The USA South Athletic Conference women's basketball coaches released the 2018-19 preseason polls, as Maryville College was tabbed third in the Western Division ranking.
Each divisional preseason poll only includes votes from coaches within that particular division, and head coaches do not vote for their own teams in the balloting.
The Scots ranked third within the Western Division, as Berea College was picked to win the USA South. The Mountaineers had six first-place votes, while Piedmont College ranked second with a trio of top tallies.
"I think that's probably pretty generous, to be honest, considering losing five of your top six players last year and four starters," Head Coach Darrin Travillian said. "I think for us right now, you can use that as a little bit of a motivating factor. We're used to being ranked near the top of the league, and so, we want to get back in that realm of where people realize that's where we want to be. This is a brand new team that has to figure out how to win one game, so I'm not real worried about preseason rankings or the global view yet. We're just going to try to get better and see what we can put together."
Travillian said that after reviewing the numbers, Maryville returns fewer than 20 points per contest from last season's squad.
He said this team is simply trying to find their identity right now. That ranges from style of play, where each player fits and offensive and defensive schemes.
"I don't know if it's so much about what we did last year as much as this team is just going to figure out who they are going to be every day," Travillian said. "We're re-teaching practice habits. We're re-teaching lane assignments and terminology. I shared with them at practice the other day that it really reminds me of when I took over. We only brought one starter back that year, and everything was brand new. For a coach, it's exciting to start over and take a fresh look at everything. I think for the players, I think they know that every position is up for grabs. It's really competitive, and nobody has laid claim to anything yet."
Libby Gardner is the only returning starter for Maryville this season. The now junior guard averaged nearly 30 minutes per contest, as she posted 6.3 points per game.
The guard started 25 of the Scots' 26 games last year, dishing out 4.1 assists, 1.6 steals and 2.1 rebounds per game. She held a 1.8 assist to turnover ratio last year.
Gardner was named captain by her teammates going into her junior campaign.
"The team voted her captain, I think, because in large part, she's been there and done it," Travillian said. "She's somebody that has been in those close games and those big games. She has experience with running the team. I think the team recognizing that and voting her captain is a really good reflection on how they are looking for stability – somebody that can say, 'Oh yea. Here's what we need to do.' The team respects her, and the team knows she's been a part of success. They are looking for her to lead them in that direction again."
Berea takes the top spot after finishing last winter with a 23-4 overall record to capture last season's Western Division title with a 12-2 USA South mark. Piedmont – the league's two-time defending tournament champion – tallied 57 total votes, as the Scots earned 47. Huntingdon College (41) and Covenant College (35) rounded out the top five.
Brevard College ranked sixth, as the USA South welcomed both the Tornados and Pfeiffer University last season as institutions reclassifying from NCAA Division II status. This year, each of their teams are included in the preseason poll and are eligible for regular season championship honors.
However, both schools are still not eligible for the USA South Tournament until full NCAA Division III membership is established.
Maryville College opens the 2018 season on Wednesday, Nov. 14. The Scots are set to host Emory & Henry College with a 7 p.m. tipoff inside Boydson Baird Gymnasium.
The Scots will look forward to the 2019 USA South Men's Basketball Tournament, which, once again, will be conducted exclusively on campus sites. The top-four seeded teams from each division will advance to tournament play.