Lady Toppers begin season in MEC/PSAC Challenge

By Kendrick Jackson, Contributing Writer
Hilltopper women’s basketball begins their regular season this weekend in the annual MEC/PSAC Challenge. However, fans will have to wait until next week for their first home game. 

Kyle Cooper enters his second year as head coach for the Lady Toppers. In his first year at the helm, the Black and Gold finished 13-16 with a first-round exit in the Mountain East Conference Tournament. 
However, preseason rankings project WLU to finish fourth in the MEC. With ten returning players, including NCAA Division II All-American Center Marissa Brown, the Lady Toppers are bound to make some noise this regular-season. 
In 29 games, Brown averaged 24 points and 11.2 rebounds for the 2017-2018 campaign. Brown also finished the year Top 10 nationally in scoring and rebounding. 
Last season in conference games, the Hilltoppers went 10-1 in home conference games and 2-9 in road conference games. This year, the Hilltoppers will try to increase their road record and look for a similar home record. 
Last week, West Liberty traveled to NCAA Division I WVU for an exhibition game. Only down by 10 points at halftime, the Mountaineers pulled away in the second half to win the game 88-53
Sophomore guard Olivia Belknap was the leading scorer for the Lady Toppers with 15 points. Belknap was also a perfect 4-for-4 from the arc. 
WLU will take on California University of Pennsylvania in their first matchup for the MEC/PSAC Challenge. California University is projected to finish third in the PSAC West Division following a record of 24-7 a year ago, including a first-round lost in the NCAA Division II tournament. 
The Vulcans roster will feature three returning starters and senior forward Seairra Barrett will make a return after missing all of the 2017-18 campaign due to an injury. Barrett is a two-time All-PAAC West selection. 
WLU Assistant Coach Cassie Seth will return to her alma mater Sunday in the Black and Gold matchup against Mercyhurst University. Seth ranks Top 10 all-time in points and steals at Mercyhurst. 
Preseason polls rank the Lakers of Mercyhurst seventh in their division. The Lady Toppers dominated the Lakers in their 76-55 win during last year’s MEC/PSAC Challenge. 
Matchups against Cal U and Mercyhurst will be Saturday and Sunday, respectively. Coverage for both games begin at 5 p.m.
Check out next week’s paper for a preview of our matchup against MEC defending champs Glenville State.
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