia Hemiller (9.5 ppg, .432 3FG%), 2013-14 Defensive Player of the Year Taijhe Kelly (9.8 ppg, 3.5 bpg) of Omaha and Western Illinois' Michelle Maher (13.8 ppg, 4.0 apg).
The Summit League concluded the 2013-14 season ranked No. 16 in the Sagarin RPI and No. 20 in the Collegiate Basketball News RPI. A record-tying four teams represented the league in postseason tournaments with South Dakota State reaching the semifinals of the WNIT, while the league's .554 win percentage in postseason play marked the highest in league history.
Regular season play begins Nov. 14, with the 16-game, double round-robin league schedule starting Jan. 2. The 2015 Summit League Women's Basketball Championship will be held March 7-10, at the brand new Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., following six successful years at the Sioux Falls Arena.
|2014-15 Summit League Women's Basketball Preseason Poll|
|1.||South Dakota State||513 (27)|
|2.||South Dakota||420 (4)|
|4.||Western Illinois||358 (1)|
|9.||North Dakota State||158|
|Preseason Player of the Year: Ashley Luke, Western Illinois|
|Brooke LeMar||North Dakota State||G||Sr.|
|Ashley Luke||Western Illinois||F||Jr.|
|Nicole Seekamp||South Dakota||G||Sr.|
|Haley Seibert||Fort Wayne||G||Sr.|
|Megan Waytashek||South Dakota State||G/F||Sr.|
|Raeshel Contreras||South Dakota||G||Sr.|
|Tia Hemiller||South Dakota||G||Jr.|
|Michelle Maher||Western Illinois||G||Jr.|
ABOUT SUMMIT LEAGUE WOMEN'S BASKETBALL
In its fourth decade of Division I athletics, The Summit League features women's basketball teams from nine member institutions: Denver, Fort Wayne, IUPUI, North Dakota State, Omaha, Oral Roberts, South Dakota, South Dakota State and Western Illinois. Over the past five seasons (2010-14), The Summit League has the nation's second-highest RPI gain (+10) during that span. In 2013-14, The Summit League tied its all-time high with four teams across three national postseason tournaments, recorded its highest combined postseason winning percentage and deepest postseason national tournament run, and had its best year-end Sagarin Ranking in a decade. The Summit League Basketball Championships, called "March's Best-Kept Secret" by USA Today and among the most attended tournaments in the nation, move into the brand-new Denny Sanford PREMIER Center in Sioux Falls, S.D., March 7-10, 2015. For more information about the league and to "See The Summit", visit www.thesummitleague.org, follow Summit League Basketball on Twitter @summithoops, download The Summit League's Front Row app and watch the weekly "Inside The Summit League" show at www.thesummitleague.org/itsl.