NICEVILLE, Fla. (WMBB) – The defending NJCAA Women’s Basketball Champions, Northwest Florida State, returns some key talent and enters as the No. 1 ranked team in the nation.

The Lady Raiders have won two of the last three NJCAA Championships and return a handful of players who played significant minutes in the national tournament.

Among the returners is Destiney McPhaul, who earned All-Panhandle Conference and All-NJCAA Tournament honors as a freshman.

Reigning NJCAA Coach of the Year, Bart Walker said his team will have a massive target on their back from the season’s opening tip-off.

“If you get that number, you’ve got a target,” Walker said. “And I feel like it’s an honor and a privilege that people have that much respect to put us there to start the season. But if you do the work and be prepared and really get into the details that you need to do, you’re going to be competitive.”

NWF has become one of only six Division One NJCAA women’s programs nationwide to win more than one national championship.

Coach Walker said he hopes to continue adding such banners to the rafters of Raider Arena.

“Every coach wants to leave some kind of legacy, and obviously success winning creates that,” Walker said. “But yeah, when we look up and in the in the top of the arena, we’ve got a lot of state championships and stuff like that, but we’d like to have a couple more of those big banners in there.”

The top-ranked Lady Raiders will open their season on Friday, November 3, facing Salt Lake Community College at Gulf Coast State College in Panama City.