Submitted to the Optic
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Former West Las Vegas star Vera Jo Bustos was named the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Preseason Player of the Year and her Grizzlies, coming off the program’s first trip to the NCAA Division II National Tournament, were picked to win the league, according to the 2010-11 preseason coaches’ poll released by conference officials on Monday.
The No. 1 prediction is the Grizzlies’ first since the conference starting conducting a preseason poll in 2002. In the team poll, the Grizzlies received six first-place votes and 25 total points.
Fort Lewis, which advanced to the NCAA Division II National Championship game in 2010, also received six first-place votes, but totaled 29 points while being picked second in the league.
Colorado Mines (48 points) and Colorado State-Pueblo (50) were picked third and fourth, and each received one first-place vote. They were followed by Colorado Christian (66), Metro State (70), Nebraska-Kearney (95), Western State (98) and Mesa State (109) and Chadron State (112), Western New Mexico (114), Regis (140), New Mexico Highlands (149) and UC-Colorado Springs (163).
The Grizzlies are coming off a record-setting 2009-10 campaign in which they set an NCAA Division II era record of 21 wins and advanced to the NCAA Division II National Tournament for the first time in program history.
Highlands’ Cowgirls enjoyed improvement last season in the second year of coach Tiffany Darling’s tenure. The team upset NCAA Division I foe Northern Arizona on the road and also beat three-time RMAC Shootout champ CSUP.
Before garnering preseason Player of the Year honors, Bustos was a first team All-RMAC selection as a sophomore and junior, was named the RMAC West Division Player of the Year for the 2008-09 season, and was the league’s Freshman of the Year in 2007-08. Bustos has averaged 15.6 points and 5.7 points per game.