ST. LOUIS - The Principia College women's soccer team, under the guidance of first-year head coach Jess Semnacher, has been chosen by the league coaches to rank first this season in the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) standings. The Panthers received a total of 65 points and five first place votes in the pre-season coaches poll.
The Panthers will be strong both up front and in the backfield and will be led by three returning All-Conference players. Last season's SLIAC Player of the Year and First Team All-SLIAC honoree Cristina Post returns in the backfield, but look for her to be reckoned with on the attack. The junior finished the 2010 season with one goal and a team second-best 10 assists. Two-time player of the year and the 2010 SLIAC Tournament MVP Alicia Girbes-Pierce will be the player to stop on offense. Girbes-Pierce, a senior, recorded a team-best 16 goals and 12 assists last season. Another senior, Lauren Wienecke, returns as an anchor on the Panthers defense. She was a First Team All-SLIAC honoree and helped Principia to record nine shutouts last season and a perfect 8-0-0 record in conference play.
Greenville College and Webster University each received two first place votes in the pre-season poll, but Greenville came out ranked second with 63 points, while Webster was right behind with 58 points.
Greenville battled for the tournament championship in 2010 and finished the season with a 14-7-2 record overall and 6-2 in conference play. Head coach Brian McMahon will be looking toward two of his returning midfielders, Rachel Irwin and Maureen Murphy, to lead the way for the Panthers. Both were First Team All-SLIAC selections last season, while Murphy was also named the 2010 SLIAC Newcomer of the Year. Together they combined for 16 goals and 15 assists last season, and Irwin also earned All-Tournament honors.
Webster has captured four SLIAC Tournament titles in the past six years, and the Gorloks will be looking to get back on top. Head coach Luigi Scire lost a talented class to graduation, but he does return senior defender Izzy Sherfy, who will anchor a stellar Webster defense. He'll also be looking to senior, midfielder Morgan Milfeld to step up and take on more of the scoring load that was lost. Milfeld recorded seven goals and six assists in 2010.
Look for Fontbonne University and Westminster College (Mo.) to battle in the middle of the pack, but don't count any one team out of the race for the conference title. Here's a look at the remainder of the poll...
2011 SLIAC Women's Soccer
Pre-Season Coaches' Poll
1 - Principia (5)
2 - Greenville (2)
3 - Webster (2)
4 - Fontbonne
5 - Westminster
6 - Blackburn
8 - Spalding
9 - MacMurray