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Brooklyn, NY -- The Northeast Conference coaches engaged in their annual ritual of naming the league’s top players and came up with a diverse, balanced unit. Two senior guards, a pair of junior forwards and the reigning Northeast Conference Rookie of the Year comprise the five-member 2012-13 Preseason All-NEC Women’s Basketball Team.
Five different NEC programs are represented on the all-star squad, and all five individuals – Alysha Womack (Monmouth), Alli Williams (Saint Francis [PA]), Artemis Spanou (Robert Morris), Felicia Barron (Quinnipiac), and Gabrielle Washington (Sacred Heart) -- were all-conference selections this past March.
The announcement of the team, along with the unveiling of the preseason coaches’ poll results, was made on Tuesday, October 23 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the site of NEC "Social" Media Day.
Monmouth senior guard Alysha Womack is the most-decorated of the five, having captured all-NEC honors in each of the past three seasons. The 5-foot-7 guard has been the Hawks’ top scorer since her freshman campaign (2009-10), which ended in Rookie of the Year honors. The importance of her presence was shown last season when she missed the first 11 games recovering from injury. Monmouth went 3-8 in those contests, but won 16 of 21 after Womack’s return. The ultra-quick guard, who has a knack for beating defenders off the dribble, averaged a career-high 15.6 points per contest last season. She started 14 of her 21 appearances, logging 28.8 minutes per game and providing the Hawks with a mid-season spark that carried them to a second straight NEC title game appearance. Womack shot better than 40 percent from the field and was a stellar 85.1 percent from the charity stripe.
Spanou has become a synonym for double-double over the 6-foot forward’s first two seasons at Robert Morris. The Greek-born Spanou’s 32 double-doubles are more than any other NEC player has accounted for over the previous two years. The two-time all-conference selection is as good as anyone underneath the basket and can also play out on the perimeter. Spanou was the NEC’s rebounding champion as a sophomore when she averaged 10.8 rebounds per contest. She also ranked amongst the NEC’s Top 5 in scoring last season, averaging 16.8 points per game (4th). Spanou added to her already-impressive resume this past summer, starring on the international stage. Representing her native Greece at the U20 European Championship, the rising junior averaged 20.4 points and 12.6 rebounds per contest over an eight-game sample. Her efforts earned her the tournament’s MVP award and helped Team Greece to a 7-1 record.
With Saint Francis in need, Williams stepped up as a sophomore and became the team’s go-to player. Going into last season the Flash were forced to cope with the loss of 2011 NEC Player of the Year Sam Leach (graduation) and 2011 NEC Tournament MVP Brittany Lilley (season-ending injury). The 6-foot Williams helped reduce the impact of those deductions by embarking on a breakout season that ended with her being ranked amongst the NEC’s Top 5 in both scoring (3rd) and rebounding (5th). The versatile forward averaged 16.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per contest. Williams displayed her ability to shoot from the outside, take the ball to the goal and do damage down-low, while shooting 46.3 percent from the field (9th in the NEC). "Big Game" experience is also part of her resume. She averaged 8.6 points and 6.2 boards per contest as a rookie during Saint Francis’ 2011 NEC championship run.
Not even two knee surgeries could prevent Barron from attaining all-NEC status. The do-it-all guard returned to the Bobcats’ lineup last fall and put together one of the best campaigns in the program’s Division I history. The 5-foot-7 Barron ranked second amongst NCAA Division I leaders in steals per game (4.2) last year. Her team-leading 16.5 points per game ranked fifth amongst the NEC’s best and her 58 three-point makes were third-most in the conference. Spearheading Quinnipiac’s first 20-plus win season since 2008, Barron carried the Bobcats through its toughest, and most-successful, non-conference showing in program history. Eleven of Barron’s 133 steals came during the Bobcats’ triumphant run through the St. Mary’s Thanksgiving Classic as Quinnipiac topped Big Ten member Minnesota and event host St. Mary’s.
Washington wasted no time in showing off her innate scoring ability as a freshman. The 5-foot-9 guard led Sacred Heart in scoring in each of her first two collegiate contests en-route to averaging the highest points-per-game output (12.5) amongst all NEC rookies during the 2011-12 campaign. One of the reasons why Washington was able to produce the conference’s 11th-best scoring average was her ability to "dial long distance." The Mesa, AZ product sunk 44 three-pointers during Sacred Heart’s NEC championship season and her .458 three-point field goal percentage was a league best. The sharp-shooting Washington, who converted at an .844 clip from the free throw line, totaled six 20-point performances last winter. Although none of those 20-point games came in the postseason, she averaged 14.7 points per contest over the Pioneers’ three NEC Tournament victories. Washington’s remarkable rookie campaign also included a bout with Pneumonia, which forced her to miss two games and limited her in two others.