INDIANAPOLIS -- Defending Horizon League champion Valparaiso finds itself back atop the League, as the Crusaders were voted preseason favorite in the 2015 women’s soccer poll.
Valparaiso collected all nine first-place votes for which it was eligible, as coaches could not vote for their own team. With 81 points, the Crusaders outdistanced the runner-up, Oakland, by 18 points.
In 2014, the Crusaders won a school-record 14 matches and ran through the Horizon League slate unblemished en route to just the second NCAA Tournament berth in program history. Led by midfielder Rita Craven, a MAC Hermann Trophy watch list candidate, the Crusaders return eight starters and their top six scorers from last year’s team. Leading scorer April Cronin, the 2014 League Tournament MVP, brings back her nine goals and 20 points.
After taking third last year in the League, Oakland garnered the other first-place vote in finishing second. In 2015, the Golden Grizzlies will mix in 10 newcomers along with 17 returnees led by All-Horizon League First-Team selection Alice Palmer who led the team in points (17), goals (7) and assists (3) while ranking tied for second in the league in goals.
A year after finishing as the tournament and regular-season runner-up, Detroit took third in the poll, narrowly placing behind Oakland with 60 points. The Titans will turn to defender Alyssa Lotito and midfielder Jennifer Borawski to continue Detroit’s success. Borawski has started 38 of Detroit’s 39 games over the last two campaigns, bringing eight career goals into her senior year.
After falling in the 10th round of penalties in last year’s tournament opening round, Cleveland State was selected fourth in the poll. The Vikings will rely on goalkeeper Sarah Wood, a 2014 second team All-League pick after notching 73 saves, and Vickie Havas, who enters the year second in career goals for CSU with 16.
In its first year as a Horizon League member, Northern Kentucky slotted into the middle the picks at fifth. The Norse will turn to the sophomore duo of Macy Hamblin and Jessica Frey in its foray into the Horizon. Hamblin earned 2014 Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year accolades and All-Atlantic Sun First Team and All-Freshman team nods, while Frey joined Hamblin on the All-Freshman team. The two were responsible for 31 of the team’s total 93 points last season while the freshman class alone registered 42.
Wright State was picked sixth in the poll, receiving 40 points. After watching former Raider Ini Umotong dress for Nigeria in the 2015 Women’s World Cup, WSU will look to Bryce Hueber and Ashley Gogolin. Gogolin helped lead a stingy Raider defense, starting 17 matches, while Hueber earned All-Freshman Team honors.
First-year head coach Kim Brandao leads a Green Bay squad picked seventh in the poll. Brandao inherits a team that enjoyed one of its best seasons in program history, winning 11 games and ending the season with 36 goals. Leading scorer Heidi Hartmann will return to lead the Phoenix.
Milwaukee, Youngstown State and UIC rounded out the poll. The Panthers will turn to Cassidy Blanchard, an all-freshman team pick last year. YSU will look to Kathy Baquero up front, while UIC will rely upon Kelly Fritz, the 2014 League Goalkeeper of the Year, in net.
The women’s soccer regular season begins on Friday, Aug. 21. The Horizon League Tournament will feature the top six teams in the League beginning on Monday, Nov. 2 at campus sites and continuing at the venue of the No. 1 seed Nov. 5-7. All tournament matches will be carried live on ESPN3.
2015 PRESEASON VOTING
|School (1st-place votes)||Points|
About the Horizon League The Horizon League is an NCAA Division I athletics conference comprised of 10 member institutions located throughout the Midwest’s major metropolitan cities. Headquartered in Indianapolis, the League and its members strive to be highly competitive athletically while committing to the total development of its student-athletes and creating a lasting impact on campus and in the community.