There's a lot new in and around the Hillsdale College women's basketball program for 2017-18. A new head coach, a new conference and a couple of new players with an impressive winning pedigree in their backgrounds.
Hillsdale College will compete in the Great Midwest Athletic Conference for the first time this year, and conference coaches picked the Chargers to finish seventh out of 13 programs in its new league, according to the preseason coach's poll, released by the conference office Thursday morning.
Seven different teams - Hillsdale included - received first-place votes in the poll, indicating the wide-open nature of competition in the G-MAC forecast for 2017-18. No program received more than three first-place votes among the seven getting them in the preseason poll.
Two-time defending regular season champion Ursuline was a narrow favorite in the voting, receiving 115 poll points and two first-place votes. Cedarville received the most first-place votes of any team in the poll (3) and was picked second with 109 points.
The Yellow Jackets were followed by Findlay (101), Ohio Dominican (99), defending conference tournament champion Malone (96), Walsh (94), and Hillsdale, who had 86 poll points.
Head coach Matt Fritsche enters his first season guiding the Charger program with plenty of experience to lean on. The team lost just two players and one starter to graduation from a year ago. Seniors Maddy Reed, Jessica De Gree and Allie Dittmer lead the returnees, while forward Makenna Ott and guard Allie Dewire enter their third seasons starting for Hillsdale.
A challenging non-conference slate of games awaits Hillsdale this season. The Chargers open the 2017-18 season Friday, Nov. 10 at Lewis, followed by a Nov. 12 matchup at the University of Indianapolis. The team's home opener occurs over Thanksgiving Weekend when it plays Wayne State on Saturday, Nov. 25.