Sam Houston State has been tabbed to finish fourth in the 2012 Southland Conference women’s soccer race according to the annual preseason poll of the league’s head coaches.
Defending champion Stephen F. Austin is the coaches’ choice for the top spot in 2012. Lamar and Southeastern Louisiana were picked second and third ahead of Sam Houston State.
Oral Roberts, the newest member of the Southland, is the number five choice of the head coaches followed by Northwestern State, McNeese State, Central Arkansas and Nicholls State.
SFA is coming off a season in which the Jacks posted a perfect 9-0-0 conference record and finished 15-3-1 overall, which tied for the most wins in school history. The team returns 10 starters including midfielder Kylie Louw, who set a conference record with 14 assists. The two-time conference player of the year spent the summer representing South Africa in the Olympics.
Lamar returns eight starters, including junior defender Amber Thornhill who anchors a defense that notched three shutouts and allowed only 0.78 goals per game in conference play.
Southeastern Louisiana returns nine starters from last year’s team in addition to senior goalkeeper Lacey Bockhaus, who missed the 2011 season.
Sam Houston State returns all 11 starters to a team that reached the semifinals of the conference tournament. Sam Houston finished the 2011 season with a 9-11-2 overall record and a mark of 4-5-0 in league play, which placed sixth in the final standings. Junior forward Tricia Mallory headlines the Bearkats’ offense after leading the team in goals (eight) and assists (five) a season ago.
Oral Roberts welcomes back eight starters to a team that finished 7-10-2 overall last season. Coach Ryan Bush enters his fifth season at ORU and leads a team headlined by Jennifer Abernathy and Lauren Parks on the pitch. Abernathy and Parks both recorded two goals last season with Abernathy notching an assist.
Northwestern State returns 18 letterwinners and eight starters from a team that finished eighth a year ago with a 2-6-1 conference record. The Lady Demons will be under the new direction of George Van Linder, who enters his first season in Natchitoches.
McNeese State, host for the 2012 Southland post-season tournament, boasts seven starters returning, including junior midfielder Johna Germany, who led the team in assists (four) and was second in points (14) and goals (five) in 2011.
Central Arkansas is seeking to earn their first trip to the conference tournament after finishing last year with a 1-7-1 conference record. Nicholls State is coming off another historic season after matching a program-high six wins.
Sam Houston State opens regular season action with three home non-conference games. The Bearkats host Prairie View A&M Friday Aug. 17, Texas State Sunday Aug. 19 and North Texas Friday Aug. 24. All three matches kick off at 7 p.m.
The Southland Conference tournament will be held Nov. 1-4 at Cowgirl Field on the campus of McNeese State University in Lake Charles, La. The championship match will be televised on the Southland Conference Television Network, available live on more than 20 affiliates across the league's four-state region. In addition, all games of the tournament will be streamed live on the new Southland Conference Digital Network, available at southland.org and on the league’s iPhone and Android mobile and tablet apps.
1. Stephen F. Austin (8) 64
2. Lamar (1) 52
3. Southeastern Louisiana 44
4. Sam Houston State 41
5. Oral Roberts 36
6. Northwestern State 31
7. McNeese State 30
8. Central Arkansas 16
9. Nicholls State 10