Oct. 28, 2010
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Following a record-breaking season, UC Santa Barbara women's basketball player Mekia Valentine was picked as one of six Big West players to be on the conference's First Team in a preseason media vote revealed on Thursday.
UCSB, which reached the conference tournament's semifinals last year, was tabbed to finish fourth in the preseason media poll despite receiving three first-place votes.
The team that won the conference's regular-season title last year, UC Davis, was chosen to finish first followed by Cal Poly, UC Riverside and the Gauchos. UCSB's three first-place votes were the third-most among all nine Big West schools, but not enough to elevate UCSB into a preseason top-three rank.
"This Gaucho basketball team has known since last spring that we are going to have to fight to work and earn our way back to the top of the Big West, so being picked fourth is not a surprise," said UCSB head coach Lindsay Gottlieb. "The top three teams deserve to be there until someone knocks them off, especially with the talent they have coming back. What I'm excited about is that we have a team that pushes to get better each day; not because a poll came out today, but because they set goals last spring."
Valentine, a 6-foot-4 center from Greensboro, N.C., was a Second-Team All-Big West pick last season after setting a school record for blocked shots and averaging 12.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game. Valentine's 4.0 blocks per game ranked her third in the nation last season.
"Mekia is a dynamic force who affects the game on both ends of the floor," Gottlieb said. "She certainly is a key piece to our puzzle. Our aim is to be a more complete team this year, so Mekia's presence is felt, but teams also have to pick their poison a bit in terms of how to guard us."
UCSB also returns Second-Team All-Big West selection Emilie Johnson, who led the Gauchos in scoring with 13.8 points per game last season. The Gauchos also return five letterwinners and add transfers Kelsey Adrian and Angelei Aguirre to this year's squad.
The Gauchos begin with an exhibition on Thursday, Nov. 4 vs. Cal State Monterey Bay at 7 p.m. in the Thunderdome. Season tickets are still available by calling (805) 893-UCSB or by clicking here.
Gaucho Fund members also have access to the revamped Founders Room which includes pregame and halftime hospitality and free parking! With soft drinks, beer, wine, food and networking available each game, fans won't want to miss out.
The One Donation Is Gold system allows Gaucho Fund donors access to premium seating at all venues with their donation to support UCSB student-athletes.
Media Poll Results
1. UC Davis (16) 210
2. Cal Poly (4) 183
3. UC Riverside (2) 182
4. UC Santa Barbara (3) 164
5. Cal State Fullerton 113
6. UC Irvine 96
7. Long Beach State 84
8. Pacific 51
9. Cal State Northridge 42
( ) First-place votes
2010-11 Preseason All-Conference Team
Name School Position Yr.
Mikah Maly-Karros UC Irvine Forward Junior
Paige Mintun UC Davis Post Senior
Alyssa Morris UC Riverside Guard Senior
Megan Richardson Cal State Fullerton Guard Junior
Kristina Santiago Cal Poly Forward Senior
Mekia Valentine UC Santa Barbara Forward/Center Senior