INDIANAPOLIS -- Four-time defending Horizon League champion Milwaukee has been joined on top of the women’s soccer preseason poll for the first time in 13 years, as the League’s coaches voted Detroit into a tie. The Panthers collected five of the eight available first-place votes, finishing with 44 points, while the Titans received the remaining three. Coaches were not allowed to vote for their own squad.
Milwaukee will be after its 13th consecutive season with at least a share of the Horizon League regular-season crown, but will have a markedly different look in 2012. Detroit, meanwhile, returns most of a team that finished second in the 2011 regular season.
The Panthers begin the 2012 season without the services of the all-time leading scorer in the Horizon League, Sarah Hagen, who is playing professionally for Bayern Munich. Under the direction of new head coach Greg Henschel, Milwaukee returns six starters from last season, including NSCAA all-region selections Jamie Forbes and Helen Steinhauser. A challenging schedule awaits Milwaukee, which will face four teams ranked in the NSCAA top 25. The Panthers are receiving votes in the poll.
Detroit returns its top five scorers - Abby McCollum, Kaitlyn Quarrell, Alyssa Riley, Sarah Dzuris and Rebekah Dornbos - along with goalkeeper Nora Abolins, a Second Team All-League selection last year. In the 20th year of the program, head coach Mike Lupenec will be trying to lead the Titans to their first League crown since 2004.
After placing third in the regular season last year, Valparaiso was voted into the same spot, collecting 35 points. The Crusaders will be led in the middle by two 2011 Second Team All-League selections, Louisa Desario and Rachel Hoaglin.
Wright State made a run to the championship game in 2011 from the No. 5 seed, and head coach Pat Ferguson will rely on a veteran-laden defense, led by three-year starter Lauren Patterson and junior keeper Brooke McCurdy. Defender Allie Metzler returns for the Raiders in 2012 after being named to the All-Newcomer Team.
Cleveland State and Loyola were tabbed to grab the last two spots in the Horizon League Tournament, finishing with 24 and 23 points, respectively. For the Vikings, junior Taylor Vidovic, a second team selection last year, returns to lead the offense after netting a team-high seven goals and 15 points. Senior Valerie Stahl anchors a Viking defense that allowed a school-record low 22 goals last season.
In Barry Bimbi’s second season with the Ramblers, he will rely on Second Team All-League selection Jessica Hubly and all-newcomer choice Moriah Schwarz to solidify the midfield while fellow all-newcomer pick Valerie Gonyo controls the back line.
Green Bay and Youngstown State rounded out the poll, receiving 12 and eight points, respectively.
The women’s soccer regular season begins on Friday, Aug. 17. The Horizon League Tournament will feature the top six teams in the League beginning on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at campus sites and continuing at the venue of the No. 1 seed Nov. 2-4.
2012 Women's Soccer Preseason Poll