SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Defending Southern Conference regular-season and tournament champion Furman was picked to win the league again in 2014 in preseason voting by the SoCon’s 10 head coaches. The coaches also selected an 11-member preseason all-conference team, with the Paladins leading the way with five selections.
Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams or players in the balloting.
Furman collected eight first-place votes and 80 total points in the balloting, with Samford coming in second with 71 points and grabbing a first-place vote. UNCG earned the final first-place vote, finishing third in the poll with 65 points. Wofford, which made the semifinals of the SoCon tournament for the first time in 11 years in 2013, totaled 48 points in the poll to finish fourth.
Furman went 17-4-2 overall in 2013, including an 8-1-1 mark to win its first regular-season title since 2003. The Paladins went on to win their first tournament title since 2007 to complete the title sweep as coach Andrew Burr earned SoCon Coach of the Year honors for the first time in his career.
Paladin forwards Carlie Couch and Stephanie DeVita, midfielder India Robinson, defender Catie Moore and keeper Rose Hull, who were all first-team all-conference selections last year, were preseason All-SoCon picks this year.
DeVita, the 2012 SoCon Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year, led the league with 39 points on a league-best 15 goals and nine assists in 2013. Couch was third in the SoCon with 29 points on 12 goals and five assists, earning SoCon Freshman of the Year honors of her own. Robinson led NCAA Division I with 17 assists in 2013, good for a tie for third-most in a single season in SoCon history.
On the defensive side of the ball, Moore helped Furman post a league-best 12 shutouts on the year. Hull was credited with seven of those, good for the third-best total in the league, and posted a 0.65 goals against average, the second-best mark in the SoCon. Hull enters her junior season with a career 0.63 GAA, tops in league history.
ETSU, returning to the league after spending the last nine years in the Atlantic Sun Conference, was the only other team to place multiple players on the preseason squad, as forward Sarah Zadrazil and defender Hannah Short took the honors. Zadrazil scored 27 points on eight goals and 11 assists last season, leading the A-Sun in assists and finishing fourth in scoring. Short, who appeared in just 13 of the Bucs’ 18 games last season, helped the team to five shutouts and scored 12 points on four goals and four assists.
Samford forward Malcanisha Kelley, Chattanooga midfielder Crystal Mackezyk, Wofford midfielder Maureen Buff and UNCG defender Georgia Brown round out the 11-member preseason team.
Mercer, another league newcomer from the A-Sun, finished fifth in the preseason poll with 47 points, just one point back of Wofford. Western Carolina took the sixth slot in the poll with 43 points, followed by ETSU (39), The Citadel (25), Chattanooga (23) and VMI (9). The Keydets, who were members of the SoCon from 1924-2003 before moving to the Big South Conference, will be competing in women’s soccer in the SoCon for the first time, as their program began competition in the fall of 2003, after VMI departed the league.
The 2014 regular season begins on Friday, Aug. 22, with all 10 league teams in action. The 2014 SoCon Women’s Soccer Championship will include all 10 members, with first-round matches between seeds 7-10 on campus sites on Oct. 29, followed by quarterfinals on campus sites on Nov. 1-2. The semifinals and final will be played at Western Carolina’s Catamount Athletic Complex in Cullowhee, N.C., on Nov. 7 and 9, respectively.
2014 Women’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. Furman (8) 80
2. Samford (1) 71
3. UNCG (1) 65
4. Wofford 48
5. Mercer 47
6. Western Carolina 43
7. ETSU 39
8. The Citadel 25
9. Chattanooga 23
10. VMI 9
() denotes first-place votes
2014 Women’s Soccer Preseason All-Conference Team
F Sarah Zadrazil, ETSU
F Carlie Couch, Furman
F Stephanie DeVita, Furman
F Malcanisha Kelley, Samford
MF India Robinson, Furman
MF Crystal Mackezyk, Chattanooga
MF Maureen Buff, Wofford
D Hannah Short, ETSU
D Catie Moore, Furman
D Georgia Brown, UNCG
GK Rose Hull, Furman