Despite having their run of three consecutive St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) Tournament Championships stopped last fall, Webster University remains the conference favorites in the 2016 Women's Soccer Preseason Poll according to league coaches. This is the fourth consecutive year the Gorloks have claimed the top spot in the preseason poll, totaling 78 points this year with eight first-place votes.
Webster won their third consecutive SLIAC regular season title last year, going 8-1 in conference play and 13-5-1 overall. The Gorloks, coached by Luigi Scire, return 17 players including 10 of their starters from last year's squad. Heading up the list of returnees is forward Kayla Dye. Dye, a junior, was the 2014 SLIAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year and tallied six goals and five assists last season; finishing third on the team. Joining Dye up front is last year's leading scorer on the team (12 goals and 29 points), sophomore Chelsea Noser. The midfield is strong with junior Brianna Pagan (First Team All-Conference) and sophomore Carolyn Ries (Second Team All-Conference). The Gorloks allowed a league low 21 goals last season and will once again count on a strong defense to control their games. They will need to replace last year's Co-Defensive Player of the Year, Ashley Mess, but return a pair of All-Conference defenders in junior Elena Bloma and senior Jodi Kaiping to fill that role. The final piece of the defense will see sophomore Alisa Coralic back in net after starting eight games and holding a 0.84 goals-against average last fall.
Last year's SLIAC Tournament Champion, Westminster College tied for second in the poll; receiving 67 total points and one first-place vote. Westminster went 10-7-2 overall last season and 7-2 in conference play. Head Coach Jen Dyson will rely on a strong defensive effort from her Blue Jays. Westminster held opponents to just 26 goals last season while ranking fourth in the league in goals scored with 51. Top returners include a pair of juniors in Abby Rockers and Morgan Henry. Rockers, a defender, earned First Team All-Conference honors last year and was named the Co-Defensive Player of the Year for the second consecutive season. Henry, a midfielder, led the Blue Jays with 12 goals last season and earned First Team All-Conference honors. Westminster also brings back three year starter in net, Ellen Woolsey.
Spalding University, who made their first ever conference tournament appearance last fall, tied for second in the poll and will look to continue the program's rise. Spalding went 10-5-2 overall and 7-1-1 in the SLIAC last fall under head coach Shilo Rayburn. The Golden Eagles return 10 starters and 18 players from last year's squad including two-time SLIAC Offensive Player of the Year Dee Dee Sliter. Sliter, a senior forward, finished with 17 goals and 37 points last year while also earning All-Region honors. Joining Sliter up top is junior forward Baylee Tabler (eight goals and four assists). Madison Ratchford, a junior midfielder, earned Second Team All-Conference honors last year and will once again help the team transition from defense to offense this year. On the back line will be senior Demi West, a three-time All-Conference performer. Among top newcomers joining the squad will be midfielders Courtney Anderson and Abby McGrimsey as well as forward Kelsie Huffman.
The fourth team from last year's SLIAC Tournament is also the fourth team on this year's poll, Greenville College. Greenville received 60 total points and picked up the final first-place vote from the coaches in this year's poll. The Panthers went 9-8-3 overall and finished 6-3 in conference play last season. Head Coach Jeff Wardlaw returns six starters and 18 players from last year's team but will have to overcome three big losses. The Panthers graduated top scorer Kieley Leach and lost three-time All-Conference performer Tymber Gabbert to an off-season injury and All-Conference midfielder Barbara Nigro. Despite those losses the Panthers still return a strong core highlighted by 2015 Newcomer of the Year Dani Pearce. Pearce, a sophomore midfielder, earned Second Team All-Conference honors as a true freshman; recording 10 goals and 10 assists. Junior goalie Hope Brakenhoff, a First Team All-Conference performer, is also back as is sophomore defender Corinne Petrunich, a Third Team All-Conference performer. Greenville welcomes an incoming class that includes freshmen Marjory Coates, Caitlin McLoughlin, and Bre Thomas.
Fontbonne University was chosen fifth in the poll, receiving 49 total points. The Griffins and head coach Brian Hoener return seven starters and 13 players from last year's team that went 9-9-1 overall and 5-3-1 in the conference. The Griffins will be looking to return to the SLIAC Tournament after missing the field for the first time in eight years. Fontbonne will look to the experience of seniors Taylor Pulvirenti and Natalie Sipole. Pulvirenti, a goalie, earned Second Team All-Conference honors after starting all 19 games for the Griffins last year and finishing with 63 saves and five shutouts. Sipole, a midfielder, tallied one goal and three assists last year to earn First Team All-Conference honors. Also back is junior defender Maddie Redohl. The Griffins will have to replace a pair of All-Conference players in Lyndsey Godier and Paige Pfankuch as well as three year starter Kelly Hobbs. Among those battling for playing time will be junior newcomers Meredith Wendt and Anna Whitaker.
Principia College finished sixth in the poll with 45 total points. The Panthers went 6-10-2 overall last season, going 4-3-2 in conference action. Principia, coached by Jess Semnacher, returns five starters from last year's team that finished sixth in the standings. Among the starters returning are a quartet of All-Conference performers, highlighted by Second Team honorees Madison Arens and Rachel Perea. Arens, a sophomore midfielder, led the team in scoring last year with seven goals and 16 total points. Perea, a senior defender and also a member of the Panthers women's basketball team, is one of the more athletic players in the league and tallied three goals and one assist from her back position. Clarice Bruch, a junior defender, and Emelie Fredrikson, a junior midfielder, are also back after picking up Third Team honors last season. Joining the roster are freshmen Chrissy Fredrikson, Annika Friborg, and Hannah Hathaway.
Blackburn College finished in the seventh spot on the poll with 29 total points. The Beavers, coached by Tim Gould, went 7-11 overall and 3-6 in the conference last season. They return eight starters including their top three leading scorers. Heading up the returners is sophomore forward Christin Miller, who netted 14 goals last season. Meghan Sykora, a junior forward, added eight goals and six assists and will team with sophomore midfielder Adriana Darow to round out the Beavers' scoring punch. Senior Annaliese Darow will provide leadership and the Beavers welcome back sophomore defender Jasmine Tillman who was injured early last season. Among newcomers expected to battle for playing time are freshmen Morgan Adams, Annie Gantt, and Maya March.
MacMurray College was chosen eighth in the poll with 27 total points. The Highlanders bring back eight starters from last year's team that finished 5-12 overall and 2-7 in the SLIAC. Head Coach Andrew Lenhardt will rely on junior forward Lyndi Sacarro to lead the team again this fall. Sacarro tallied 17 goals and led the conference with 40 points last season while earning Second Team All-Conference honors. Sophomores Midfielder Stephany Leon and defender Emily Plyes are also back after gaining valuable starting experience last year. In net Sarah Macquire will look to take the reins after playing in 300 minutes last year and recording 24 saves. The Highlanders welcome in Erin Detter, Annahi Hernandez, and Emily Kolo to the roster.
Eureka College was picked ninth, receiving 17 total points. The Red Devils, coached by Dwain Barker, went 4-14-1 overall last season and 1-8 in conference action. They return six starters but among those departing are a trio of seniors that started over 40 games during their careers. Among those counted on to continue their development will be defenders Lexi Marselle and Mecayela Monroe. Monroe was second on the team in scoring last season with four goals and three assists while Marselle started 18 games. Also returning is senior Kalionna Mathews, a goalie, who played all 1700 minutes in net for the Red Devils last year, recording 189 saves. Newcomers Jamie Hedges, Karen Gonzalez, and Madison Tromp will be looked on to step in and make a contribution.
Iowa Wesleyan University rounds out the poll, totaling 11 points. The Tigers finished last year with an 0-15-1 record and will be under the direction of interim head coach Nicholas Stebbins. The Tigers featured just two seniors on last year's team and will again be a youthful squad. Cheyenne Neal led the way last season with four goals as a true freshman while Caitlin O'Neill, one of just six juniors last year, was the anchor in net; recording over 1000 minutes of action with 176 saves.
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