Western Women begin defense of national title with #1 ranking

vikings_logoBELLINGHAM, 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.

coverviks-champs_cover

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

Rank School Prev. 2016 W-L-T
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
4 Kutztown University 4 20-5-0
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
12 Adelphi University 12 16-4-1
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
16 Barry University 16 11-4-2
17 Saint Leo University 17 13-4-1
18 LIU Post 18 15-4-2
19 Minnesota State University-Mankato 19 16-3-3
20 East Stroudsburg University 20 16-5-2
21 Limestone College 22 18-2-0
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
Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s