Tech picked first in OVC; Hayes named Preseason Player of the Year

Tech picked first in OVC; Hayes named Preseason Player of the Year

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. --- Preseason accolades for the Tennessee Tech women’s basketball team have become an expected occurrence through the years.

Entering the 2011-12 season, the bar has been set even higher as the Golden Eagles were selected to finish first in the Ohio Valley Conference for the first time in six years, with senior Tacarra Hayes being named the OVC Preseason Player of the Year.

The preseason poll was conducted by the head coaches and sports information directors from the OVC.

Garnering 193 points, and 13 first-place votes, TTU edge out UT Martin for the top slot in the poll by six points. Last season, the Golden Eagles and Skyhawks met in the OVC Championship game. This is the first time since the 2005-06 season that Tech has been selected to finish first in the preseason poll.

Eastern Illinois is listed third in the poll with 159 points, followed by Austin Peay with 142 points, and Morehead State with 133 points. Murray State came in sixth with 88 points, with Tennessee State nipping at its heels with 82 points. OVC newcomer SIU Edwardsville received 73 points for eighth place, with Jacksonville State (72), Eastern Kentucky (47) and Southeast Missouri (34) rounding out the bottom of the poll.

Headlining the 2011-12 Preseason All-OVC Team is Tech’s Hayes, who was named the OVC Preseason Player of the Year. She is the first Golden Eagle to earn the preseason nod since Emily Christian received it in the 2004-05 season. A year ago, Hayes led the Golden Eagles with 16.9 points per game and also topped the team in rebounds with 7.5 per game. The versatile guard from Lebanon, Ky., also set the pace for coach Sytia Messer's OVC champions in assists, steals and minutes played, ranking among conference leaders in all five categories. 

Joining Hayes on the Preseason all-OVC Team are UT Martin’s Heather Butler and Jasmine Newsome, Eastern Illinois’s Ta’Kenya Nixon and Mariah King, Morehead State’s Ashar Harris and Courtney Lumpkin, Austin Peay’s Whitney Hanley, Eastern Kentucky’s Alex Jones and Murray State’s Mariah Robinson and Jessica Winfrey.

The Golden Eagles open their 2011-12 season with an exhibition contest at home against Bryan College on Monday, Nov. 7. TTU opens its regular season on the road against East Tennessee State on Friday, Nov. 11, in the opening round of the WNIT Preseason Tournament.

The Golden Eagles finished their 2010-11 season with a 23-8 record and their 16th OVC regular season championship.

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2011-12 OVC Women’s Basketball Predicted Order of Finish

1. Tennessee Tech (13 first-place votes) - 193
2. UT Martin (nine first-place votes) – 187
3. Eastern Illinois – 159
4. Austin Peay – 142
5. Morehead State – 133
6. Murray State – 88
7. Tennessee State – 82
8. SIU Edwardsville – 73
9. Jacksonville State – 72
10. Eastern Kentucky – 47
11. Southeast Missouri – 34

2011-12 Preseason all-OVC Team

Tacarra Hayes – Tennessee Tech
Heather Butler – UT Martin
Ta’Kenyan Nixon – Eastern Illinois
Jasmine Newsome – UT Martin
Ashar Harris – Morehead State
Mariah King – Eastern Illinois
Whitney Hanley – Austin Peay
Mariah Robinson – Murray State
Alex Jones – Eastern Kentucky
Courtney Lumpkin – Morehead State
Jessica Winfrey – Murray State