A NEW SEASON BEGINS: The season officially tipped-off for CAA women’s basketball this past weekend as 10 of the league’s 12 teams played their season opener.  UNC Wilmington and Old Dominion went 2-0, while Delaware and James Madison opened the season also undefeated with a 1-0 record.  VCU and William & Mary split on the weekend at 1-1.  Towson and Georgia State are the last two CAA squads to play their season openers, which will be played this week.  

Dawn Evans • James Madison

Clarksville, Tenn./Northeast, So., Guard

James Madison sophomore guard Dawn Evans earned CAA Player of the Week honors after posting a game-high 25 points in the Dukes’ win over Radford on Saturday.  Her outing against the Highlanders extends her streak of three games and her sixth career with 20 or more points in a contest.  The sophomore went 10-for-18 (.556) from the floor, including a 4-for-5 (.800) performance from beyond the arc.  Evans also added three assists, one block and one steal on the week.  

Tiffany Green • Old Dominion

Chesapeake, Va./Indian River, Sr., Forward/Center

Old Dominion senior forward/center Tiffany Green received CAA Player of the Week honors after helping the Lady Monarchs to a 2-0 start to the fresh season.  The senior averaged 17.0 points and 11.0 rebounds per outing at the World Vision Classic hosted by the University of Texas.  Green led all scorers with 19 points in the season opener against St. Mary’s (Calif.), and followed that performance by posting her 18th career double-double in ODU’s win over Dayton with 15 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.  On the week, she shot 50 percent from the field and last year’s CAA leader in shot blocks totaled six rejections in the first weekend.

Joelle Connelly • Hofstra

Arcade, N.Y./Pioneer Central, Fr., Forward

Hofstra forward Joelle Connelly collected CAA Rookie of the Week honors after pouring in a team-high 17 points and added a team-best 10 rebounds for a double-double in her first-ever collegiate appearance.  The rookie shot a spectacular 7-of-10 from the field and added three free throws for her 17 points, while pulling down three offensive and seven defensive boards in 30 minutes of action off the bench.   She also added a block and a steal to Hofstra’s efforts, which ultimately fell short against Iona.

    • The CAA looks to improve on its 8-7 record with 19 games on the schedule for the upcoming week.
    • Old Dominion will look to extend its winning streak as they play host Texas in the World Vision Classic finale on Monday night.
    • The Lady Monarchs will host in-state rival Virginia on Friday evening for a re-match of the 2008 NCAA Second Round Tournament contest, in which Old Dominion won in overtime, 88-85, to advance to the Sweet 16.

    • The CAA started the season 8-7 after the first week of the 2008-09 season.
    • VCU advanced to the second round of the Preseason WNIT with a thrilling 59-58 victory over Liberty on Friday evening. 
    • UNC Wilmington started 2-0 with victories over Longwood and Winston-Salem State, while Old Dominion earned victories over St. Mary’s (Calif.) and Dayton to start 2-0.

  The Old Dominion’s women’s basketball team opened the season 2-0 and remained ranked at #25 by the Associated Press on Nov. 17.  Five ODU future opponents are also featured in each of the polls led by 2006 NCAA defending champion Maryland.  Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Michigan State also featured in the Top 25 polls.  

ODU RANKED #20 IN USA TODAY/ESPN COACHES’ PRESEASON POLL:  In the preseason, the Lady Monarch’s were ranked #20 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll.  Five ODU future opponents are also featured in each of the polls led by 2006 NCAA defending champion Maryland.  Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Michigan State also featured in the Top 25 polls.  The new poll is expected to be announced on Tuesday, Nov. 18.  

Old Dominion captured its 17th straight CAA title, danced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament and finished with a 31-5 record in 2007-08. It was the Lady Monarchs’ best record since the 1996-97 season when they advanced to the national championship game.  ODU, which was seeded fifth in the Greensboro Regional, reached the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time since 2002 by defeating Liberty and Virginia before falling to Connecticut in the Regional semifinals. Four of the Lady Monarchs’ five losses came against teams that reached the 2008 Final Four (Connecticut, Stanford, Tennessee).  The Lady Monarchs spent 18 weeks in the Top 25 polls and finished the season ranked 10th. 

James Madison and VCU were selected to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, making it the third consecutive season that at least three CAA teams continued in the postseason.  JMU received an automatic bid to the WNIT and VCU earned a postseason berth for just the second time in school history with an at-large bid to the WNIT.  The Dukes reached the third round with a win over Radford at home and an overtime victory at Indiana.  VCU defeated Charlotte on the road for their first postseason victory since 1995.  It was the first time in CAA history that two different teams won WNIT games in the same season.

PLENTY OF TALENT RETURNING: CAA teams welcome back 67% of their starters from a year ago, including seven players who earned All-CAA honors.  Drexel’s Gabriela Marginean is the lone first-team all-conference returnee, while UNC Wilmington’s Brittany Blackwell, Old Dominion’s Tiffany Green and VCU’s Quanitra Hollingsworth are back from the second team.  Returning third-team members include Jessica Canady of Old Dominion, Brittany Hollins of Georgia State and Sahsha Taylor of UNC Wilmington.

RETURNING STAT LEADERS: The CAA returns six of last season’s top 10 scorers and seven of the top 10 rebounders.  The league also welcomes back seven of the top eight assist leaders and five of the top eight leaders in thefts.  Drexel’s Gabriela Marginean leads all returning scorers after averaging 19.0 points per game a year ago, while Quanitra Hollingsworth from VCU is the top leader on the boards after averaging 9.5 rebounds per outing. 

CAA NO. 11 IN RPI RANKING: The CAA completed the 2007-08 season ranked 11th among the nation’s 31 Division I conferences in women’s basketball according to the RPI report compiled by Collegiate Basketball News.  Old Dominion led the conference at #9, while James Madison and VCU followed at #45 and #51 respectively.

ODU CAPTURES 17TH STRAIGHT CAA TITLE:  Old Dominion edged VCU, 71-64, in another thrilling title game to capture its NCAA-record 17th consecutive CAA championship.  The Lady Monarchs have never lost a CAA tournament game since joining the league back in 1991-92.  With the win, ODU advanced to its 25th NCAA Tournament, which is tied with Louisiana Tech for the second-most appearances in Division I behind only Tennessee. The Lady Monarchs have won 20 or more games during all 17 seasons as a CAA member.

TV EXPOSURE: CAA women’s basketball increased its television exposure with 25 games on the air in 2007-08.  All 12 teams made at least one television appearance.  The CAA women’s basketball semifinals (CN8) and championship (Comcast SportsNet) games were included in the 2007-08 season package.  The 25 games broadcast for CAA women’s basketball is an all-time best in the history of the league.  Heading into the season, 17 games are slated for the 2008-09 season for CAA women’s basketball, starting with Northeastern at St. John’s on Friday, Nov. 14.  The Huskies will tip at 6:30 p.m. on SNY.

GEORGE MASON HIRES JERI PORTER AS NEW HEAD COACH:  George Mason will be the only CAA team with a new head coach this season as Jeri Porter replaces Debbie Taneyhill. Porter was the head coach at Radford for the past six seasons, where she guided the Highlanders to a 93-85 overall record.  Prior to that, she spent four years at the helm of the North Alabama program finishing with a 64-43 mark. 

HOME SWEET HOME: Old Dominion is the only CAA team that did not lose a contest on its home court last season.  The Lady Monarchs’ 26-game home winning streak is tied for the best in the nation with Hartford.  Earlier last season, James Madison owned the longest current winning streak in the nation on their home court with 30 victories dating back to the 2005-06 campaign, but it was spoiled by nationally-ranked Maryland on Dec. 20, 2007.

DREXEL'S MARGINEAN TIES FASTEST PLAYER TO REACH 1,000 POINTS: Drexel forward Gabriela Marginean collected the 1,000th point of her career against Towson on Feb. 28, 2008 and tied ODU’s Clarisse Machanguana for the fastest in the CAA to reach the career milestone in just 58 games.

MOST IMPROVED SQUADS: Four CAA teams were among the top 25 most improved squads in Division I women’s basketball last season.  Northeastern topped the league with a 10-game turnaround, going 14-16 last year in the second season under coach Daynia La-Force Mann after going 4-26 in 2006-07. UNC Wilmington (9), Drexel (8.5), and VCU (7) also ranked among the top 25 most improved squads.

WINNING BIG & SETTING RECORDS: Four CAA teams completed the 2007-08 season with 22 or more victories.  Over the past three seasons, 12 CAA squads have eclipsed the 22-win total.  Old Dominion finished last season with 31 victories, the most wins since 1996-97 when the Lady Monarchs won 35 contests. ODU was followed by VCU’s school-record 26 wins, James Madison’s 24 and Towson’s school-record 22 victories.

DELAWARE (1-0, 0-0 CAA)

The Blue Hens opened the fresh new season with a 62-48 victory at home over Columbia on Sunday afternoon.  Sophomore guard Tesia Harris scored 13 of UD’s first 17 points to start the game and finished with 18 to lead the Hens on 5-of-12 shooting from the field and 6-of-7 from the free throw line.  Harris was also aggressive on the boards, coming once rebound short of a double-double with nine.  Junior guard Corinthia Benison shot an impressive 11-for-12 from the charity stripe and made two shots from the field to finish with 15 points.  She also led the team with four assists on the day.  Teammate Ariene Jenkins led the team with 10 rebounds, five of them defensive, scored six points and blocked two shots.  Freshmen forwards Jocelyn Bailey and Danielle Parker made significant contributions with six points a piece and eight and six rebounds, respectively.  Delaware will look to continue its winning streak as they visit La Salle on Wednesday and Buffalo on Saturday.       

DREXEL (0-1, 0-0 CAA)
The Dragons lost their season opener on the road against American, 75-65, on Sunday.  The Dragons cut what had been a 15-point halftime deficit to just two points midway through the second half, but could not withstand the Eagles’ trapping defense.  Junior forward Gabriela Marginean led all scorers with 31 points.  She scored 22 in the second half, while shooting 9-for-15 in the period.  Freshmen Marisa Crane, Kamile Nacickaite and Tyler Hale all saw significant minutes in the opener.  Crane tied Andrea Peterson for the team lead of four assists and Nacickaite was second on the team in scoring with 11 points.  Hale provided a spark off the bench for the Dragons as she played all 16 of her minutes in the second half, while contributing six points, five rebounds, as assist and two steals during the team’s comeback effort.  This week Drexel faces two of three Philadelphia rivals on its schedule this season as they play their home opener against St. Joseph’s on Wednesday and then visit La Salle on Saturday. 

The Patriots went 0-2 in the opening weekend of the 2008-09 season.  Mason played a pair of contests in three days and the Patriots had a strong showing against Bucknell before running into a potent Richmond offense on Sunday.  Mason women’s basketball team put forth a strong season-opening performance despite an injury-depleted roster, but was unable to come away with a victory as Bucknell defeated the Patriots, 62-51, in non-conference action on Friday in head coach Jeri Porter’s Mason debut.  Mason, which held a 41-to-35 rebounding advantage in the game, was led by a career-best 20 points and three steals from sophomore Brittany Poindexter. She was joined in double figures by senior Whitney Ward’s 12 points, while sophomore Eugenia Broadus fell one short of double-digit rebounds, pulling down nine boards.  Against the Spiders, freshman Becky Cox scored 10 points on 80 percent shooting in her collegiate debut to lead the Patriots.  Cox connected on four of her five field goal attempts en route to 10 points, and led the Patriots with seven rebounds and four assists as well. Sophomore Brittany Poindexter swiped four steals to go with her eight points and four rebounds.  Mason will travel to UMBC on Wednesday for its first road contest of the season, before returning home to host Virginia Tech on Sunday afternoon.

Expectations are high at Georgia State where coach Lea Henry returns all five starters and has brought in a talented recruiting class. The Panthers will build around senior guard Brittany Hollins, who earned 3rd team All-CAA and CAA All-Defensive team honors after ranking among the league’s top 10 in scoring (13.2 ppg), assists (4.6 apg) and steals (2.7 spg). Point guard Monica Mann (4.3 ppg, 3.7 apg) and 3-point threat Traci Haltiwanger (7.0 ppg) are also back, and State has added freshman guard Jylisa Williams, who was the Georgia 5A Player of the Year.  The frontcourt appears solid with junior Danyiell McKeller, who was State’s second-leading scorer (10.9 ppg), and junior Shay Rawls, who was third in the CAA in rebounding (8.3 rpg). They will be joined by JUCO All-American Dana Olsen. The Panthers are the last team in the nation to open their season as they won’t play their season opener until Nov. 22 at 3 p.m.  GSU will visit Clemson and will join Chicago State (vs. Bradley at 2 p.m.) as the last two teams in Division I to play their season opener.

HOFSTRA (0-1, 0-0 CAA)

The Pride fell 61-57 in their season opener against Iona on Friday.  Hofstra led by six at halftime against Iona, but the Gaels outscored the Pride, 34-24 in the second stanza to escape with the victory.  Iona was the first of seven opponents on the Pride’s schedule this season that advanced to postseason play as the Gaels made it to the second round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament in 2007-08.  Not seeing any action in the game due to injury was senior guard Niki Williams.  With the missed game, Williams streak of 51 straight starts and 95 consecutive games played came to an end.  Freshman forward Joelle Connelly shined in her NCAA debut as the rookie poured in a team-high 17 points and added a team-best 10 rebounds for a double-double in her first-ever appearance in a Pride uniform.  The heralded first-year player shot a spectacular 7-of-10 from the field and added three free throws for her 17 points, while pulling down three offensive and seven defensive rebounds in 30 minutes of action off the bench.  She also added a block and a steal to Hofstra’s efforts, which ultimately fell short.  Connelly was joined in double figures by junior guard Sam Brigham, who tallied 12 points from one of the starting guard positions.  Senior guard Natty Fripp chipped in with eight points in the game, while freshman guard Candice Bellocchio added seven points and a game-high tying five assists.  Hofstra, which shot 46.4% (13-28) from the field in the opening half was done in by poor free throw shooting in the second half as the Pride shot just 8-18 after intermission leading to a 12-23 showing (52.2%) in the contest.  Hofstra has just one game scheduled this week as they will travel to Atlantic Coast Conference-member Boston College on Thursday for a 7 p.m. contest.  It will be the Pride’s first-ever meeting against the Eagles and the second straight season Hofstra has taken on a member of the ACC as they faced Florida State at the FIU Sun and Fun Classic in Miami, Florida last season.

James Madison started the season 1-0 with an 85-61 victory over Radford on Saturday.  Sophomore guard Dawn Evans scored 25 points to pace the Dukes.  Evans extended her streak of scoring 20 points or more to three contests.  Also in the game against the Highlanders, Evans snapped  her streak of consecutive free throws, which ended at 29-- the second longest in school history behind the school record of 35 set by Katie Hardbarger over the 2000-01 and 2001-02 seasons.  Joining Evans in double figures was Kisha Stokes with 15.  Every player on the Dukes’ 11-member roster scored and 10 of them had at least one rebound.  Stokes and Jalissa Taylor tied for game rebounding honors with nine each.  Redshirt senior center Nina Uqdah had three blocked shots against the Highlanders, increasing her career total to 70 and moving her to seventh on the Dukes’ all-time list.  The Dukes used a 19-4 scoring run to pull away to a 17-point (34-17) lead with 2:52 left in the first half. JMU drew 2,349 fans for the Radford contest which was a school record attendance for a home season-opener. The Dukes will next prepare for a visit to play No. 3/5 Maryland on Thursday.

UNC Wilmington earned a 71-50 victory over Longwood on Friday at the Elon Tournament and then wrapped up its opening weekend with a 65-50 win over Winston-Salem State on Saturday.  Against the Lancers, the Seahawks used a 21-2 run midway through the second half to break open a tight contest and pull away.  Junior Greta Luksyte and sophomore Brittany Blackwell both scored a game-high 16 points to lead four Seahawk players in double figures as sophomore Treasure Johnson chipped in 12 and senior Sahsha Taylor pitched in 11. Blackwell and Taylor both grabbed six rebounds and Blackwell recorded a career-high five steals as UNCW tallied 16 thefts in the contest.  On Saturday, Luksyte scored a game-high 15 points to lead four Seahawk players in double figures as UNC Wilmington defeated Winston-Salem State.  Luksyte was joined in double figures by senior Taylor and sophomore Treasure Johnson, who chipped in 14 points apiece, and Blackwell, who added 12. Luksyte and Taylor grabbed six rebounds apiece while Luksyte recorded a career-high four steals and Taylor added three as the Seahawks posted 13 steals and enjoyed a 26-6 edge in points off turnovers. With her 25 points over the weekend, Taylor moved to eighth place on the school’s all-time scoring list (1,163).  She also moved into second place on the school’s career free-throws made (294) and attempted (463) lists and sits just one rebound away from moving into a tie for eighth on UNCW’s all-time lists.  Luksyte went 6-for-6 from the free-throw line, extending her consecutive free-throws made streak to 48.  She also moved into the top 10 for career three-pointers made.  UNCW will play one game this week, hosting UNC Greensboro in its home opener Nov. 20 at Noon.  The game will serve as the second annual “Seahawks Tomorrow” contest, with kids from the area elementary schools coming to the game for part of the day to participate with activities with Seahawk student-athletes on UNCW’s campus. 

Northeastern dropped its first game of the year as they fell 70-52 to St. John’s on Friday evening.  The Huskies were lead by junior Kendra Walton, who had 13 points and eight boards on 5-of-9 shooting. Sophomore Jasmine Crew chipped in with 14 points, five rebounds and three assists. Senior Ashlee Feldman became the 14th Husky to pass the 1,000 career points plateau and now stands at 1,003, which is good for 14th on NU’s all-time career list.  The Huskies, who finished the 2007-08 season ranked 12th in the nation (.770), opened the first half shooting only 40 percent from the line.  NU returned to its old days as the Huskies shot 70 percent from the charity stripe and finished the game shooting 60 percent from the line.

#25 OLD DOMINION (2-0, 0-0 CAA)
The Lady Monarchs went 2-0 on the weekend with victories over St. Mary’s (Calif.) and Dayton.  ODU kicked off the 2008-09 season with a balanced scoring attack as six different Lady Monarchs reached double figures in a 93-63 win over St. Mary’s in the first of three games at the World Vision Classic hosted by the University of Texas.  The Lady Monarchs were led by senior Tiffany Green with 19 points.  Also scoring in double figures was Canady, who finished the game with a double-double, notching 13 points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Mairi Buchan playing in her first career game collected 15 points, while senior Jazzmin Walters poured in 14 points and dished a game-high six assists. Nuzzo captured 10 points, which included going 7-of-8 from the line.  Sophomore Shadasia Green in her first career start led the rebounding crew with a career-high 11 boards as Old Dominion outrebounded St. Mary’s, 57-35. Against Dayton, Canady led the Lady Monarchs with 23 points, while sophomore Jasmine Parker added in 15 going 3-of-6 from downtown.  Green went on to record her 18th career double-double finishing the night with 15 points and a career-high 16 rebounds.  Leading by as many 13 in the first half, the Flyers managed to go ahead by three midway through the second half. The Lady Monarchs, however, would go on to outscore Dayton 27-18 the rest of the way behind an 11-point, nine rebound second half by Green.  With her 34 points on the weekend, Green moved up on the ODU all-time scoring leaders list.  She moved to 25th on the list with 1,034 career points surpassing Aubrey Eblin (1995-99) and Green needs 17 more points to move past Rhonda Rompola (1978-81) in 24th on the list.  In addition to taking on the #14 Longhorns this week, to complete the World Vision Classic, Old Dominion will host #16 Virginia in its 2008-09 home opener in a rematch of the thrilling NCAA Second Round overtime game.  

TOWSON (0-0, 0-0 CAA)

Towson will try to build on the best season in school history which included 22 overall victories and the Tigers’ first-ever trip to the CAA semifinals. Leading a list of four returning starters for coach Joe Mathews is junior guard Shanae Baker-Brice, who earned 3rd team All-CAA honors after averaging 11.7 ppg and ranking among the league’s top 10 in assists (4.2 apg) and steals (2.0 spg). Senior guard Alis Freeman (6.1 ppg) is a three-year starter who was also among CAA leaders in assists and thefts. At forward, junior Kandace Davis netted 8.3 ppg and was fifth in the CAA in rebounding (7.9 rpg) and junior Haliena Snowden added 6.4 ppg and 4.6 rpg. Providing depth up front are sophomore Dovile Miliauskaite (4.9 ppg) and Georgetown transfer Katrina Wheeler. Towson holds off opening its season until Nov. 19 when the Tigers visit Loyola (Md.).

VCU (1-1, 0-0 CAA)
The Rams of Virginia Commonwealth split on opening weekend as they downed Liberty in thrilling fashion and then fell to #6 North Carolina, both in the Preseason WNIT.  VCU opened the 2008-09 season in a thrilling fashion as they snuck past a tough Liberty squad with a 59-57 victory in the opening round WNIT.  Senior Radoslava Bachvarova knocked down three free-throws with :02.1 remaining in regulation to give the Rams a 59-57 road victory over Liberty University on Friday evening at the Vines Center.  The loss is the first home defeat in 14 games for the Flames as they finished a perfect 13-0 in 2007-2008. It also was the first time in eight seasons that Liberty had dropped its home opener.  Bachvarova and Kita Waller each chipped in 13 points to lead the offensive output for VCU, while senior Quanitra Hollingsworth tallied 10 points and eight rebounds in her first game back from an Achilles injury that kept her out the last half of the 2007-2008 season.  The Black and Gold defense was outstanding all night long forcing 24 turnovers and holding Liberty to just 1-of-8 from beyond the arc.  On Sunday, the Rams received 39 points from combined efforts of Hollingsworth and Bachvarova.  Hollingsworth and Bachvarova scored in double-figures for the second straight game with 20 and 19, respectively, while Waller and junior D’Andra Moss (Atlanta, Ga.) each chipped in seven apiece.  The Black and Gold defense was outstanding as it forced Liberty and North Carolina into a combined 47 turnovers.  VCU will next host Tulane on Friday, Nov. 21 at  7 p.m. to conclude their time in the Preseason WNIT.     

WILLIAM & MARY (1-1, 0-0 CAA)
William & Mary fell to Morgan State 70-48 in its season opener at the UNC Asheville Tournament, but rebounded to even its record to 1-1 with a 62-50 victory over UNC Asheville on Saturday.  On Friday, the Tribe was led by junior Tiffany Benson with 16 points and a game-high 14 rebounds for her 10th-career double-double. Freshman Janine Aldridge scored nine points on 3-6 shooting from beyond the arc and adding five rebounds in her collegiate debut.  As a team, the Tribe outscored Morgan State 20-15 off the bench and 12-9 on second-chances, and won the rebounding battle 50-40.  On Saturday, the Tribe posted a 62-50 victory to give coach Debbie Taylor her 100th career win .  Senior Dani Kell led the Tribe in the first half with eight of her 11 points coming in the frame. Kell would finish the game with her third career double-double, grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds and chipping in three steals and earned a spot on the all-tournament team. Courtney Portell was the top scorer for W&M, accounting for four of the team’s five three-pointers and totaling 15 points to go along with nine rebounds. Benson fell into foul trouble early, but finished with seven points and eight rebounds.  Junior Lindsey Moller had a career-high eight points coming off the bench, while classmate Lauren Aadland was a force in the paint, scoring six points, grabbing eight rebounds, and blocking a game- and career-high six shots, a staggering total that is tied for the second-most all-time in a single game.  Her six blocks in the outing is tied for the second-most in a single game for W&M.  For the game, the Tribe limited the Bulldogs to 34.5% shooting and out-rebounded UNC Asheville 49-41. Next up for William and Mary is the home opener against Norfolk State, Thursday night, November 20, at 7 p.m. in Kaplan Arena.  The Tribe will also host Delaware State on Sunday, Nov. 23.