High Point, NC – Conference Carolinas released the 2018-19 preseason poll on Thursday with the Limestone Saints leading the pack with 94 points.
The Limestone Saints took first in the preseason poll with 94 points and five first place finish votes. The Saints concluded the 2017-18 in first in the conference with a 23-6 overall record and were 18-2 in Conference Carolinas play. Limestone advanced to the quarterfinals before being defeated by the North Greenville Crusaders in a 57-56 final. The Saints received a bid to the NCAA Southeast Regional, but fell to the Lander Bearcats 84-53 in the quarterfinals.
The Barton Bulldogs were right on the heels of the Saints in the poll, taking a second place slot with 89 points and four first place finish votes. The Bulldogs finished last season 23-9 overall and 15-5 in Conference Carolinas action. Barton advanced to the Conference Carolinas tournament where they defeated the Lees-McRae Bobcats 85-75 in the quarterfinals and the Erskine Flying Fleet 81-40 in the semifinals to advance to the championship. The Bulldogs defeated the King Tornado 83-68 in the Conference Carolinas championship to earn a place in the NCAA Tournament. However, Barton fell to North Georgia 81-76 in the first round of play. Following the Bulldogs, the King Tornado received 81 votes and one first place finish vote to put them in third. The Tornado conclude the 2017-18 campaign with a 17-13 overall record. Their 12-8 conference record earned them a place in the championship tournament. The Tornado defeated the Mount Olive Trojans 85-75 and the North Greenville Crusaders 72-71. However, King did not come out on top in the championship game as they lost to the Barton Bulldogs 83-68.
The Belmont Abbey Crusaders earned 77 points in the preseason poll and one first place vote after going 19-9 last season. Their 16-4 conference record advanced them to post season, but they fell to the Erskine Flying Fleet 62-51 to end their 2017-18 campaign. The University of Mount Olive Trojans took a fifth place slot in the poll with 65 points. The Trojans went 12-17 last season and were 10-10 in conference play. Mount Olive fell to the King Tornado 85-75 in the Conference Carolinas Quarterfinals to conclude their season.
In their first season of post season eligibility, the Emmanuel Lions took a sixth place spot in the poll with 51 points. The Lions went 18-12 overall and 10-10 in Conference Carolinas last season. The North Greenville Crusaders were right on the Lions heels, picking up 47 points in the preseason poll. North Greenville went 8-22 and 6-14 last season. They defeated the Limestone Saints in the quarterfinals 57-56, but fell to the King Tornado in the semifinals 72-71. The Lees-McRae Bobcats followed the Crusaders in the poll with 33 points. The Bobcats finished last year 10-17 and 7-13. They advanced to the Conference Carolinas Championship tournament, but fell to the Barton Bulldogs 85-75.
The Erskine Flying Fleet took ninth in the poll with 24 points. The Flying Fleet were followed in the preseason poll by Southern Wesleyan with 21 points and the Converse Valkyries with 19 points.
Southern Wesleyan returns guards Jessica Sparks, Aneysa Williams and Breanna Richardson. Sparks led the team in points with 315 last season. She shot 42.7% in the field and 40% from the three point line. Senior Aneysa Williams scored 223 points for the Warriors last season with a 31.1 field goal percentage and 36.4 three-point shot percentage. Junior Breanna Richardson scored 218 points and led the team with 69 assists last season.
"There are no surprises where we are picked in our conference," said Head Coach John Davis. "We want our program to be competitive within our conference by competing for a Conference Carolinas Championship, but we need a team that is going to be committed to that process to put us in that position. Our program is grounded in our Christ-centered culture and we want to stay firm in what we stand for, while being able to have a mindset of excellence in everything we do. This group is learning to accept the challenge that will put us in a position to compete for a Conference Carolinas Championship. If this team will commit daily to serving and loving each other, then this could be a pretty fun season."
The Warriors will kick-off their 2018-19 campaign on the road as they travel to the PBC / Conference Carolinas Challenge hosted by the Augusta Jaguars on November 9 and 10. Southern Wesleyan will take on the UNC Pembroke Braves on the ninth at 5:30 p.m. and then the Augusta Jaguars on the tenth at 4 p.m. The Warriors will host their home opener against the Coker Cobras on November 20 at 5:30 p.m. They will then travel to their first Conference Carolinas game of the season on November 28 as they take on the North Greenville Crusaders at 5:30 p.m. Southern Wesleyan will host their Conference Carolinas opener against the University of Mount Olive Trojans on December 15 at 2 p.m.