New head coach Anne Donovan and the women’s basketball team have a daunting task facing them Friday night as they open their season in Fort Myers, Fla., against Florida Gulf Coast, who went 13-0 on their home court, Alico Arena, last year.
The game is set to start at 7:05 p.m. and is both teams’ season-opener, the Hall’s first ever in Florida.
The Pirates, who defeated Rider 63-49 last year, will start their second straight season on the road against a FGCU team that is without their top two scorers from last year’s squad that beat opponents by an average 21-point margin at home.
FGCU, who were 17-3 in conference play last season and lost in the first round of the WNIT to Miami, earned the top billing in the preseason Atlantic Sun Conference coaches’ poll and No.15 in the collegeinsider.com mid-major poll.
Seton Hall, who was picked to finish 16th out of 16 teams in the preseason Big East coaches’ poll, will look to improve on last year’s 9-21 finish and 1-15 conference record.
Both the Eagles and the Pirates return two starters from last year, with junior Kandice Green and sophomore Terry Green leading the Hall in Donovan’s first season.
Kandice Green, a 6-foot-1-inch forward, was second on the team with 12.8 points per game and first with 8.7 rebounds a year ago and also ranked fifth in two categories in the Big East with 11 double-doubles and 253 rebounds.
She also set a new Seton Hall season record with 130 made free throws.
Terry Green, a 6-foot forward who started 14 games towards the last half of the season, averaged 6.2 points per game and 2.9 rebounds. She also ranked second on the team with 30 three-pointers made and third with 18 blocks.
The Hall have seven new faces on the roster, including a five-member freshman class that is ranked 24th in the country according to HoopGurlz, and will work to infuse both new players and coaches.
Junior guard Jasmine Crew will play her first season with the Pirates after sitting out last year due to NCAA transfer regulations following her move from Northeastern to the Hall.
Crew, who led the Huskies with 13.9 points per game and 3.2 assists in her sophomore season, will add depth to a Seton Hall roster that only includes one senior, center Kashmere Joseph.
FGCU looks to increase its 24-game home win streak against the Pirates, who are only the fourth major conference team to play in Alico Arena in the program’s brief three-year Division 1 history. The win streak is the fourth longest in the nation behind UConn, Stanford and Lehigh.
The Eagles, who return seven players from a year ago, will be led by preseason all-conference selection senior guard Shannon Murphy.
Murphy is FGCU’s top returning scorer, averaging 10.7 points per game last season and a conference-best 1.71 assist-to-turnover ratio.
Also returning for the Eagles is junior guard Courtney Chihil, the top rebounder and three-point threat who averaged 6.2 rebounds per game last year and averaged 41.3 percent from behind the arc.
The Pirates return home to face the Temple Owls on Nov. 16. This will be Donovan’s first appearance at Walsh Gymnasium as head coach of the Hall.
Matt Bryant can be reached at email@example.com.