SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Three-time defending Southern Conference regular-season champion Samford was picked to win the league again in 2017 in preseason voting by the SoCon’s 10 head coaches. The coaches also selected an 11-member preseason all-conference team in which Furman boasted a league-high four players while Samford and ETSU each have three.
Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own teams or players in the balloting.
Samford collected eight first-place votes and 81 points to distance itself from the rest of the field. Furman received one first-place vote and ETSU tied for second, totaling 67 points apiece. UNCG is slated to finish fourth in the poll with 56 points while Mercer came in fifth with 50 points. Chattanooga (40), Western Carolina (34), VMI (22), The Citadel (19) and Wofford (14), rounded out the poll.
After a 2016 season in which the Bulldogs posted an 8-1-0 league record and topped ESTU in the SoCon Championship, Todd Yelton was named SoCon Coach of the Year for the third consecutive time. The Bulldogs, who posted a 15-4-2 record overall in 2016 and fell to Florida State in the NCAA Tournament, lose six seniors from last year’s squad but return key starters in Jermaine Seoposenwe (F), Kaitlyn Orman (MF), and Anna Maddox (GK).
Seoposenwe, the reigning SoCon Player of the Year, enters her senior year as the league’s top vote-getter at forward coming off a season in which she scored 16 goals and handed out six assists. Orman was the top vote-getter for all midfielders after a season in which she started 15 of 21 games tallying three assists and a goal. Maddox served as the main goalkeeper in 2016 going 14-1 with four shutouts and 39 saves during her junior season.
Furman, which finished 13-5-1 overall (6-3-0 SoCon), returns nine starters from 2016 including Molly Dwyer (F), Treva Aycock (F), Rachael Shah (MF), and Sanon Williams (D) who were all voted to the preseason all-conference team. Dwyer led the Paladins with 10 goals and five assists while Aycock had a team-high eight assists and scored five goals on the year. Senior midfielder Rachel Shah netted five goals, handing out four assists and was named First Team All-SoCn. Sanon Williams served as an anchor for the Furman defense, starting all 19 games in her junior season.
ETSU enters the 2017 campaign after posting a 12-5-2 record (6-2-1 SoCon) in 2016 and fell to Samford 2-1 in the conference championship. Eleonora Goldoni (F), Isabel Hodgson (MF) and Emily McKerlie (D), all entering their junior year, were named to the preseason all-conference team. Goldoni led the Bucs with 15 goals in 2016 while dishing out three assists in 21 games. Hodgson ranked second on the team with five goals scored and posing a team-high nine assists. McKerlie started all 21 games, registering six assists from the back line.
UNCG went 7-11-2 overall and 4-4-1 in conference play before falling to Furman in the SoCon Championships last year. The Spartans look to rebound in 2017 behind defender Gabbi Charles and company. Charles appeared in all 20 games last year, helping lead the team to seven shutouts as a sophomore.
Mercer posted a 6-3-0 league record (10-9-1 overall) in 2016, matching the program record for wins in SoCon play. After losing leading scorer Maddie Clark to graduation, the Bears welcome 10 freshmen to the squad to join returners Logan Culver and Valeria Bermeo, who ranked second and fourth on the team in scoring.
The 2017 regular season begins on Friday, Aug. 18, with all 10 league teams in action. The 2017 SoCon Women’s Soccer Championship will include all 10 members, with first-round matches between seeds 7-10 on campus sites on Oct. 25, followed by quarterfinals on campus sites on Oct. 28 or 29. The semifinals and final will held on Samford’s campus in Birmingham, Ala., on Nov. 3 and 5, respectively.
2017 Women’s Soccer Preseason Coaches’ Poll
1. Samford (8) 81
T-2. Furman (1) 67
T-2. ETSU 67
4. UNCG 56
5. Mercer 50
6. Chattanooga 40
7. Western Carolina 34
8. VMI 22
9. The Citadel 19
10. Wofford 14
() denotes first-place votes
2017 Women’s Soccer Preseason All-Conference Team
F Jermaine Seoposenwe, Samford
F Eleonora Goldoni, ETSU
F Treva Aycock, Furman
F Molly Dwyer, Furman
MF Kaitlyn Orman, Samford
MF Isabel Hodgson, ETSU
MF Rachael Shah, Furman
D Emily McKerlie, ETSU
D Sanon Williams, Furman
D Gabbi Charles, UNCG
GK Anna Maddox, Samford