Falcons, Vikings Top Women's Soccer Preseason Poll
The GNAC and West Region champions, Seattle Pacific led the conference in scoring last season and returns 16 players from their championship winning roster.
The GNAC and West Region champions, Seattle Pacific led the conference in scoring last season and returns 16 players from their championship winning roster.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

PORTLAND, Ore. – Seattle Pacific and Western Washington look set to duke it out for top honors in the GNAC once again this year with both teams receiving four first-place votes in the 2022 GNAC Women’s Soccer Preseason Coaches Poll.

Seattle Pacific is the narrow pick by coaches to repeat as conference champions with 60 pts., while Western Washington is close on their heels in coaches’ eyes with 59 pts.. Northwest Nazarene is picked to finish third (43 pts.), with Western Oregon in fourth (36 pts.), Simon Fraser fifth (34 pts.), Montana State Billings sixth (25 pts.), Central Washington seventh (19 pts.) and Saint Martin’s eighth (12 pts.).

Both Seattle Pacific and Western Washington open the season in the top 10 of the United Soccer Coaches Preseason Poll with SPU ranked No. 5 while WWU is ranked No. 10.

Seattle Pacific topped the poll following their trip to the NCAA Quarterfinal. The Falcons were GNAC champions in 2021 with a 12-1-1 record (19-2-1 overall) behind head coach Arby Busey. Last season, SPU scored three or more goals in all but four conference matches, and led the GNAC with 64 goals and 58 assists.

Returning for the Falcons is starting forward Sophie Beadle, who is entering her junior year after a successful 2021 season where she scored eight goals with five assists and started all but one match on the year. Forward Lauren Forster, was named First Team All-GNAC and GNAC Freshman of the Year. Forster was a key player for the Falcons off the bench last season, with nine goals and three assists.

Hoping to follow up on a 2021 season where SPU led the GNAC in goals allowed (11), the Falcons return senior goalkeeper Kaitlynn Knocke who allowed only one goal in six appearances last season for a 0.36 goals against average. Seattle Pacific also returns senior defender Marissa Bankey. She appeared in 18 matches for the team for a total of 886 minutes.

Western Washington is picked second after their own robust 2021 season where they finished second in the conference with a 10-3-1 record (15-5-3 overall) and advanced to the NCAA West Region Final where they faced Seattle Pacific. Head Coach Travis Connell is heading into his 20th season, leading the Vikings as the longest-tenured women’s soccer coach in the GNAC.

Connell and the Vikings have their 2021 second-leading goal scorer Tera Ziemer returning to the pitch after putting up six goals and six assists for 18 points with four game-winning goals. In her first season for the Vikings, Ziemer was also named a Second Team United Soccer Coaches All-American, First Team D2CCA, First Team All-GNAC and the GNAC Newcomer of the Year.

After starting the conference schedule last season with a five-match winning streak, Western Washington will be hoping to get off to a similarly strong start with seven starters returning. The Vikings will also aim to continue to excel in their own half after posting the second-best goals against average in the conference (0.76).

Northwest Nazarene is predicted to maintain their postion as third-best in the conference coming off of a season where the Nighthawks went 8-4-2 in conference play and 10-5-3 overall. Northwest Nazarene should have some stability to build off of last season, returning eight starters. Leading goal scorer (9) and points earner (19) Madison Grande is back for NNU after being named to the Second Team United Soccer Coaches All-West Region and First Team All-GNAC. Grande also led the team in game-winning goals with three. Alongside Grande is returning senior forward Ashley Parton, who put up five goals and four assists of her own, and received All-GNAC Honors for her 24-point season.

Western Oregon is expected to improve on its fifth-place conference finish last season with nine starters returning to the pitch after a 4-7-3 record in conference play in 2021 (5-10-3 overall). The Wolves are set to bring back sophomore defender Jada Foster, who tallied three goals in 16 matches with two game-winning goals and was named First Team All-GNAC, along with Second Team All-GNAC midfielder Hannah Rispler and two Honorable Mention All-GNAC players in Erika Gonzalez Moreno and Jenna Efraimson.

Along with a returning core of players, head coach Kacey Bingham hopes that transfers Lulu Sadler out of Eastern Wahington and Baylee Groom out of Cal Poly Humboldt will help the team up in the final standings.

After a defensively strong season, Simon Fraser will be looking to keep the edge in their own half of the pitch with the fourth-best goals against average in 2021 (1.34). Goalkeeper Kelsey Fisher will be returning to the net for SFU to follow up her 50-save season. Up front, Simon Fraser will also be returning their leading scorer in Giuliana Zaurrini, who tallied four goals and two assists to earn All-GNAC Honors. Simon Fraser will also hope to bolster their offense this season with the transfer signings of Isabella Muzzolini, Daniela Ramirez, and Avery Tulloch.

Montana State Billings is projected to repeat their sixth-place finish from 2021 with a 4-8-2 conference record (7-9-3 overall). Returning to the pitch for the Yellowjackets will be 2021 GNAC Freshman of the Year and Second Team All-GNAC selection Liberty Palmer, who racked up five goals and one assist over 17 matches last season. The Yellowjackets also return goalkeeper Clare Keenan who posted a .778 save percentage last season with 74 saves.

Central Washington is also expected to repeat in seventh place. New head coach Lindsey Lee will be going into the season hoping to improve on the 4-10-0 conference record of last season (5-13-0 overall) and has brought back 18 total players including midfielder Emily Darcy who tallied one goal and one assist through 18 matches with only six starts last season. Central Washington also brought in transfers Cassidie Andrews, Jordan Bartlow and Paige Savage along with freshman goalkeeper Mallory Patzer.

Saint Martin’s rounds out the poll after a 3-11-0 conference season (4-14-0 overall) in 2021. While aiming to move up the standings, returning to the Saint Martin’s pitch will be goalkeeper Ali Campigotto after posting a .740 save percentage last year. The Saints are set to return the most players out of any team in the conference with 20 players returning to the field. Saint Martin’s played well in net last season on occasion with all of their victories coming with shutouts from their netminders.

The 2022  GNAC women’s soccer season is set to start on Thursday, Aug. 25, with four matches being played. Conference play will begin on Sept. 15 with all eight teams taking to the pitch.

Rank Team (1st Place Votes) 2021 Record GNAC Record (Finish) Points
1. Seattle Pacific (4) 19-2-1 12-1-1 (1st) 60
2. Western Washington (4) 15-5-3 10-3-1 (2nd) 59
3. Northwest Nazarene 10-5-3 8-4-2 (3rd) 43
4. Western Oregon 5-10-3 4-7-3 (5th) 36
5. Simon Fraser 5-11-2 6-7-1 (4th) 34
6. Montana State Billings 7-9-3 4-8-2 (6th) 25
7. Central Washington 5-13-0 4-10-0 (7th) 19
8. Saint Martin's 4-14-0 3-11-0 (8th) 12

Points awarded on 8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.
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