BELLINGHAM, WA— (school release) The defending national champion Western Washington University women’s soccer team has been ranked No. 1 nationally by the United Soccer Coaches Division II preseason poll, announced Thursday by the organization.
The top-ranked Vikings went 24-0-1 last season en route to winning the NCAA Division II National Championship with a 3-2 victory over three-time defending champion Grand Valley State University in the national championship game. WWU carries a Great Northwest Athletic Conference record 24-game win streak into the 2017 season after winning 24 consecutive games following a season-opening tie against Sonoma State last year. The Vikings also won a record fifth consecutive GNAC regular-season championship with a 12-0-0 mark in conference play last year before winning their third GNAC Tournament title.
After opening the 2016 season ranked No. 3 by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA), WWU took over the No. 1 spot in the poll for the first time in program history on Oct. 11 and remained the top-ranked team for the remainder of the season. The NSCAA recently unveiled an organization name change on Aug. 2, a day ahead of releasing the 2017 preseason polls, and is now called United Soccer Coaches.
WWU is the lone GNAC school ranked in the preseason top 25 while Central Washington University is listed among those outside the top 25 but receiving votes. The Vikings are followed in the preseason poll by fellow 2016 NCAA II Final Four participants Grand Valley State at No. 2, Columbus State University at No. 3 and Kutztown University at No. 4.
The Vikings will play a trio of exhibition matches prior to officially beginning the 2017 season at Notre Dame de Namur on Aug. 31. WWU hosts Fraser Valley at Harrington Field in Bellingham on Aug. 17 at 5 pm for an exhibition contest before continuing the preseason schedule at British Columbia (Aug. 22) and Trinity Western (Aug. 24). The Vikings first official home game of the season will be Sept. 16 at 4 pm against Western Oregon University.
Head coach Travis Connell enters his 15th season leading the Vikings with a record of 202-64-26 (.736), recently claiming his 200th career victory with a win over Colorado Mines in the NCAA Tournament quarterfinal round last season. Over the last five seasons WWU is 100-9-7 (.892), which ranks as the second-best mark in NCAA Division II over that stretch behind only Grand Valley State (112-7-8/.913). Led by Connell, the WWU coaching staff was named the NSCAA Division II National Staff of the Year last season.
WWU lost five seniors and six total letter winners from the 2016 season, but returns seven starters and 18 letter winners. Among the returners are 2016 NSCAA National Player of the Year and First Team All-American Sierra Shugarts (Sr., D, Federal Way, WA/Decatur), NSCAA Second Team All-American Emily Webster (Sr., MF, Bellingham, WA/Sehome), NSCAA Third Team All-American Ashley Homer (Sr., GK, Puyallup, WA/College of Saint Rose) and Gabriela Pelogi (Jr., F, Federal Way, WA), the 2016 team leader in points and goals.
The complete United Soccer Coaches preseason poll is as follows:
|United Soccer Coaches NCAA Division II
Women’s National Preseason Ranking
|1||Western Washington University||1||24-0-1|
|2||Grand Valley State University||2||23-2-1|
|3||Columbus State University||3||21-3-0|
|5||University of Central Missouri||5||21-2-0|
|6||Colorado School of Mines||6||20-3-1|
|7||University of Bridgeport||7||18-4-0|
|8||University of West Florida||8||19-5-0|
|9||West Chester University||9||19-1-1|
|10||University of California-San Diego||10||19-3-0|
|11||Truman State University||11||15-2-4|
|13||University of North Georgia||13||15-3-3|
|14||Fort Hays State University||14||15-5-3|
|15||Texas A&M University-Commerce||15||15-6-1|
|17||Saint Leo University||17||13-4-1|
|19||Minnesota State University-Mankato||19||16-3-3|
|20||East Stroudsburg University||20||16-5-2|
|22||Sonoma State University||23||12-3-3|
|23||St. Edward’s University||24||15-1-3|
|24||University of Charleston||25||15-4-0|
|25||Carson Newman University||RV||17-4-1|
|Also receiving votes: Rockhurst University, University of Central Oklahoma, Azusa Pacific University, Central Washington University, Nova Southeastern University, Midwestern State University, Colorado State University-Pueblo, McKendree University, Minot State University, Rollins College, University of Missouri-St. Louis|