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Fresh off a school-record 23 win season and a postseason berth in the WNIT, the Stetson women’s basketball team has been picked to finish first in the 2012-13 Atlantic Sun Conference preseason poll, which was released on Thursday.  The league’s head coaches also picked the Hatters to win the conference tournament, a feat Stetson most recently accomplished two years ago.

“Honestly the preseason poll doesn’t mean anything,” Stetson head coach Lynn Bria said.  “We still have to play the games.  It doesn’t matter who is picked first at the start of the season, what matters is who is there at the end.”

For the second straight year, senior guard Victoria McGowan (Inkster, Mich.) was selected as the Atlantic Sun Preseason Player of the Year.  McGowan earned Player of the Year honors last season after leading the league in points, assists, steals, field goals made and free throws made.  She averaged 16.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 2.6 steals per game, and recorded an NCAA-best three triple-double performances.  She was a unanimous first-team all-conference selection and has already surpassed the 1000-point milestone in just two seasons as a Hatter.

Joining McGowan on the preseason all-conference team were senior guard Shanasa Sanders (Jacksonville, Fla.) and junior forward Sasha Sims (Fayetteville, Ga.).  Sanders averaged 11.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game last season and was selected four times as the A-Sun Newcomer of the Week.  Sims, meanwhile, averaged 11.9 points and 6.9 rebounds per game en route to second-team all-conference accolades.

“It's well deserved for Victoria, I think she is the best player in the conference and has been for a couple years,” Bria said.  “And I am grateful that the coaches also voted for Sasha and Shanasa.  All three are very deserving of this recognition.”

The Hatters received 98 of a possible 100 points in taking the top spot of the coaches poll.  Defending league champion Florida Gulf Coast received 89 points and was picked to finish second, followed by North Florida (68 points), ETSU (64), Jacksonville (64), Kennesaw State (51), Northern Kentucky (35), USC Upstate (35), Lipscomb (21), and Mercer (20).

Stetson also received eight out of 10 votes as the predicted conference tournament winner.

In the preseason media poll, the Hatters were picked to finish second, receiving 175 of a possible 190 points.

Stetson (23-11 overall, 12-6 A-Sun in 2011-12) will open the season on Nov. 9 at the Ocean Center in Daytona Beach against Hofstra.

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