Change and transition seem to be the unifying themes as the City Six women's basketball teams prepare to open the 2018-19 season.
La Salle has the most high-profile change with Philadelphia native Mountain MacGillivray taking over as the ninth coach in Explorers history, but Drexel, Penn, St. Joseph's and Temple also will have different looks as new players come in to fill voids left by key players who have moved on.
Villanova is the exception, as it returns four of its top five scorers from the only team from the City Six to make the 2018 NCAA Tournament.
The Quakers and Dragons were picked to finish second in their conference preseason polls, and the Wildcats were picked to finish third.
The Wildcats beat South Dakota State in the opening round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament before falling to eventual champion Notre Dame.
In Kelly Jekot (11.3 ppg), Adrianna Hahn (11.1 ppg), and Jannah Tucker (9.3 ppg), Villanova returns three players who started at least 30 games. Leading returning scorer Mary Gedaka (11.6 ppg) made just one start but was the Big East Sixth Woman of the Year. She earned a spot on the preseason All-Big East team.
The Quakers lost to only two Ivy League opponents last season. Unfortunately, Princeton beat Penn three times, with the third coming in the Ivy League Tournament championship game at the Palestra.
Penn lost three senior starters but return Ivy League and Big 5 Rookie of the year Eleah Parker (11.5 ppg, 7.9 rpg) and senior Ashley Russell (7.5 ppg. 3.4 rpg).), who had a breakthrough season, starting 29 games.
Entering his 10th season, coach Mike McLaughlin has built a program, not teams. The Quakers will expect players such as Princess Aghayere, Katie Kinum, and Phoebe Sterba to move into bigger roles.
The reigning Big 5 champions were picked to finish second, behind Princeton, in the Ivy League preseason poll. It's the sixth straight season Penn has been predicted to finish first or second in the Ivy.
Starting her 18th season on Hawk Hill, coach Cindy Griffin returns 10 letter-winners but just two starters from a team that finished 19-15 and played in the WNIT for the second consecutive season.
The Hawks lost in the final of the Atlantic 10 tournament and were picked fifth in the 2018-19 preseason poll.
Seniors Alyssa Monaghan (10.1 ppg, 125 assists) and Sarah Veilleux (12.8 ppg) will be relied on for leadership as younger players and transfers step into new roles. Redshirt freshman guard Katie Jekot, a two-time finalist for Miss Pennsylvania Basketball at Cumberland Valley High, makes her debut after missing last season because of an injury.
The Owls went into the 2017-18 season with the expectation of making a second straight NCAA Tournament, but then senior guard Alliya Butts blew out her knee in a preseason practice.
After three straight 20-win seasons, Temple slipped to 12-19. Butts, who had made American Athletic Conference teams in each of her first three seasons, is back as a graduate student, but she joins a squad that has three other upperclassmen and 10 sophomores or freshmen.
Sophomore Mia Davis started all 31 games and sophomores Emani Mayo and Breanna Perry made 27 starts. Davis (11.2 ppg, 7.5 rebounds) was a unanimous pick for the AAC's 2018 All-Freshman team, and Mayo (9.7 ppg) was also selected.
Davis and Butts are preseason All-AAC picks.
Since 2010, the Dragons have participated in the WNIT eight times, winning the championship in 2013. But after making the second-tier tournament for three straight seasons, the players want an invitation to the school's second NCAA Tournament in program history.
The Dragons know exactly what it's going to take, and that's winning the game they lost last season at home against Elon: the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament championship game.
Senior Bailey Greenberg (11.6 ppg) was named preseason first-team All-CAA, and sophomores Aubree Brown (9.8 ppg, 4.5 apg) and Hannah Nihill (6.5 ppg.) were honorable mentions.
MacGillivray will be building from scratch as he takes over for Jeff Williams. He comes to 20th and Olney after spending the last nine seasons as an assistant at Quinnipiac.
The Explorers have won more than 15 games just twice since the turn of the century. They have not made the NCAA Tournament since 1989.
La Salle did not complete its roster until adding four players in September. Junior Shalina Miller (8.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg) is the only returning starter and the only one who averaged more than 20 minutes of playing time. Jeryn Reese, in her second season after transferring, is the lone senior on a team with eight freshmen or sophomores.
Previewing the Women’s City Six
Who's back: Villanova coach Harry Perretta for his 41st season; Villanova Jr. Mary Gedaka (2017-18 Big East Sixth Woman of the Year and preseason All-Big East); Drexel Sr. Bailey Greenberg (preseason All-CAA); Temple So. Mia Davis (unanimous pick for All-AAC freshman team and preseason All-AAC); Penn So. Eleah Parker (All-Ivy League and Big 5 Rookie of the Year).
Who's new: La Salle coach Mountain MacGillivray; Temple graduate student Alliya Butts (preseason All-AAC returning from injury); Saint Joseph's redshirt freshman Katie Jekot (two-time finalist for Miss Pennsylvania Basketball back from injury).
What to look for in 2018-19: Villanova was the only City Six school to make the NCAA Tournament last season and should be back in the 2019 field. Penn and Drexel must win their respective conference tournaments. Both lost in their 2018 championship games and are preseason picks to finish second in their leagues. With a schedule that includes games at 2018 tournament teams Miami (Fla.), DePaul, Villanova, South Carolina, South Florida, and Connecticut, Temple can win its way into an at-large bid if it can survive it. St. Joseph's would likely need at least 25 wins to get at-large consideration.
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