Indianapolis -- Defending Horizon League champion Oakland was voted preseason favorite in the 2016 women’s soccer poll.
Oakland and runner-up Milwaukee earned four first-place votes, respectively. With 72 points the Golden Grizzlies edged out the Panthers by one point.
In 2015, Oakland earned its first Horizon League title outlasting Wright State in overtime to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Golden Grizzlies return freshman goalkeeper Emily Zweng who recorded 42 saves and eight shutouts last season. Also returning is leading scorer Alice Palmer who received First Team All-League Honors.
After an 8-0-1 League record, Milwaukee earned its 15th regular-season title in the past 16 years. The Panthers look to rely on Defensive Player of the Year Cassidy Blanchard who was a force for the defensive backline that led the conference with a 0.69 goals-against average and nine shutouts.
Finishing its first season in the League with a school best 11-5-2 overall record, Northern Kentucky garnered the other two first-place votes, finishing third in the poll. The Norse return Player of the Year and Offensive Player of the Year Macy Hamblin and First Team All-League Jessica Frey who led the team in goals and assists. Also returning is goalkeeper Brooke Shocker who recorded six shutouts on the year.
Valparaiso and Wright State collected 57 points each to tie for the fourth place spot in the poll. The Crusaders welcome back forward April Cronin who led the team with seven goals and 17 points during the 2015 season and found a spot on the First Team All-League for the second season in-a-row. After making a run during the tournament, Wright State fell to Oakland in overtime during the championship game. The Raiders return Niki Romero who led the defensive efforts that gave up only 17 goals in 19 games.
After falling to Northern Kentucky in the tournament opener, Cleveland State collected 41 points to claim the sixth place spot. The Vikings return Kaila Sargema who notched three game-winning goals out of a total of 6 goals on the season.Taking seventh place in the poll is Detroit. The Titans return key members in Anna Mindling and Phylisha Drayton who were two of the top three point scorers for the team.
UIC, Green Bay and Youngstown State rounded out the poll. The Flames will turn to Kelly Fritz, who earned back-to-back Goalkeeper of the Year honors in her first two seasons. The Phoenix will be led by senior Katie Schulz, as they return 17 players from the 2015 season. The Penguins begin 2016 under the leadership of new head coach Fabio Boateng.
The women’s soccer regular season begins on Friday, August 19. The Horizon League Championship will feature the top six teams in the League beginning on Monday, Oct. 31 at campus sites and continuing at the venue of the No. 1 seed Nov. 3-5.
2016 PRESEASON VOTING
School (1st-place votes) Points
1. Oakland (4) 72
2. Milwaukee (4) 71
3. Northern Kentucky (2) 64
4. Valparaiso 57
4. Wright State 57
6 Cleveland State 41
7. Detroit 35
8. UIC 25
9. Green Bay 15
10. Youngstown State 13