Vikings, Cavaliers Top Tight Vote In Women’s Preseason Poll
The Vikings will look to win their fourth straight GNAC Championships title in 2018.
The Vikings will look to win their fourth straight GNAC Championships title in 2018.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

PORTLAND, Ore. – Coming off a third straight victory at the GNAC Championships, Western Washington enters the 2018 season atop the 2018 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Women’s Preseason Soccer Coaches Poll.

The Vikings received five first-place votes for a total of 77 points that placed them at the top of the poll. Concordia, last season’s regular-season champion, finished second in the voting with 74 points – the start of a close fight for the top of the table that should last all season long. Both the Cavaliers (No. 19) and Western Washington (No. 7) were recognized by United Soccer Coaches in the organization’s preseason Top-25 rankings.

Fresh off a third-place finish and an appearance in the GNAC Championships, Seattle Pacific was picked third with 63 points. Following is Simon Fraser, which returns eight starters from last year’s team that finished 7-9-0. Northwest Nazarene sits in fifth place with 42 points, followed by Central Washington (41 pts.), Montana State Billings (23 pts.), Western Oregon (20 pts.) and Saint Martin’s (14 pts.).

Western Washington went a near-perfect 18-2-0 in 2017, its only regular-season blemish coming on the last day of conference play against Concordia. The Vikings then exacted some revenge one week later with a win over the Cavaliers in the GNAC Championships title game, sealing the deal on a first-round bye in the Division II Women’s Soccer Championships.

After easing their way past Sonoma State in the team’s tournament opener, head coach Travis Connell’s side saw their season come to a close with a tight loss to UC San Diego in the West Regional Final.

Connell will have nine starters return from that club in their effort to defend the GNAC title and get back to the Division II Championships for a seventh consecutive season. Highlighting the group is GNAC Newcomer of the Year and GNAC Championships MVP Karli White, who finished last season with 10 goals and eight assists but may be sidelined in 2018 with an ankle injury. Joining the senior forward on Western Washington’s explosive offensive attack will be fellow senior Gabriela Pelogi. Pelogi scored 15 goals a year ago on her way to her second All-GNAC First Team selection.

Concordia will be eager to defend its regular-season title from 2017. After a heartbreaker at home in the GNAC Championships title game, the Cavaliers topped Chico State in the first round of the Division II Championships. Concordia fell to the same UC San Diego team that ultimately knocked out Western Washington in a 2-1 second-round defeat.

Looking to build on some of that postseason success, head coach Grant Landy returns eight starters from that team that went unbeaten in GNAC play. His team will be paced by midfielder Gabrielle Ewing, back for her senior season after scoring eight goals and being named the GNAC Player of the Year in 2017. In addition to Ewing, three other returners that earned All-GNAC honors a year ago will be back on the pitch for Concordia.

Slotted in third place is Seattle Pacific, a familiar spot for the team after finishing in a tie for third last season. The Falcons were consistently one of the top teams in the league in 2017, finishing in the top half of the GNAC in goals, assists and goals allowed.

United Soccer Coaches All-West Region selections Kasey Reeve and Kaytlin Willis are back for Seattle Pacific as the team looks to finish in the upper half of the conference and return to the GNAC Championships once again. Joining that pair are six other returners for head coach Arby Busey, who is now in his fourth season at the helm in Seattle.

Simon Fraser has been selected fourth, a one-spot improvement over the team’s finish a year ago. That team finished conference play with a record of 5-7-0 and will return eight starters from that group in 2018, half of which are coming off seasons with All-GNAC honors.

Upperclassmen Emma Pringle and Jenna-lee Baxter figure to lead the Clan this season. Pringle tallied 14 goals and three assists en route to a spot on the All-GNAC First Team, while Baxter recorded two goals and 13 assists as a midfielder in 2017.

A climb from eighth place in 2016 to third last season was a big improvement for Northwest Nazarene and head coach Mary Trigg. The preseason poll has the team falling right in the middle in 2018, being picked fifth by the GNAC’s coaches.

The Nighthawks bring back five starters from the side that went 11-7-0 a year ago. Four of those – Olivia Carter, Tennyson Young, Madi Taylor and Rikki Meyers finished the year being named to the All-GNAC Second Team. Taylor will headline the bunch and will look to improve on a standout campaign that featured seven goals and five assists a season ago.

Picked sixth this season is Central Washington despite the team’s last-place finish one year ago. The Wildcats did boast two of the top eight shot-takers in the league in 2017, but both Mackenzie Nolte and Whitney Lowe have departed after graduation.

The Wildcats will rely on a strong class of incoming freshmen and their four returning starters in an effort to climb the GNAC standings this season. Sophomore forward Sophia Keenan figures to lead that group as she will look to build on a strong freshman campaign that included three goals and an assist.

After tying for sixth with Western Oregon last year, Montana State Billings is picked seventh. The Yellowjackets stumbled down the stretch en route to a 2-8-2 record in GNAC play, but they did finish with the third-most saves of any team in the league. The keeper who recorded most of those is back in sophomore Erinn Harder.

Western Oregon was voted eighth in the 2018 preseason poll but will return eight starters and 17 letterwinners from last season. Leading that group will be junior forward Kaili Brundage, who is fresh off a year that earned her All-GNAC Honorable Mention honors in 2017.

Saint Martin’s concludes the voting with a ninth-place selection. The Saints won just two matches a season ago but figure to have a strong defense in 2018. All-GNAC Honorable Mention selection Rose Robbins returns to the back line, while senior goalkeeper Ali Koehler (95 saves in 2017) is back as well.

All nine teams open regular season action on August 30, while conference play is scheduled to kickoff on September 15.

Rank Team (1st Place Votes) 2017 Record GNAC Record (Finish) Points
1. Western Washington (5) 18-2-0 11-1-0 (2nd) 77
2. Concordia (4) 16-4-1 11-0-1 (1st) 74
3. Seattle Pacific 10-7-0 8-4-0 (tie 3rd) 63
4. Simon Fraser 7-9-0 5-7-0 (5th) 51
5. Northwest Nazarene 11-7-0 8-4-0 (tie 3rd) 42
6. Central Washington 2-12-3 1-9-2 (9th) 41
7. Montana State Billings 3-12-2 2-8-2 (tie 6th) 23
8. Western Oregon 3-11-2 2-8-2 (tie 6th) 20
9. Saint Martin's 2-14-1 2-9-1 (8th) 14
Points awarded on a 9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.
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