With a 97-7 record and three Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular-season and tournament titles to its credit, the Alaska Anchorage women’s basketball team faces a new challenge as it approaches the 2017-18 season, attempting to blend seven newcomers with its five accomplished veteran returners.

Despite returning just one starter in Preseason All-GNAC junior guard Tara Thompson, the Seawolves face high expectations again, earning the favorite’s nod in the GNAC preseason coaches’ poll and premiering at No. 4 in the initial WBCA Div. II Top 25 poll, released Oct. 31.

One of two players remaining from UAA’s 2016 NCAA Runner-up squad, Thompson was the team’s second-leading scorer last year at 8.9 ppg, while leading the GNAC and ranking sixth nationally with a .436 three-point percentage.

Senior forward Shelby Cloninger, another Preseason All-GNAC honoree, averaged 8.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game in 2016-17, while junior center Hannah Wandersee put up 7.0 ppg, 4.1 rpg and shot .506 from the field, along with a team-high 24 blocks.

The Seawolves’ two backcourt returners are senior shooting guard Kaitlyn Hurley and sophomore point guard Yazmeen Goo. Hurley averaged 6.4 points and shot 39 percent from long range in 16 games last year, while Goo finished among the nation’s freshman leaders in both assists (4.1) and steals (1.7) per game.

Alongside the veterans, all seven active newcomers are expected to play significant roles, including impact transfers Rainey Kuykendall (Trinity Valley [Texas] CC) Kian McNair (Portland State), Sydni Stallworth (two-time JC All-American at Pima [Ariz.] CC) and Rodericka Ware (Academy of Art).

The three-woman freshman class is comprised of former Bay Area prep star Sala Langi (Pacific, Calif./Oceana HS) and local All-Cook Inlet Conference performers Nicole Pinckney (Chugiak) and Tennae Voliva (East Anchorage).

UAA opens the season Thursday with a game at NAIA foe Johnson & Wales in Charlotte, N.C. Tip-off is 3 p.m. ADT, with live video and live stats available.