Clayton State coach Dennis Cox and his Lakers will enter the season as the No. 2 team in the country, according to a recent poll released last week. (Staff Photo: Derrick Mahone)
MORROW — If the preseason polls are right, then Clayton State women’s team should remain among Division II elite teams this season.
The Lakers have received early accolades as they will open the season ranked No. 2 in the country by the Women’s Division II Bulletin.
Clayton State is coming off a near perfect 2012-13 season, finishing the year with a 32-1 mark and advancing to the NCAA Div. II Elite Eight. The Lakers were two wins from the national championship game.
Last season, Clayton State closed the regular season ranked No. 1 in the country and finished the season ranked No. 5 in the nation.
Gary Rubin of the Division II Bulletin says, “Despite losing their top scorer (Drameka Griggs), the Lakers still have plenty of horsepower to make another run at a national title.”
Clayton State will have to replace Griggs, who had an All-American season as a senior, but the squad does return several players who were in last year’s rotation, including a trio of starters. The top returners include: Peach Belt Conference Defensive Player of the Year Shacamra Jackson, PBC Freshman of the Year Kayla Pryce, along with guard Bena Hanyard and forward Jessica Covington.
“The preseason polls mean nothing of course, in terms of future success, but we do appreciate the recognition,” Clayton State coach Dennis Cox said. “The last three years have been an incredible run for us. However, we’ve lost three All-Americans over that period, as well as some valuable All-Peach Belt performers. We have a lot of new faces, so it will ultimately come down to how well they can blend-in with the experience we have returning.”
The Lakers began practice last week, and will have an exhibition game against on Sunday against NCAA Div. I opponent Georgia Tech at McCamish Pavillion at 2 p.m.
Clayton State will open the regular season on the road with two games in the Spartan Challenge in Tampa, Fla. The Lakers will face Florida Southern on Nov. 8, followed by contest on Nov. 9 against host Tampa.
The team’s first home game will be on Nov. 19 against Union University with a 5:30 p.m. tip-off at the Athletics Center.
“You are always excited about the start of the season,” Cox said. “We have some good players coming back, and we brought in some players that we think we give us some immediate help. Last year we worked hard to get the ball in the post, and we will do the same this season. We have a lot of new faces, but we are running the same old system.”