San Antonio – St. Mary’s University was picked to win the Heartland Conference Women’s Basketball Championship in a poll of league head coaches and sports information directors, it was announced on Monday.

The Rattlers, who won the 2008 Heartland Conference regular season and postseason championships, were a unanimous pick to defend their title this season. St. Mary’s won a school record 24 straight games during the 2007-2008 season on their way to a 25-5 overall record. They won the Heartland Conference regular season and tournament titles and advanced to the NCAA South Central Region Tournament for the second time in three years.

St. Mary’s led the way in voting with 72 points, followed by the University of the Incarnate Word with 60 points. St. Edward’s University was third with 56 points and the University of Texas of the Permian Basin with 50 points. Newman University was picked fifth with 39 points, Oklahoma Panhandle State University was sixth with 35 points, Texas A&M International University was seventh with 34 points and Lincoln University was eighth with 26 points.

Two Rattlers were named preseason All-Heartland Conference. Natalie Gamez (Sr., San Antonio) was the top vote-getter to earn preseason all-conference honors for the second straight season. Gamez was a first team All-Heartland Conference pick and Heartland Conference Player of the Year for the 2007-2008 season. Rachel Jones (Sr., Little Rock, Ark.) was named preseason All-Heartland Conference after earning second team All-Heartland honors last season.

St. Mary’s returns four of five starters from the 2007-2008 team. The Rattlers will open the 2008-2009 season on Saturday, Nov. 15, when they play Angelo State University at the University of the Incarnate Word Basketball Tournament.

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