Around the American: The women’s contenders

USF forward Maria Jespersen drives past a Temple defender in the first half of the Bulls' 63-58 win over the Owls on Sunday night in the American semifinals at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville. USF will play UConn in the American Conference final on Monday night at 7 p.m.. (Jackson Haigis/The Daily Campus)

Even though UConn was tabbed first in the American Athletic Conference preseason polls, there are plenty of other contenders in the conference that are starting to flex their muscles.

USF was chosen to pick second in the AAC preseason poll. Last season, the Bulls reached the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in five seasons. They were 24-9 overall last season and 11-5 in conference play.

Coached by Jose Fernandez, who is in his 17th season at the helm, USF has produced greats such as Courtney Williams.

Returning for the Bulls this seasons is AAC freshman of the year from last season Tamara Henshaw and All-Conference first team members Kitija Laksa and Maria Jesperson.

Coached by former UConn women’s basketball assistant coach Tonya Cardoza, the Temple Owls were picked to finish third in the conference this season. Last season Cardoza was named the AAC Co-Coach of the Year along with UConn women’s basketball head coach Geno Auriemma.

Last season, the Owls were 24-8 overall and 13-3 in conference play.

In a huge blow to their season, Temple lost senior Alliya Butts to an ACL injury. She will be out for the entire 2017-18 season. Butts was named to the AAC All-Second Team last season.

Taking her place is senior Tanaya Atkinson, who was the 2017 AAC Sixth Player of the Year.

UCF was chosen as the fourth pick in the preseason AAC poll. Last season the Knights were 21-12 and 9-7 in conference play.

The Knights are bringing back Aliyah Gregory, a senior guard who was the first Knight to earn first-team All-American Honors in the conference. Last season, Gregory also became the 22nd Knight to score 1,000 career points.

UCF is coached by Katie Abrahamson-Henderson.


Mariana Dominguez is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at mariana.dominguez@uconn.edu.