Vikings Take Top Spot In Preseason Women's Soccer Poll
Western Washington returns 18 players and seven starters off of its 2016 Division II national championship team.
Western Washington returns 18 players and seven starters off of its 2016 Division II national championship team.

Monday, August 7, 2017

PORTLAND, Ore. – After winning its first national championship in program history last season, Western Washington emerges as the top team in the 2017 United Soccer Coaches (formerly NSCAA) Division II National Preseason Poll.

Western Washington was not the only GNAC school to receive preseason poll attention. Central Washington is fourth among 12 other teams that received votes for top-25 preseason consideration.

Finishing 24-0-1 last season, Western Washington defeated three-time defending champ Grand Valley State 3-2 in the 2016 Division II Women’s Soccer Championship. Western Washington led the GNAC in goals, goals per game, assists, goals against average and shutouts. Compared to its Northwest opposition, the Vikings held a 66-10 goal margin and outshot GNAC opponents 571-161 with nine shutouts.

Despite the losses of key pieces to Western Washington’s championship run such as midfielder Caitlyn Jobanek, forward Elise Aylward, midfielder Becca Cates and defender Erin Russell, head coach Travis Connell returns seven starters for the 2017 campaign.

Reigning Division II National Player of the Year, defender Sierra Shugarts, returns for her senior year while senior midfielder GNAC Defensive Player of the Year Emily Webster rounds out the Vikings’ solid defensive core from 2016. Gabriela Pelogi comes back for her junior season after recording a team-high 11 goals and seven assists along with goalkeeper Ashley Homer who received NSCAA Third Team All-American honors with 14 shutouts. Defender Taylor Hallquist and forward Liv Larson each received Honorable Mention All-GNAC honors in 2016.

In addition to the seven returning starters and other key returners for Western Washington, the Vikings also added Division I transfers junior transfer Karli White from Seattle University and goalkeeper Natalie Dierickx from Colorado State.

Central Washington head coach Michael Farrand returns six starters; most notably forward Mackenzie Nolte and midfielder Whitney Lowe, who each earned Second and Third Team All-West Region honors in 2016, respectively. Sophomore goalkeeper Emily Holt returns after posting a 1.10 goals allowed average, 82 saves and six shutouts in 20 appearances.

Western Washington kicks off its regular season on the road at Notre Dame de Namur on August 31. Central Washington travels to UC San Diego on September 2 for its season opener.