WINTHROP, Mass. – In a potential changing of the guard across the league landscape, longtime powerhouse and defending champion Emmanuel College has topped the 2019-20 Great Northeast Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Preseason Poll, as announced by the GNAC office on Tuesday morning.
While EC won 15 GNAC titles in an 18-year span from 1996-2013, the Saints had not claimed a GNAC Championship since 2013 prior to last winter, as 43rd-year head coach Andy Yosinoff's squad went on the road to upset top-seeded and then unbeaten Saint Joseph's College of Maine, 65-64, and capture the GNAC's automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament.
Not only were the Saints picked to finish atop the GNAC, they also enter the 2019-20 campaign ranked No. 25 in the nation among D-III women's basketball programs, receiving 79 points in the D3Hoops.com Preseason Coaches' Poll. This marks the first time the Saints have cracked the Top-25 since the 2012-13 campaign when they received a No. 17 ranking with 175 points in the Week 4 report on D3Hoops.com.
Finishing behind Emmanuel in the poll was Albertus Magnus College with the remaining two first-place votes and 129 points, followed by Suffolk University in the third position with 113 points.
For the complete results, please see below.
SJC, which won four GNAC titles in a five-year span from 2014-18, finished fourth in the preseason poll with 108 points overall, as Monks head coach and Maine legend Mike McDevitt's squad graduated a superiorly talented senior-laden class a year ago.
Saint Joe's boasted a 27-0 overall mark entering the 2019 GNAC Final against Emmanuel, as the Monks coasted to an at-large berth despite the tournament upset, marking just the third time in league history (2007, 2016) that two GNAC women's hoop teams made NCAAs.
And for the first time in league history, two GNAC programs earned NCAA victories in the same year, as last March Emmanuel defeated Hartwick, 69-65, and Saint Joe's bested MIT, 68-61, before both bowed out in the NCAA Second Round against New Paltz and Ithaca, respectively.
Rounding out the preseason poll were Colby-Sawyer College (94 points), Regis College (85), Anna Maria College (77), Johnson & Wales University (62), Norwich University (29), and Rivier University (28), Lasell University (26) and the University of Saint Joseph (23).
For poll runner-up Albertus, the Falcons return a talented roster under head coach JR Fredette. AMC last year earned the No. 3 seed in the GNAC Tournament, pushing Emmanuel to overtime in the conference semifinals before falling, 78-72.
Suffolk meanwhile succumbed last year in the GNAC Semis to SJC, but the Rams return their top talent in 2019-20 and will look to be in the championship mix under 26th-year head coach Ed Leyden in their final year as a GNAC core member.
Yosinoff's Emmanuel squad will begin the 2019-20 campaign November 16-17 at the Emmanuel Tip-Off Classic, while Albertus opens up on the road against Sage and Farmingdale State on Nov. 12 and Nov. 14, respectively, before hosting Springfield in its home opener on Nov. 20.
Suffolk gets its season going the earliest with its home opener this Friday, Nov. 8, against Keene State, followed by a road tilt at Western New England this Saturday, Nov. 9.
Saint Joe's gets things underway this weekend as well on Nov. 8-9 at the Curry Tip-Off Tournament. Also in action this weekend from the GNAC will be Anna Maria, Lasell, Regis, Rivier and USJ.
The GNAC will shift to a 16-game divisional schedule beginning with the 2020-21 season, as the 2019-20 campaign marks the final year GNAC teams will play each other once.
2019 GNAC Women's Preseason Poll
1. Emmanuel (10) – 142
2. Albertus Magnus (2) – 129
3. Suffolk – 113
4. Saint Joseph's Maine – 108
5. Colby-Sawyer – 94
6. Regis – 85
7. Anna Maria – 77
8. Johnson & Wales – 62
9. Norwich – 49
10. Rivier – 28
11. Lasell – 26
12. Saint Joseph CT - 23
*Release courtesy of GNAC Athletic Communications