ASHLAND — A new-look Southern Oregon women's basketball team has been pegged as a team to beat again as it seeks a third straight Cascade Collegiate Conference title.
In the CCC preseason coaches' poll released Wednesday by the league office, SOU was picked second behind Eastern Oregon, last year's co-champion with the Raiders and the eventual conference tournament champ. The Mountaineers received nine first-place votes and the Raiders two, while Northwest Christian and Oregon Tech were third and fourth in the poll.
Alex Carlson, who has gone 60-7 overall and 37-3 in the CCC in his first two seasons combined as head coach of the Raiders, lost four starters to graduation but replenished the roster with eight freshmen and three transfers.
SOU's top returner, senior point guard Toria Bradford, is a former CCC Defensive Player of the Year, and senior wing Casey Williams is back to take on an expanded role after serving as the Raiders' top reserve last season. They'll be joined in the backcourt by senior Remi Mejia, a graduate transfer from Portland State who was once an all-state player for local powerhouse South Medford High.
Eastern Oregon brings back four starters, including all-conference guards Maya Ah You-Dias and Payton Parrish and all-conference forward Stormee Van Belle.
SOU went 27-5 overall last year, ticking off a school-record winning streak of 21 games, and made a return trip to the national tournament after appearing in the NAIA Division II championship game for the first time in 2016.
The preseason NAIA Top 25 poll is set for release on Oct. 24.
The Raiders open on Nov. 4 at Humboldt State (Calif.) and are home for the first time on Nov. 10 against California, Merced.