AUSTINTOWN - The Marietta College men's basketball team was picked to finish fifth in the Ohio Athletic Conference preseason poll announced by the league office Thursday. With eight first-place votes, Baldwin Wallace University is picked to win the league crown in voting by the OAC coaches.
"It doesn't matter if we were picked first, fifth or tenth, our goal is to win the OAC regular season and tournament championships," Marietta head coach Jon VanderWal said. "We graduated several key players last year, but we have a roster full of talented players who are eager to get their opportunity. "
The Yellow Jackets earned 79 points to claim the top spot in the poll. Wilmington College was second with 67 points and two first-place votes, while Mount Union earned 65 points and third place.
Marietta hosts Athletes In Action in an exhibition game at 7 p.m. on Saturdayin Ban Johnson Arena. The Pioneers open the regular season at home in the 43rd annual Marietta Shrine Tournament Nov. 15-16. Marietta plays Ohio Christian University at 8 p.m. Friday (Nov. 15).
VanderWal returns five lettermen from last year's team that went 20-8, won the Ohio Athletic Conference Tournament and played in the NCAA Tournament. Leading the way for the Pioneers is three-time All-OAC point guard Tyler Hammond. Hammond averaged 11.1 points and 3.0 assists per game last season. Junior wing Brennan McKean, who started nine games a year ago, averaged 7.3 points, while junior post Garrett Stephenson averaged 7.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per game.
The Yellow Jackets earned 77 points and five first-place votes to edge ONU. The Polar Bears grabbed the other five first-place votes and had 75 total points. Capital was third with 58 points, while the Pioneers earned 37 points.
"We are excited to get the season started," Marietta head coach Stacia Shrider said. "Our players have worked hard in both the offseason and preseason and we are ready for the challenge of playing in the OAC."
Marietta opens the 2013-14 season at the Allegheny (Pa.) Tip-Off Tournament Nov. 15-16. The Pioneers play Fredonia State University (N.Y.) on Friday (Nov. 15) at 4 p.m.
Shrider returns eight letter winners and four starters from last year's team that finished 10-16 and made the OAC Tournament for the second straight season.
Honorable mention All-OAC players senior Tori Dixon and junior Candice Alexander will be counted on to lead the Pioneers. Dixon averaged 11.1 points per game to lead Marietta last season. Alexander averaged 10.5 points and a team-best 7.0 rebounds.
Returning starters senior Paige Lamb and junior Heather Booth averaged 4.6 points and 9.7 points, respectively.