Webster University has been picked as the preseason favorites in women’s soccer for the 2013 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, garnering 80 points and eight first-place votes as voted on by the SLIAC Women’s Soccer coaches.
Webster, who finished in a three-way tie during the regular season last year, was the clear favorite this preseason as they return all 11 starters from last year’s squad. Webster finished 2012 with a 16-6 overall record and went 7-1-1 in the SLIAC, advancing to the NCAA Division III National Tournament. Returning is senior midfielder Ally Nikolous who earned All-Region and All-Conference honors as well as being named the SLIAC Tournament MVP in helping the Gorloks to a Conference Championship. A pair of returning First Team All-Conference members in junior defender Amy Schield and junior goalkeeper Jessa Davis as well as a pair of Second Team All-Conference members in senior defender Kristen Muehlenfeld and sophomore Lauren Pratt give the Gorloks plenty of experience on the field. Webster also brings in a pair of freshmen in forward Shelby Simmons and midfielder Lauren Nuelle as well as a Division I transfer, junior midfielder Lindsay Adshade.
Principia College was picked second in the poll with 69 points, including one first-place vote. Principia, who tied for the regular season title last year, finished 2012 with a 10-7-1 overall record and advancing to the SLIAC Tournament. The Panthers will look to midfielders Hayley McWilliams and Gabby Martin and forward Kenzie Keller to offset the loss of SLIAC Player of the Year Rachel Publicover. McWilliams, a senior, was named First Team All-Conference last season after recording four goals and five assists. Martin, a sophomore, and Keller, a junior, each notched four goals for the Panthers last season. Carlie Snaderude, a senior defender, and two freshmen in Rachel Perea and Claire Horton will anchor the defense.
After finishing fourth in the regular season standings last year Greenville College was picked to finish third in the preseason poll. Greenville was 11-9 overall last year and went 5-3 in conference play. The Panthers return 15 players, including six starters and will be led by a pair of returning All-Conference players. Kelsey Panzau, a senior midfielder, was named Second Team after recording five goals and two assists while Emily Wright, named Third Team, started all 20 games as a defender. After an unexpected loss of All-Conference player Natalie Henneberry, the Panthers will hope newcomers Tymber Gabbertt and Maddy Dykes as well as other returnees can provide some additional support on the offensive attack.
Fontbonne University, who was picked fourth in the preseason last year before tying for first place in the regular season, is hoping for a repeat performance this year. The Griffins were again picked fourth this preseason receiving 61 points. Fontbonne is led by last year’s SLIAC Coach of the Year, Brian Hoener, and is coming off a 10-9 overall record. The Griffins return seven starters and 12 players, highlighted by a trio of First Team All-Conference performers in Kelly Lange, Ava Johnson and Erica Kaiping. Lange, a senior midfielder, notched five goals and four assists while Kaiping, a senior forward, led the team in scoring with nine goals. Johnson, a senior defender, and sophomore defender Paige Pfankuch, named Second Team All-Conference, will hold down the back line for the team. Fontbonne also brings in a pair of freshmen in Kelly Hobbs and Savannah Davis as well as junior forward Kayla Thorper to provide depth.
Westminster College picked up 46 points and was picked to finish fifth in the SLIAC this year. The Blue Jays are coming off a 4-12 season in which they were 3-5 in conference play. They return 17 players and 10 starters from last year’s squad. Sophomore Eileen Koppy, who earned Second Team All-Conference honors, and senior back Katie Seyer, who was named Honorable Mention All-Conference, leads Westminster.
Spalding University finished just behind Westminster, receiving 44 points, and is picked to finish sixth. Spalding finished 9-8 last season under first year head coach Shilo Rayburn and return seven starters. Senior captain and midfielder Maddie Tonini is back as is a pair of experienced defenders in Amanda Weber and Kaleigh Hockenbury. Weber, a junior, recorded three assists last year while Hockenbury, a senior, will also serve as a team captain. Also back is sophomore striker Katie Ballard who led the team in scoring last season with seven goals and four assists. Headlining the newcomers is a pair of former All-Conference players that sat out last year in Baileigh Frantz and Katy Thomas.
Blackburn College received 30 points and is picked seventh this season after a 4-10-1 mark last year. The Beavers return 10 players including six starters and will be led by a strong upper class. Senior goalkeeper Shana Sewick is back after recording three shutouts last season and leading the conference in saves with 148. Also back are a trio of juniors in forward Alexis Richie, and midfielders Allison Guerra and Nique Byots. Blackburn hopes to shore up their defense with a pair of freshmen defenders in Christy Hobbs and Jourdin McFarland.
Iowa Wesleyan College, entering the SLIAC for the first season, received 19 points and is picked eighth in the conference. The Tigers were 6-11 last season under first year head coach Brocklon Chatman and return juniors Savanna Blair and Kristine Becks. Blair is their leading returning scorer with nine goals and five assists. Joining the team are freshmen defenders Cassie Lyons and Hannah Maledy.
Eureka College received 18 points in the poll and is picked ninth. The Red Devils return eight starters from last year’s team that finished 5-13 overall. Among their returners is Second Team All-Conference player Kesli Blankenship. Blankenship, a senior midfielder, led the conference in scoring last season with 13 goals. Joining her are sophomores Kayleigh Choma and Faith Williams as well as junior Rachel Leszcynski. The defense will be led by senior Liz Johnson and incoming freshman Emily Phillips.
MacMurray College rounds out the preseason poll, receiving 15 points, after going 3-16 last year. The Highlanders will be led by second year head coach Shane Taylor. Returning is senior Alexis Apodaca-Fresquez as well as three sophomores in Caroline Keppler, Jessie Aguire and Ashley Kendrick. Keppler led the team in scoring with six goals and three assists last year. The Highlanders will look to up their scoring punch this season with the addition of freshmen Tiffany Hazelwonder and Carrisa Vaughn.