The Lewis-Clark State women’s basketball team, the defending Frontier Conference tournament champion, was picked to finish second in the league in the preseason coaches’ poll, released Tuesday afternoon.
The Warriors received 52 points in the voting, 12 behind top-ranked Westminster. The Griffins won the regular season championship in 2011-12, but were defeated by LCSC for the tournament title.
Lewis-Clark State sophomore point guard Brittaney Niebergall (pictured left) was named to the preseason All-Conference team, the only underclassmen selected.
Niebergall was the Frontier Conference’s Freshman of the Year in 2011-12 after a campaign in which she averaged 8.3 points per game and started all but one game in her first collegiate season out of LaSalle College Prep in Portland, Ore.
Niebergall also contributed 142 assists last year, a total that ranks 10th all-time in school history for a single season.
“The thing that stands out there is that she’s the only sophomore in the group, but she’s very deserving of the honor,” Lewis-Clark State coach Brian Orr said of Niebergall. “She’s a very special player, and of course we’re going to be counting on her this year.”
Hayley Pettit, a senior post from Montana Western, and Nicole Yazzie, a senior guard from Westminster, were selected as the preseason Co-Players of the Year.
In the team rankings, Westminster earned 64 total points and eight of nine first-place votes. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams.
Carroll College was third in the poll and received one first-place vote. Montana Western was fourth, followed by Montana Tech and MSU-Northern. Rocky Mountain and Great Falls tied for seventh, and Frontier Conference newcomer Dickinson State was ninth.
“Honestly, I’m a little surprised that we were second after losing four starters off of last year’s team,” Orr said. “At the same time, the voting was very close and we know there are a lot of competitive teams in the Frontier Conference.”
The Warriors finished 29-5 in 2011-12 and 11-3 in conference play, advancing to the round of 16 in the NAIA Tournament for the third consecutive season.
LCSC returns just one regular starter from last season in Niebergall, but Orr has a young team with just one senior (Annie Kane) and one junior (transfer Ornela Bacchini).
The Warriors have an intra-squad scrimmage on Oct. 20 before opening the season at Northwest Nazarene on Oct. 31.
Women’s Preseason Co-Players of the Year:
Hayley Pettit, Montana Western, 6-3, senior post
Nicole Yazzi, Westminster College, 5-7, senior guard
Women’s Preseason All-Conference Team:
Sammi Bignell, Montana Western, 5-10, junior guard
Kelsey DeWit, Montana Tech, 6-2, junior post
Brittney Niebergall , Lewis-Clark State, 5-3, sophomore guard
Megan Patterson, Carroll College, 5-11, senior guard
Cydney Tibbitts, Westminster College, 6-1 senior forward