For the fifth consecutive year Webster University sits atop the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Women's Soccer Preseason Coaches Poll. The Gorloks captured their eight SLIAC Tournament title last fall and return seven starters from last year's team that went undefeated in conference play.
Webster received 80 total points in the poll, garnering eight first-place votes. Head Coach Luigi Scire brings back 21 total players from last season's team that finished 13-8 overall. Among the returnees are a pair of All-Region performers in Elena Bloma and Brianna Pagan. Bloma, a senior defender, was named the SLIAC Defensive Player of the Year after heading up a defense that recorded seven shutouts. Pagan, a senior midfielder, was named First Team All-Conference and earned SLIAC Tournament MVP honors, finishing with five goals and seven assists during the regular season. Junior midfielder Carolyn Ries, three goals and three assists in 2016, also returns after an All-Conference campaign last year. Adding to the strong backline with Bloma are All-Conference players Lilly Brauer, a sophomore, and Sydney Tedesco, a senior, who combined to start 41 of 42 games last year. Webster will need to replace the 2016 SLIAC Offensive Player of the Year, Allison Ferguson. If history repeats itself the Gorloks should once again have the players to step up for Ferguson's departure, as the team netted a conference best 72 goals last year with 19 players finding the back of the net.
Fontbonne University was picked second in the poll with 73 votes, including picking up the remaining two first-place votes. The Griffins went 12-7-2 last season, making the conference tournament championship game for the first time since 1996. Brian Hoener is entering his seventh year as head coach of the Griffins, leading the team to five conference tournament appearances. The Griffins return 16 players and seven starters from last year's team including a pair of All-Conference players. Senior defender Anna Whitaker earned First Team honors and is joined on the backline by senior Maddie Redohl. The duo helped record eight team shutouts last year, leading the conference. The defensive pairing will be relied on once again to lead the defense, as the Griffins will have to work in a new goalkeeper after the graduation of two-time All-Conference goalie Tayler Pulvirenti. The Griffins offense will turn to senior forwards Ellen Weaver and Meredith Wendt. Wendt was the most active player in the league, leading all conference players with 81 shots last year, while recording 14 goals and four assists and earning Second Team All-Conference honors. Weaver was third on the team with 22 points on nine goals and four assists. Among newcomers expected to contribute will be freshman forward Karlie Peth while freshman Mary Beers and sophomore Makayla Hussong will battle for minutes in net.
Westminster College picked up 61 total points in the poll to come in third place. The Blue Jays were 9-8 overall last season but won six of their final eight games to gain some momentum heading into the off-season. Head Coach Jen Dyson returns seven starters from last year's team but two of the players she will have to replace is four year starting goalie Ellen Woolsey, the program's all-time leader in wins, and two-time SLIAC Defensive Player of the Year, Abby Rockers. The Blue Jays will look to returnees Morgan Henry, Katherine Hammond, and Paige Townsend to lead the team. Henry, a senior midfielder, tallied five goals and one assist last season while Townsend was tied for second on the team with 17 points including a team high eight goals. Hammond, a defender, started all 17 games as a freshman and will be counted on to take more of a leadership role. Incoming freshman Alaina Allsbury should see key minutes on the field as well.
Spalding University finished fourth in the poll after receiving 60 total points. The Golden Eagles are led by head coach Shilo Rayburn, who guided the team to a 11-5-2 record last season and their second consecutive appearance in the SLIAC Tournament. Spalding returns 14 players and six starters. Despite a senior laden roster the Golden Eagles will have to replace key players at multiple positions. Dee Dee Sliter, a two-time SLIAC Offensive Player of the Year, Demi West, a three-time All-Conference player, and Kelsey Kaiser, a four year starting goalie, all made their marks on the program before graduating. Among the players that will be counted on to fill those roles will be senior forward Baylee Tabler, who led all conference players with 11 assists last season. An experienced midfield will look to control the game for the Golden Eagles with junior Lauren Locke and seniors Madison Ratchford and Shelby Lurie all returning. The defense will look to Alnee Tutson to continue her development after filling in as the anchor along the backline due to injuries last season. A trio of freshmen should play key roles for Spalding this fall with goalie Ashlee Wilson, forward Hannah Watson, and versatile Katrina Cooper expected to play meaningful minutes.
Greenville University received 48 total points in the poll. The Panthers were 9-10-1 overall last season and will look to shake off an unexpected down year in 2016. Head Coach Jeff Wardlaw returns 19 players and seven starters with the return of a key player to the lineup as well. After missing last season with a knee injury senior defender Tymber Gabbert returns to anchor the Panthers backline. Joining her on defense is junior Corinne Petrunich, who started 17 games last season while earning Third Team All-Conference honors. Midfielders Dani Pearce and Breanna Thomas will once again lead the Panthers attack. Thomas, a sophomore, led the team with 30 points, reaching double digits in both goal and assists with ten each. Pearce, a junior, finished second on the team with 29 points including nine goals. The Panthers will be set in net with the return of senior Hope Brakenhoff, Second Team All-Conference in 2016. Heading up the class of newcomers expected to contribute are Kate Arthur, Michelle Grotefendt, and Jade Taylor.
Principia College was picked sixth in the 2017 poll, with 43 points. The Panthers were just 6-11 overall last season but went 5-4 in conference play and will return 10 of their starters. Meagan Fleming has assumed head coaching duties for the program and will have a trio of All-Conference players to lean on and help replace the departure of leading scorer Rachel Perea. Senior Clarice Bruch will be looked to take on the top scoring role after finishing second on the team last year with 19 points and eight goals. Senior midfielders Emelie Fredrikson and Tanya Marquardt will be looked on to increase their outputs as well after finishing tied for third on the team with 13 points last season. Junior defender Madison Arens will head up the defense, starting 16 games last season and earning Second Team All-Conference honors. The Panthers bring in a pair of freshman that should push for time in midfielder Lily Bermel and forward Hannah Sipe.
Blackburn College was chosen seventh in the poll after picking up 32 total points. The Beavers were 5-13-1 overall last season and first-year head coach Sohaila Akhavein has seven starters returning. The Beavers will be looking to use the excitement of a new head coach and continue the program's building. The Beavers return sophomore Maya March, a versatile player that led the team with seven goals but also played over 300 minutes in net, earning Third Team All-Conference honors last season. Junior forward Christin Miller also returns after recording four goals and three assists last fall. Jessica Esper and Jasmine Tillman are also back after teaming up to make 32 starts last year. Newcomers include Erica Bechtold, Aliese Greenwood, and Bailey Lentz.
MacMurray College placed eighth in the poll with 26 points. The Highlanders are one of four programs in the conference to bring in a new head coach this season, welcoming in Gabe Attanasio. MacMurray was 8-9 overall last season. The Highlanders will be a young team with just four returning starters but a strong incoming class. Among the returners will be a pair of forwards that had success in finding the back of the net. Senior Lyndi Saccaro finished with 15 goals and 33 points last season while sophomore Erin Detter tallied 20 points last season including nine goals. Defensively the Highlanders will look to Emily Kolo and Brittany Rolland as well as goalkeeper Sarah Maguire. The incoming class includes Margaret Doss, Kayla Ennis, and Aleysia Mason Pavia.
Eureka College was picked ninth with 17 points. The Red Devils were 1-14-1 overall last season but gained valuable experience last year with seven starters coming back. Head Coach Dwain Barker will look to junior Macayela Monroe, who tied for the team lead with three goals, to increase her scoring output this fall. Jamie Hedges, a senior, is also back after recording one goal and one assist while starting 16 games last year. The Red Devils will have to replace leading scorer Rachel Pouliot and starting goalie Kalionna Matthews.
Rounding out the poll is Iowa Wesleyan University, receiving 10 total points. The Tigers bring in new head coach Chris Early. Coach Early has been on campus since January and has spent his time recruiting players with experience while filling out his roster. Two such players that will be looked on to lead the program are Grace Alongi and Courtney Mitchell. The Tigers went 0-16-1 overall last season.
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