The Dayton Flyers women’s basketball team had ranked first or second in the Atlantic 10 Conference preseason poll 12 straight seasons, but it still wasn’t a big shock to see it picked 10th in the 2022-23 poll, which was released Tuesday.
That’s because first-year coach Tamika Williams-Jeter has almost a whole new team. With three sixth-year seniors on the roster last season, Dayton would have been hit hard by graduation anyway if Shauna Green hadn’t left to take the head coaching job at Illinois. Her departure led to five other players leaving the program.
That’s why the 15 coaches who voted in the A-10 preseason poll put the defending champion in the bottom half of the poll.
“The returners might be surprised, right?” Williams-Jeter said. “They haven’t been in that space, but I’ve been there a couple of times in my life.”
Williams referenced her experiences at Ohio State and Kansas in seasons in which the expectations weren’t the highest and how they overcame the doubts.
“There’s always space to grow,” she said, “and there’s always room to win and move up that that ladder, but you’ve got to start from somewhere, and right now, this is our reality.”
The Flyers open the season Nov. 7 at Providence and play their home opener three days later against Illinois State at 7 p.m. Nov. 10.
Massachusetts received all 15 first-place votes from the league coaches in the A-10 poll. It returns the reigning A-10 Player of the Year, forward Sam Breen, as well as two other preseason all-conference selections: guard Sydney Taylor and guard Destiney Philoxy.
Dayton was picked to finish first in the preseason poll seven times in the last 11 seasons and second the other four times. It was last picked outside the top two in 2009 (third) and in the bottom half of the standings in 2008 (ninth).
Dayton has finished with a winning record 14 times in the last 15 seasons and won 20 or more games 12 times in that span. It won four A-10 Conference regular-season championships in Green’s six seasons.
The 2022-23 Flyers will have to overcome depth issues. There are 10 scholarship players on the roster, and one of them, freshman Saija Cleveland, will miss the season with a knee injury. The four returning players — Mariah Perez, Maliya Perry, Destiny Bohanon and Shannon Wheeler — combined to score 6.4% of the team’s total points (135 of 2,107) last season.
“The one thing that I think the team from last year leaves is no matter if you played or not, you’re in a winning gym,” Williams-Jeter said, “and those players that are remaining had to play against and make the players that did play a lot better. They experienced what a winning atmosphere and a winning culture feels like. They won a lot of rings. I’m trying to pull from that space with the four returners. You know what it feels like. You know what practice feels like. You know the expectation. It might feel a little bit different with my voice, but that standard doesn’t change. It’s only going to go up. With my young kids, just like anybody else, I’m trying to get them to move as fast as possible and catch on to things. We’re just trying to get 1% better every day.”
A-10 PRESEASON POLL
1. Massachusetts (15), 225
2. La Salle, 188.
3. Rhode Island, 184.
4. Fordham, 183.
5. VCU, 152.
6. Saint Joseph’s, 140.
7. Davidson, 135.
8. Richmond, 125.
9. Duquesne, 109.
10. Dayton, 99
11. George Washington, 82.
12. Saint Louis, 73.
13. Loyola Chicago 41
14. George Mason, 38.
15. St. Bonaventure, 26.
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