A familiar team sits atop the 2015 St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SLIAC) Women's Soccer Preseason poll, Webster University. Webster is this year's favorites, receiving eight of ten first-place votes and totaling 80 points, marking the third consecutive year they are the preseason favorites as voted on by the league coaches.
Webster has gone undefeated in conference play in each of the last two years and won three straight SLIAC Tournaments. The Gorloks return six starters and 17 total players from last year's team that went 14-5-3 overall. Freshman sensation Kayla Dye is back for her sophomore year after garnering SLIAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year and Newcomer of the Year honors. Senior forward Lauren Pratt, six goals and eight assists, and sophomore midfielder Brianna Pagan, eight goals and two assists, also return after picking up First Team All-Conference honors last season. Lauren Nuelle, a junior midfielder, and Ashley Mess, a senior defender, will key the Gorlok defense that will need to replace two of their more experienced players; defender Amy Schield and goalkeeper Jessica Davis. Gorlok head coach Luigi Scire brings in several talented newcomers including freshmen Jen Laaksonen and Carolyn Ries as well as junior transfer Kelli Cardine.
Fontbonne University was chosen second in the poll, receiving the remaining two first-place votes and 71 total points. Fontbonne is coached by Brian Hoener, the 2014 SLIAC Coach of the Year, and return eight starters from last year's team that went 15-4-2 overall, tying the school record for wins in a season. The Griffins defense will be the focus once again after allowing a league low 13 goals last year. Senior Paige Pfankuch will not only anchor the back line but be looked upon to move up in attack after registering nine assists last year from her defensive position. A trio of midfielders will help in the transition from defense to offense: Kelly Hobbs, Natalie Sipole, and Lyndsey Godier. Hobbs led the team in scoring last year with 10 goals and seven assists while Sipole added one goal and three assists and Godier finished with four goals and three assists.
Principia College was picked third with 62 total points after going 8-10-1 overall and 6-2-1 in the SLIAC last season. The Panthers are coached by Jess Semnacher and bring back seven starters and 13 total players. The Panthers will need to replace goalkeeper Kara Johnson, an All-Tournament team member, and Gabriela Martin, the team's leading scorer. They will look to sophomore Emelie Fredrikson, six goals and two assists, and senior Nadine Marczi, two goals and three assists, to pick up the slack. Junior defender Rachel Perea will anchor the back line. A pair of freshmen in Madison Arens and Merran Waller should see plenty of time on the field.
Westminster College finished fourth in the poll with 59 total points and bring back 10 starters from last year's squad that went 8-7-2 overall and 5-2-2 in conference play. The Blue Jays, coached by Jen Dyson, will lean on sophomore defender Abby Rockers, the 2014 SLIAC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, to continue to shut down opponents' attack. Senior forward Tayisah Pohtos, seven goals, and senior midfielder Eileen Koppy, five goals, will provide much of the scoring punch. A group of newcomers includes freshmen Gracie Koonce and Courtney Whitlock as well as sophomore Kaely Fitterling.
After finishing in fifth place the previous four years Spalding University will be looking to crack into the top four of the standings and make the SLIAC Tournament. The Golden Eagles were picked fifth in the preseason poll with 52 total points after going 7-9 overall and 5-4 in conference action last year. Head Coach Shilo Rayburn brings back 10 starters including the 2014 SLIAC Co-Offensive Player of the Year Dee Dee Sliter. Sliter tallied 16 goals and nine assists and teams with sophomore forward Baylee Tabler, 12 goals and five assists, to give Spalding a potent one-two offensive punch. Also returning are defenders Demi West and Alyssa Logan as well as midfielder Hannah Freytag. Spalding brings in sophomores Madison Ratchford and Shelby Laurie and freshman Ali Bumblis to add to the team depth.
Greenville College was picked sixth with 42 total points after going 5-11-4 overall and 3-3-3 in the conference last year. Head Coach Jeff Wardlaw brings back nine starters including their top goal scorer, top playmaker, and top goalkeeper. Senior forward Kieley Leach led the team last year with 13 goals while Kency Lopez had a team best seven assists. In net Hope Brakenhoff is back after starting all but one game last year. Also back are Second Team All-Conference members junior Tymber Gabbert and sophomore Barbara Nigro. Heading up a class of 17 newcomers are Danielle Pearce, Corinne Petrunich, and Elizabeth Pisarek.
Blackburn College placed seventh in the preseason poll, receiving 33 total points. The Beavers are coached by Tim Gould and finished last year with an 8-10-1 overall record and a 3-5-1 mark in the SLIAC. They bring back seven starters and 10 total players including leading scorer sophomore Meghan Sykora, 10 goals and eight assists. Filling out the starting lineup are returnees Gabriella Iglesias, Jourdin McFarland, Christy Hobbs, and Kristin Naples; all of whom started at least eight games last season. They will need to replace a pair of Second Team All-Conference performers, Alexis Richie and Nicole Kelly, but will look to a trio of newcomers: Ashley Alexander, Anneliese Darow, and Jasmine Tillman, to do just that.
MacMurray College was picked eighth in the preseason poll with 25 total points. The Highlanders will be coached by first year head coach Andrew Lenhardt, who takes over a program that went 3-13 overall and 2-7 in the SLIAC last season. The Highlanders return 10 starters including leading scorer senior Tiffany Hazelwonder, eight goals and one assist last year. Senior Carissa Vaughn is also back after recording one goal and a team best six assists as is senior Kelli Sellis. MacMurray will look to Lyndi Sacarro, a transfer, and freshman Emily Pyles to bring more offense to their attack.
Iowa Wesleyan University and Eureka College tied for ninth in the poll with 13 total points. Iowa Wesleyan finished last year 0-13-1 overall and are under the direction of new head coach Kyle Halfpop. The Tigers return four players from last year's team and bring in eight new players. Sophomore Carmen Ridgeway returns as does starting keeper Caitlin O'Neill.
Eureka College went 3-15 overall and 1-8 in the SLIAC last year under head coach Dwain Barker. The Red Devils return six players and bring in 11 newcomers. Leading the returnees is Faith Williams, four goals and one assist, and goalkeeper Kalionna Matthews, who played every minute in net for the team last year. The newcomer class includes two transfers and nine freshmen.