The best news Carli Tritz got Monday wasn’t that she had been selected as the Missouri Valley women’s basketball preseason player of the year.
Getting the OK to return to practice on a limited basis far outweighed the honor for Tritz. A stress fracture in her back had kept the junior guard watching practice for much of the past two weeks.
“I don’t think they’ll let me do any rebounding drills or anything physical,’’ Tritz said. “But it’s good to be back out there.
“My back really felt bad a couple of weeks ago but it’s been feeling better now for the last six or seven days. Right now, it’s just a little sore.’’
Tritz said she hopes to play a few minutes in Wednesday’s exhibition game against Southwest Minnesota at D.J. Sokol Arena. The 5 p.m. game will be the Bluejays’ lone dress rehearsal before they open a season that many observers around the Valley expect will end in a championship.
Creighton was selected as the team to beat in voting in the league’s preseason poll. The Bluejays received 26 of 40 first-place votes in the voting by conference coaches, sports information directors, radio play-by-play announcers and news media representatives.
Wichita State received 12 first-place votes and was picked to finish second, while Illinois State was tabbed for a third-place finish. The Redbirds received the other two first-place votes.
Getting picked as the favorite hardly surprised the Bluejays, who return nine players from a team that won the league tournament last March and advanced to the NCAA tournament.
“I don’t think we expected to be No. 1,’’ said guard Ally Jensen, one of Creighton’s four returning starters. “But after winning the conference tournament and having a lot of returners, we figured we’d be picked to finish high.”
It’s the fourth time Creighton will start the season picked first in the poll, the last time being three seasons ago when they wound up finishing second. The Bluejays also were selected as the team to beat in the 1994-95 and 2002-03 seasons.
“I don’t feel like we’re the hand’s-down favorite,’’ Creighton coach Jim Flanery said. “And maybe, with what some of the other teams lost from last season, maybe we got it by a process of elimination.
“Whether we were picked first, second, third or fourth, it isn’t going to affect our expectations.’’
Teams picked to finish first have won the league title 17 times in the poll’s 29-year history.
Tritz earned first-team all- conference honors last season as a junior when she finished ranked in the league’s top six in scoring, assists and steals. She also was named the most valuable player of the Valley tournament after leading the Bluejays to the title that earned them their first NCAA berth in a decade.
Tritz downplayed the player-of-the-year honor, saying she wouldn’t be in position to get that recognition if it weren’t for her teammates.
“I consider it more of a team honor,’’ Tritz said.
Tritz models her humble approach after another Bluejay athlete who has received his share of awards and honors. Doug McDermott also learned Monday that he had been selected the men’s preseason player of the year as well as being named an Associated Press preseason All-American.
“I like how Doug handles things,’’ Tritz said. “He’s not only a good example for his team but for athletes in general.’’
Tritz hopes her back, as well as recurring problems with her right knee, will allow her to help Creighton achieve its goal of making it back to the NCAA tournament this season.
“It’s nice being picked first but it really doesn’t mean anything,’’ Tritz said. “We know nothing is just going to come to us. If we expect things just to fall into place, we’re going to have trouble getting to where we want to go.’’
The Missouri Valley women’s basketball preseason poll
First-place votes in parentheses and total points: 1. Creighton (26), 382. 2. Wichita State (12), 347. 3. Illinois State (2), 323. 4. Northern Iowa, 272. 5. Missouri State, 265. 6. Bradley, 144. 7. Indiana State, 135. 8. Southern Illinois, 23. 9. Drake, 121. 10. Evansville, 119
The preseason all-conference team:
Carli Tritz, Creighton, G, 5-10, Jr.; Jacqui Kalin, Northern Iowa, G, 5-8, Sr.; Jessica Diamond, Wichita State, G, 5-7, Sr.; Jamie Russell, Illinois State, G, 5-8 , Sr.; Christiana Shorter, Missouri State, F 6-1, Sr.
Preseason player of year: Tritz
Contact the writer:
402-679-2298, email@example.com, twitter.com/PivOWH