ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The Bemidji State University women's basketball team earned its highest preseason ranking in more then five years as the team was selected to finish fifth in the 2006-07 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Coaches' Poll, the league office announced today. Junior point guard Amy Lawson (Spencer, Iowa) was named as a 2006-07 Player to Watch in the same poll.
Just one season into the Mike Curfman era, the Beavers have begun to earn the respect leagues' coaches rebounding from a 5-23 2004-05 campaign with just one conference win, to a 13-15 team with a 6-8 mark and fifth place finish in the NSIC last winter.
Northern State University, the league's 2005-06 runner-up at 25-7 overall and 11-3 in conference play, edged out Minnesota State University, Moorhead for the top spot in the poll despite garnering fewer first place votes than the Dragons. The Wolves totaled 84 points with four first place votes while MSU- Moorhead collected five first place nods for 82 points.
Concordia University-St. Paul earned the only of the first place vote holding down the third place spot with 78 points.
Earning fourth place in the poll was 2005-06 regular-season and NSIC Tournament Champion Wayne State College. The veteran Wildcats carried a 27-3 overall record and a 13-1 mark into the 2006 NCAA Division II regional tournament last spring but was defeated by NSIC foe Concordia-St. Paul. The loss of Kodak All-American Nicole Gruntorad among others makes WSC a bit of an unknown coming into the season.
After the Beavers in fifth place with 57 points, Winona State University slid into the sixth spot with 43 points and NSIC newcomer Upper Iowa University was voted into seventh place with 41 points. Southwest Minnesota State University earned 37 points for eighth place to finish above University of Mary (N.D.) who collected 32 points in their first preseason poll while University of Minnesota, Crookston filled out the poll in tenth place with 21 points.
In addition to taking home the top team honor in the poll, Northern State also boasts the 2006-07 Preseason Player of the Year. Junior forward/center Noelle Hall (Altura, Minn.) was selected for the award after a sophomore campaign in which she led the NSIC in blocks (1.89), was second in field goal percentage (.555) and third in both scoring (15.6) and rebounding (8.1) en route to a First Team All-NSIC award.
A total of 10 other players were honored in the poll as 2006-07 Players to Watch. Lawson, the Beavers' point guard and spark plug last season, led the field following a third team all-conference selection and a 2006 NSIC Defensive Co-Player of the Year nod.
In just two seasons at BSU Lawson has already begun to etch her name in BSU history. She has already amassed 280 assist and sits in fifth place on the career assists list at the school after recording two of the school's top 10 single-season assist totals.
Last winter she led the conference in steals (2.36 p/g), was second in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.69) and third with a 5.57 assists-per-game average while scoring 9.6 points per contest to finish third among her teammates.
Just three days into its fall practice schedule, Bemidji State will get its first taste of competition Oct. 31st when the team travels to NCAA Division I member South Dakota State University for a 6 p.m. exhibition. After an addition exhibition at North Dakota State University Nov. 4, the Beavers will open their season just 13 days later when they participate in Minnesota State University's Pepsi Tip Off (Nov. 17-18).