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Stewart, Loyd headline AP preseason women's team

Connecticut's Breanna Stewart and Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis are in a class by themselves.

They are the first teammates to twice be honored as preseason All-Americans by The Associated Press.

"The fact that this has never been achieved before by the same teammates speaks volumes to just how special it is," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said. "I know that coaches and their teammates are very proud of both of them. "

The two are joined on the team by Notre Dame's Jewell Loyd, Duke's Elizabeth Williams and South Carolina's Tiffany Mitchell.

Stewart and Loyd received all 35 votes from a national media panel Tuesday, becoming the 10th and 11th players to be unanimous selections on the AP preseason team. Chiney Ogwumike was a unanimous choice last year, with Brittney Griner, Maya Moore, Elena Delle Donne and Skylar Diggins doing it before.

"It's amazing to be mentioned with them," Loyd said. "Stewart at UConn is obviously in that caliber, too."

Loyd was a key reason that Notre Dame went 37-1 with the lone loss coming in the national championship game to Connecticut. She averaged 18.6 points and 6.5 rebounds as a sophomore.

Stewart followed an exceptional freshman season with an even better sophomore one. She was the outstanding player of the Final Four for a second straight year and went on to play for the U.S. women's national team that won a gold medal at the world championships in Istanbul.

She was honored to be considered among the best again.

"It's great to hear because it's a position you want to be in," said Stewart, who averaged 19.4 points and 8.1 rebounds last season. "I'm in the position I want to be in, but I have to play really, really well to be there in the end."

The UConn duo is the eighth set of teammates to be preseason All-Americans, and the pair helped UConn win its ninth national championship in April. UConn is back at No. 1 in the preseason Top 25 poll.

"I think it's awesome," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "It's an honor, especially after last year and not being able to play as much as I wanted to or as well. But it's awesome. I definitely want to get back to the way I was playing my sophomore year and even better than that. Coming in as a senior I hope that I get better than what I was my sophomore year. So I'm excited and I'm happy."

Mosqueda-Lewis missed 12 games last season because of an elbow injury and mononucleosis and struggled to regain her All-American form for the remainder of the regular season. However, she rebounded by averaging 17.0 points, 8.3 rebounds and 3.8 assists in the NCAA tournament and earned a spot on the Final Four all-tournament team.

"It definitely boosts my confidence," Mosqueda-Lewis said. "But, also, I'm glad that I was able to come back and play at the end of the year and made some type of impact."

Mitchell, who was the SEC player of the year last season, is the first South Carolina player to be a preseason All-American.

"I feel honored to be named to this team and to be the first Gamecock to accomplish this makes it that much better," Mitchell said. "I'm glad I can represent South Carolina at such a high level and be part of a great team."

Mitchell averaged 15.5 points and 5.6 rebounds last season to make third-team All-America — the first Gamecock to earn that honor since Jocelyn Penn was on the second team in 2003.

Williams is only the third Duke player on the first team. She joins Monique Currie and Alana Beard, who did it three years in a row.

"It's amazing, they definitely left a legacy here," said Williams, referring to the former Duke All-Americans. "I'm hoping to try and do the same thing."

The 6-foot-3 senior center averaged 13.8 points, 7.6 rebounds and 3.1 blocks last season.