North Carolina State's women's basketball team looks once again to be a contending force in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Coach Kay Yow returns three starters from last year's ACC regular-season championship squad on a team that could prove to be the school's best yet.

The Wolfpack is balanced, versatile, quick and has more height than last year, which will provide Yow with more possibilities than ever in State's lineup. Last season, N.C. State was 25-6 overall, 12-2 in the ACC and advanced to the NCAA Midwest Regional semifinal, finishing the season with a No. 11 ranking. Yow can see this year's team improving on that record.A key area of improvement for the Wolfpack will be the return of 6-3 senior center/forward Rhonda Mapp, who sat out last season for disciplinary reasons. Mapp, who averaged 14.3 points and 8.2 rebounds per game two seasons ago, will greatly enhance the team's inside game and will take some of the pressure off 6-3 senior center/forward Sharon Manning. Manning averaged 14.2 points and 8.2 rebounds last season.

Standout senior guard Andrea Stinson, last year's ACC player of the year, will again team with 5-5 senior sharpshooter Nicole Lehmann in the backcourt. Stinson averaged 21.7 points and 6.6 rebounds as the team's shooting guard. At 5-10, Stinson may see some time as a small forward as 5-6 sophomore backup point guard Danyel Parker improves her leadership from the floor.

According to Yow, Stinson was focused in the off-season in improving her defense and rebounding. She also may shoot the three-point shot more this season, although Lehmann, who shot 40.2 percent from the bonus arc, will still be the top specialist from that distance.

Yow's bench will go deep, as the 5-10 sophomore forward twin tandem of Krissy and Jenny Kuziemski will see more playing time, as will 6-0 junior power forward Natalie Nester and 5-8 freshman guard Tammy Gibson, last year's South Carolina Player of the Year.

Nester may be the team's most improved player and will be a solid performer on the inside with her high level of intensity, excellent shooting touch and consistent passing skills at the high post position. Teri Whyte, a 6-5 sophomore center, also has improved in strength and endurance and will see more playing time.

The only blow to the Wolfpack has come in the loss of 6-1 junior forward Ashley Hancock, who returned in top condition, but suffered a lower back injury that will keep her out indefinitely. Yow redshirted 6-6 freshman center Sara McLeod and will now carry a team of 10 players, who will play interchangably.

``We have a great blend of experience and enthusiasm,' said Yow, the 1990 Converse/Women's Basketball Coaches Association's Coach of the Year. ``Our versatility this year will enable us to run a lot of combinations. We're anxious to play and really see where we are and what our potential is.'

Yow expects to use a motion offense and play an up-tempo game. She cautions, however, that the Lady Wolfpack must continue to improve its rebounding, foul shooting and turnover rate to be competitive in post-season play.

N.C. State will get its first big test early, as it opens against perennial power Tennessee at home Dec. 1. Prior to that, the Pack will travel to Hawaii for the Rainbow Wahine Classic.

Duke 1989-90 Record: 15-13

Probable Starters: C Sue Harnett 6-4 Sr.; F Monika Kost 6-1 Sr.; G Traci Williams 5-11 Sr.; G Dana McDonald 5-8 Soph.; G Robin Baker 5-8 Jr.

Others: G Pam McFarland 5-3 Jr.; G Heather McKaig 5-9 Fr.; F Celeste Lavoie 6-1 Jr.; G Missy Anderson 5-8 Fr.; F Valerie Evans 6-1 Fr.; G Nicole Johnson 6-0 Fr.; F Shannon Wills 6-1 Fr.

Projection: Duke will be fighting the same battle as last year with injuries. Sue Harnett, a 6-4 senior, will rejoin the Blue Devils for a final season after going down with a severe knee injury in the fifth game of the season last year.

Harnett, averaging 18.2 points and 8.8 rebounds, along with senior Monika Kost, averaging 10.9 points and 6.9 rebounds, will be relied upon heavily on the inside. Dana McDonald, the team's top shooting guard, will be the outside force, shooting 37 percent from the three-point line last season. If junior point guard Robin Baker mends quickly from September's arthroscopic surgery, she will greatly assist the height-laden team that lacks somewhat in speed.

Duke may also benefit from Stanford junior transfer Celeste Lavoie, who suffered a knee injury this summer during a pickup game. Lavoie is not expected back until January, however. Top freshmen Nicole Johnson, Valerie Evans and Shannon Wills may see early playing time. Look for Duke to play a half-court game. The Blue Devils will have plenty of depth off the bench at the forward and post positions, but will be limited at the guard spot.

North Carolina 1989-90 Record: 13-16

Probable Starters: G Emily Johnson 5-4 Jr.; F/C Sylvia Crawley 6-5 Fr.; F/C Heather Thompson 6-0 Soph.; G LeAnn Kennedy 5-10 Jr.; G/F Tonya Sampson 5-11 Fr.

Others: G Kelley Chastain 5-5 Jr.; F Dawn Bradley 5-11 Soph.; C Carrie McKee 6-2 Fr.; G Leigh Waddell 5-6 Sr.; G Toni Montgomery 5-6 Soph.; F Erica Turner 6-0 Fr.; F/C Terrie Condery 6-0 Soph.; C Kim Oden 6-2 Sr.

Projection: North Carolina was slapped hard by injuries last year when two key starters suffered knee injuries and missed the entire season, but the Tar Heels are back and healthy this year with good height and good speed.

Sophomore Heather Thompson led the conference in rebounding last year and averaged 13 points and 8.7 rebounds as a freshman. Point guard Emily Johnson also looks to figure prominently as an excellent ball handler, a good defensive player and Carolina's top outside shooter. Tonya Sampson, last year's high school player of the year, will complement Johnson with her penetration and rebounding ability.

Wake Forest 1989-1990 Record: 16-14

Probable Starters: G Nicole LeVesque 5-4 Fr; G B.J. Thames 5-7 Soph.; G Beth Davis 5-10 Jr.; and F/C Jenny Mitchell 6-2 Sr. Starting post player will be either: C Lisa Dodd 6-3 Sr.; F Vickie Henson 6-2 Soph.; or C Sara White 6-2 Sr.

Others: G Colleen Bentz 5-5 Sr.; G/F Karen Davis 5-8 Fr.; F Amy Wallace 5-11 Fr.; F Susan Hockaday 6-0 Jr.; G/F Sabrina Sloan 5-9 Soph.; C Stacey Boggs 6-1 Fr.

Projection: Wake Forest hopes to bounce back and contend in the conference after last year's disappointing injury-plagued season, which caused them to lose the services of starting center and two-time All-ACC player Lisa Dodd and former high school player of the year Vickie Henson. With Dodd and Henson back in the lineup, Coach Joe Sanchez's Deacons may give ACC favorites N.C. State and Virginia a run for their money.

The Deacons will be experienced and match up well against their opponents in size. Freshman recruit Nicole LeVesque, a first-team AAU All-America player, was rated as one of the nation's top point guards and figures prominently in Wake's offense. Karen Davis, another freshman recruit from Forbush High School, may serve as the team's outside shooting ace. She set the state high school record last year for the most three-point shots. With LeVesque and Thames in the lineup, Sanchez says the two will combine to make the quickest backcourt Wake Forest has ever had.

N.C. A&T 1989-90 Record: 19-9

Probable Starters: G Staci Kyle 5-7 Soph.; G Tammy Hammond 5-7 Sr.; F Angela Ferguson 5-9 Jr.; F Helena Creamer 5-10 1/2 Sr.; and F Deidra Cheeks 5-9 Sr.

Others: C Eileen Patterson 6-3 1/2 Jr.; F Angela Hill 5-10 Fr.; G Marinda Hill 5-6 Sr.; F Hope Rush 5-11 Jr.; G Robbin Williams 5-10 Soph.; G Sherry Massenburg 5-5 Sr.

Projection: A&T will be looking to win the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) tournament after having won the conference's regular-season title for the last three years.

The Aggies look to have one of the MEAC's strongest and most experienced teams with all of its returning starters back this year. As an added bonus, Deidra Cheeks, who skipped last season to focus on her chemical engineering degree, will be back in the lineup to boost A&T's inside strength. Cheeks led the team in rebounding and scoring as a sophomore. The duo of Cheeks and first-team all-conference player Helena Creamer will be a major force on both ends of the court for the Aggiettes. Freshman forward Angela Hill may pusfor some early playing time.

Bennett 1988-89 Record: 6-19

Probable Starters: G Hyler Jones 5-4 Jr.; C/F Pamela Warner 6-0 Soph.; G Erica Salter 5-4 Sr.; F Lisa Alston 5-9 Jr. Starting center will be either: C Karen Tillery 6-0 Soph. or C April Rhodes 5-10 Soph.

Others: G Gay Morris 5-5 Fr.; F Yvette Williams 5-7 Sr.; C Lynn Floyd 6-1 Fr.

Projection: Bennett will play a tougher schedule this season. The Belles expect to benefit greatly from the services of Gay Morris, Yvette Williams and Lynn Floyd, who look to join the team second semester. Returnees Pamela Warner and Hyler Jones will carry the load for Bennett in scoring and rebounding. Warner scored consistently in double figures last season and averaged seven rebounds per game.

Elon 1989-90 Record: 11-14

Probable Starters: G Monica Tate 5-6 Sr.; G Laura Foster 5-6 Soph.; F Jana Siler 5-10 Jr.; F Elizabeth Ward 5-11 sophomore. Starting post player will be either: C Kristin Jividen 6-0 Soph.; or C/F Christine Watkins 5-11 Soph.

Others: G Nissie Thompson 5-5 Fr.; G Katie McGrath 5-7 Fr.; G Tracy Shuford 5-7 Soph.; F Annette Cain 5-10 Jr.; F Laura Case 5-10 Soph.

Projection: Having graduated Barbara Johnson, last year's leading scorer, Elon will look for new offensive contributors this season.

The Fightin' Christians are in good hands with returning senior point-guard Monica Tate, who saw action in 25 games. Tate may even share some time with redshirt freshman Nissie Thompson. Freshman Katie McGrath will also see some action in the backcourt. McGrath is a three-time AAU Junior Olympic player and was a two-time all-state selection in New Hampshire.

Depth may be a factor for Elon in the frontcourt, although Jana Siler, who averaged 11.6 points per game last season, may emerge as the team's leading scorer. With a lack of experience at the post position, Coach Jackie Myers may opt for a smaller lineup early in the season.

Greensboro College 1989-90 Record: 18-8

Probable Starters: C Tara Thompson 5-11 Soph.; G Amy Rogers 5-4 Sr.; G Jennifer Singer 5-6 Sr.; G Kim Gosnell 5-8 Jr.; C/F Jean Canady 6-0 Soph.

Others: G Leanne Lockridge 5-5 Sr.; F Shawn Bean 5-8 Soph.; F/G Patsy Egli 5-7 Soph.; F Connie Kattner 5-8 Fr.; F Stephanie Manus 5-10 Fr.; G Heather McNair 5-4 Fr.; F Suzanne Midkiff 5-10 Fr.

Projection: The Hornets return a solid nucleus of players with seven returnees and four freshmen.

Tara Thompson will be a key performer for Greensboro following her performance last year as an all-conference center and the team's leading scorer. Second-team all-conference player and the squad's assist leader, Amy Rogers, also will contribute, as will senior outside shooter Jennifer Singer. A new crop of freshmen will enhance the Hornets' depth on the inside and give new head coach Sandy Sikes plenty of help off the bench.

Guilford College 1989-90 Record: 18-9

Probable Starters: G Lori Helton 5-8 Sr.; F Heidi Meroth 5-11 Sr.; F/C Tara Wilson 5-11 Sr.; C Betsy Green 6-2 Soph.; F Brenda Davis 5-10 Fr.

Others: G Helen Kusenberger 5-6 Fr.; G Beth Gattuso 5-3 Sr.; G Caroline Doss 5-3 Jr.; F Laura Klingseisen 5-7 Soph.; C Kim Webb 6-0 Fr.; F/C Angela Aldrich 5-10 Fr.; G Tara McCoy 5-6 Soph.

Projection: Guilford will have a huge vacancy to fill this season following the graduation of leading scorers and rebounders Corie Gold and Jennifer Taylor. Figuring prominently in the Quakers' attempt to fill that void will be Betsy Green, who holds the most experience in the post position.

Freshman Brenda Davis may see some early playing time at forward if she recovers from a foot injury. Laura Klingseisen also may be tapped to provide aggressive play on the inside. Point guard Lori Helton will again direct the floor. First-year Coach Jeannie Taylor's biggest task will be to continue developing her forwards and to pull together this young team.

High Point 1989-90 Record: 17-12

Probable Starters: F Ingrid Hendrix 5-11 Jr.; C Sharon Hill 6-0 Sr.; G Heather Moore 5-6 Soph.; G Maxine Monroe 5-6 Sr.; G/F Greta Miles 5-8 Fr.

Others: G Shelly Whitaker 5-8 Fr.; G Erin Kluttz 5-8 Fr.; C Danette Johnson 5-11 Fr.; F Charlotte Totulis 5-11 Soph.; C Arlene King 5-11 Soph.; F Lori Younts 5-8 Soph.

Projection: High Point lost two key players to graduation in Tracy McIver and Annette Lawson, who combined for 21 points and 12 rebounds per game. The Panthers will begin a rebuilding season behind Ingrid Hendrix and Sharon Hill, who will anchor a strong inside offense. Guards Heather Moore and Greta Miles will spark the offense from the frontcourt. Miles and guard Shelly Whitaker are top newcomers.

UNC Greensboro 1989-90 Record: 18-7

Probable Starters: G Beth Durrill 5-6 Sr.; G/F Tracey Young 5-9 Jr.; G/F Tina Wilson 5-9 Soph.; F Julie Bright 6-0 Jr.; F/C Kymm Elliott 6-0 Jr. or C Kristin Lavelle 6-3 Soph.

Others: G Micky Haywood 5-9 Soph.; C Jana Henderson 6-1 Jr.; G Gail White 5-9 Jr.; G Jo Zerger 5-10 Fr.; C Christia Saunders 6-2 Fr.; F Shannon Young 5-10 Fr.

Projection: Tenth-year Spartan coach Lynne Agee will return six players this season, but will have a young squad. UNCG lost top players Karen Jordan, Chris Holec and Donna Snead to graduation. Starting senior point guard Stephanie Johnson will not return due to violations of team rules and backup point guard Kristy Whitehurst also will not be in the lineup for academic reasons.

That leaves Agee with a number of big roles to fill, but she is optimistic that the Spartans will be a quick, more athletic team than in past years. The squad also will utilize more scrambling half-court traps. Tina Wilson will be counted on to run the break while Peace College junior transfer Gail White and Lees-McRae juco player Kymm Elliott will each bring two years of experience to the young team.

Kristin Lavelle has shown great improvement from last year and will see more action in the middle. Beth Durrill will return to the point guard's spot and will be backed up by freshman Ohio all-state player Jo Zerger. Preseason injuries have plagued UNCG's post players, including Jana Henderson, but Agee expects her young team to be ready for its opener against NCAA Division I power Mississippi.

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