San Antonio – St. Mary’s University women’s basketball coach Jason Martens understands preseason rankings all too well.   An effective pat on the back for a job well done in the past, a high ranking serves to reward that past.

The downside?

“It puts a big old target on your back,” Martens said, laughing.

The Rattlers were handed that target with Thursday’s news that they have been voted as the top-ranked team in the Heartland Conference Preseason Poll.

The poll, released Thursday afternoon, was voted on by the conference’s coaches and sports information directors.

Senior forward Mallory Moeller (Geronimo, Texas) also was named to the Preseason All-Conference Team.

St. Mary’s received seven of eight first-place votes after advancing to the NCAA South Central Region Tournament for the third straight year last season.

“It’s one of those things that shows what we’ve done in the past,” Martens said of the ranking. “It’s a great honor that people think that highly of our program. Now we have to go out there and live up to those expectations with that big target on our back. We know we’re going to get everybody’s best shot every time we step on the floor.”

Last season, Moeller averaged 5.3 points and 4.0 rebounds over 21 games, five of which she started.

As a team, the Rattlers won their second straight Heartland Conference Tournament title last season en route to a 22-8 campaign. St. Mary’s 22 victories marked the third straight season it had won 20-plus games, achieving the feat for just the second time in school history.

St. Mary’s returns 10 players from last year’s team, including four starters.

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